31 March 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Strathmore Rose

We started talking about this one a little bit in the comments from last week's tiara post, so we might as well continue the discussion this week, right?
This is the Strathmore Rose Tiara. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) received it as a gift from her father, the Earl of Strathmore, for her wedding in 1923, though the piece itself dates from before that. The tiara features a garland of wild roses in diamonds mounted in silver and gold. The individual elements can be dismantled and worn as brooches, and according to Hugh Roberts were originally able to be substituted by single sapphires.
It's quite light and feminine, isn't it? A very literal interpretation of a floral tiara. There are two different frames the wearer can choose from, and the new Duchess of York wore it both across her forehead (in true 1920s style) and more traditionally as well.
I think I prefer this one with some hair to back it up, rather than having the silhouette stick up away from the user's head, but I shall reserve full judgment until we can see it again.
This piece hasn't been worn in public for many decades, and certainly tiara-wearing styles have changed since then. We've only seen it on the Queen Mother, and only in her early royal days. It remained in her collection for the rest of her life, though, and passed to the Queen when she died in 2002.
Are you a fan of this one? Are you crossing your fingers for it to make a royal wedding appearance?

30 March 2011

Wedding Wednesday: The Queen Mother's Gown

When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married Prince Albert, the Duke of York, on April 23, 1923 at Westminster Abbey, she became one of the trendiest royal brides...well, ever. This gown is a true relic of its time.
Her gown was crafted by Madame Handley Seymour, a former court dressmaker for Queen Mary, but it certainly wasn't your typical court dress. The design followed the Coco Chanel-dictated trends of the time: dropped waists, silhouettes without much shape. Unfortunately, those designs were better off on reed-thin models. They just didn't do much for curvier gals, like Elizabeth.
The gown is silk crepe moire embellished extensively with pearls and silver embroidery. The detail and weight of the decoration gives the dress an almost medieval feel. She went for a short train and a longer veil.
Her veil (loaned to her by Queen Mary) covered her head almost as a hat would and fell cloak-like at her sides. She anchored it with a band of myrtle and a York rose on each side rather than the tiara we'd expect today. (Bridal tiaras in the royal family weren't so common back then.)
Since her gown was short-sleeved, she had a wrap to guard her against the April weather.
It's a bit of a shocker, this one, at first glance. It's just so different from the images we most remember about her (a transformation we will discuss later this week!). Sometimes I wonder if she would have chosen differently if she'd known what the future held: perhaps the gown of a future queen would have been more traditional? A grander affair? We'll never know.

Photos: Getty Images/Rex Features

Week in Review: Princess Beatrice, 20-26 March

Here's what Beatrice wore from 20-26 March:

  1. Attending her sister's 21st birthday festivities. Nothing says "Party!" quite like a customized trucker hat.
Photos: Jim Bennett/Daily Mail

Week in Review: Princess Eugenie, 20-26 March

Here's what Eugenie wore from 20-26 March:

  1. Out to a pub with friends to celebrate her 21st birthday, 25 March. (Also out? Her mum. Would you have your mother tag along to the bar for your 21st birthday? I find that strange, but I digress.) Anyways, the clothes: all black again, but you could say that's just to offset the RED trousers her man's wearing back there. That's a move straight out of Crown Prince Frederik's book.
  2. Celebrating again with a treasure hunt bike ride in Windsor Great Park, 26 March. I should hope she'd be on Team Euge, but it's nice to clarify it with a hat.
Photos: Enigma/Daily Mail

29 March 2011

Gold Star: Grape Delights Galore

Every time I see that Laurentien has popped up at another engagement, I close my eyes and brace myself for the sartorial wonder that lies ahead. Will it be misguided rock and roll leggings? Should I grab my sunglasses, just in case she's decided to burn my retinas yet again? Do I need my tissues, in preparation for the mourning of undergarments not used? The greatest shock of all, though, comes when she actually looks good. (Which sounds terribly, horribly mean, but I can't help it. You've seen what she's capable of!) Case in point: opening a permanent exhibition at the Children's Museum in the Hague.
First of all, it's purple, which is my kryptonite. Second, this kimono silhouette is extremely flattering. (Look at her wee little waist!) Third, she wore purple shoes. Fourth, her bouquet matches her outfit. Not her doing, but still cute.
I suppose you could call this a purple overdose, but that would be against my sartorial religion. So I'm awarding her a gold star, for a refreshing purple delight.

And she's not the only one tickling my purple fancy lately. There's Crown Princess Victoria, for starters.

Princess Marie, who doesn't usually make it on my radar (her style just doesn't interest me, what can I say?) turned up in this lovely lilac suit:
Such a pretty color on her, and a great fit. Plus some kicky little swing in the skirt. Gold star!

Even Queen Sofia got in on the action, picking this lovely bright purple number and matching shoes with for lunch with the President of Ireland.
Look at that, even the President got in on the action. I don't know who sent the grape memo out to the royals, but he or she is the recipient of my heartfelt thanks. Gold stars all around!

Photos: PPE/v.d. Werf/EFE/Belga

Week in Review: Crown Princess Victoria, 20-26 March

Here's what Victoria wore from 20-26 March:

  1. At a youth house in Borlänge, 24 March.
  2. Visiting a bakery in Stora Skedvi, 24 March. Oh, the perils of being a royal. Sanitary gear ruins any outfit.
  3. At the Governor's dinner in Falun, 24 March, a) on Vic and b) on the runway. Purple, yay.
  4. Visiting Sälen, 25 March. A little boring, but not bad.
  5. In Lindvallen, 25 March.
Best and Worst of the Week
Once again, I find myself fixated on the accessories. My best of the week goes to the simple plum velvet dress in Outfit 3, and the saucy purple shoes that went along with it. My worst goes to an outfit that I want so badly to like, but just can't: Outfit 1. It's red, which is amazing, but it just doesn't work. Shooties. The white part of the top peeking out from under the red jacket. And just not a funky enough canvas on which to wear this red Lanvin for H&M necklace. I love it, I really do. But it doesn't go with a plain old suit. You'll probably disagree with me, so head on down to the comments and speak your mind!

Photos: Profimedia/Abaca/PurePeople

Week in Review: Charlene Wittstock, 20-26 March

Here's what Charlene wore from 20-26 March:

  1. Attending the funeral of Princess Antoinette of Monaco, 24 March. I'm borderline fascinated with those gloves. Long leather with lace at the top? Interesting. The rest of it is classy perfection, but then I suppose you add a veil on to most any outfit and you've got instant elegance.
Photos: Getty Images/Daylife

28 March 2011

Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 20-26 March

Here's what Letizia wore from 20-26 March:

  1. Vacation in London with the family. I like the hair up and back. Why don't we get to see it like that more often?
  2. Receiving the President of Ireland, 21 March. Ah, yes! The snakeskin shoes have returned! Along with a divine red suit. Love.
  3. Attending an awards ceremony, 22 March. Interesting combo here - the ruffled dress with the tweed jacket (both repeats). I think either one would be better off on its own.
  4. Audiences at Zarzuela Palace, 23 March. Meh. Safe.
  5. Visiting the Nestle factory in Girona, 25 March. I like the scarf - pink, vibrant - but I don't get it with the suit and the shoes. It's not making sartorial sense to me.
Best and Worst of the Week
Oh, this red suit is gooood. Great color (red's Letizia's color, isn't it?), perfect fit. It's professional and formal, but the detailing on the jacket and the high waist on the skirt keep it young. And the shoes! No complaints here, none. Easily the best of the week. Outfit 4, on the other hand...well, I don't really have any complaints but I don't have anything to say either. It loses the week on the basis of boredom.

Photos: Getty/Zimbio/Daylife

Week in Review: Princess Nikolaos, 20-26 March

Here's what Tatiana wore from 20-26 March:

  1. At the U.K. launch of Loewe, Mount Street, 23 March. Very basic LBD with an intriguing sleeve detail. Well played.
  2. Attending the Diane von Furstenberg Vital Voices cocktail party and the TOD'S Art Plus Drama Party in London, 24 March, a) on Tatiana, and b) on the Diane von Furstenberg runway. Love the wrap, the detailing and of course the shoes! An excellent week of little black frocks.
Photos: Life/Dave M. Bennett/Getty Images/First View/NYMag

Week in Review: Crown Princess Pavlos, 20-26 March

Here's what Marie-Chantal wore from 20-26 March:

  1. Attending a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lady Elizabeth Anson's party planning business, 24 March. The button detailing on the chest is a little twee, I think; reminiscent of a child's sailor outfit. She looks as young as ever, but she's a mother of five. The twee ship has sailed.
Photos: Isopix

27 March 2011

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 20-26 March

Here's what Máxima wore from 20-26 March:

  1. Attending a lecture in Utrecht, 23 March. From NATAN, of course. Much better without dark tights!
Photo: Dutch Photo Press

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 13-19 March

Here's what Máxima wore from 13-19 March:

  1.  a) Visiting an elderly care center, 15 March. Love the strong blue color. She really is taking fashion cues from her Benelux twin, Mathilde. Also love: the extra shot of the blue in the earrings (b) and the fluffy bits on the shoes (c). Great low heel option.
  2. Attending a "Youth and Money" conference, 16 March. Oh...no. Not flattering. And I don't understand the bronze tone in the shoes. Or the necklace. Sometimes we should just let geological features be.
  3. Participating in NL Doet (Make a Difference Day), 18 March. Interesting, sort of a plaid/tweed with a bit of polka dot on the inside? 
Photos: Dutch Photo Press/PPE

25 March 2011

Flashback Friday: Dame Elizabeth Taylor

"Big girls need big diamonds."
-Elizabeth Taylor

So sad this week, learning that Elizabeth Taylor had passed away. I adored her - not that that's a surprise. My love of Things That Are Fabulous is well documented.
The woman owned a tiara! Just because she could! Come on.

Elizabeth Taylor was Hollywood royalty, and I thought we'd pay tribute to her this week by flashing back to her very real royal connections. I mean, if you hang around in the movie business as long as she did, you're bound to rack up the royal meet-and-greets.

Do you know the Princess Margaret story?
Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond as a present, and she wore it as one humongous ring. 
Princess Margaret (yet another lady who was possibly too fabulous for her own good) had a look at the ring while face-to-face with Taylor herself. She declared the huge stone "vulgar", to which Liz replied, "Ain't it great?" And then Margaret tried it on, and Liz said, "Not so vulgar now, is it?" (Love.)

Burton also gave Taylor a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond, which was thus known as the Taylor-Burton diamond. (Are special finger exercises required to wear this ring, do you think?)

Le sigh. They don't make 'em like that any more. And they certainly don't make jewel stashes like hers anymore, either. She had a collection that could easily rival some of the royal houses in size, and some of her pieces had serious royal connections:

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite
These delicious emeralds (a brooch, earrings, necklace, and bracelet) were designed by Bulgari and given to Taylor by Richard Burton. The set includes stones that belonged to the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia. Jewels from the Grand Duchess's collection can also be found today in the British royal family's collection, having been scooped up by Queen Mary.

La Peregrina
La Peregrina is an enormous pear-shaped pearl found in the early 1500's by a slave in the Gulf of Panama. It made its way to the Spanish royal court, where Philip II gave it to Mary Tudor (Mary I, or Bloody Mary) of England as an engagement present (above, right). After Mary's death it was worn by various Spanish queen consorts until Napoleon made his brother king of Spain in 1808. Joseph Bonaparte took the pearl with him when he was forced to leave the country and thus it received its name: La Peregrina, or "The Pilgrim", or "The Wanderer". The pearl was sold off to the aristocratic Abercorn family who held onto it until they auctioned it in 1969 and Richard Burton bought it. Cartier designed the diamond, ruby and pearl necklace setting that houses La Peregrina today.

The Prince of Wales Insignia Brooch
This piece belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, whose husband had been the Prince of Wales before becoming Edward VIII (and subsequently abdicating the throne). At one point, Taylor received permission from the Duchess to have a replica made, so much had Liz admired the piece. This is the original, though: she bought it at an auction of the Duchess's jewels in 1987. The cost? $623,000, ponied up after she won out in a bidding war with Prince Charles.

According to Liz herself, her jewels should be auctioned off after her death to benefit AIDS research. One last good deed from a great lady, may she rest in peace.

"I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You can't possess radiance, you can only admire it."
-Elizabeth Taylor

Week in Review: Princess Mathilde, 13-19 March

Here's what Mathilde wore from 13-19 March:

  1. a) Attending the opening session of the Erasmian European Youth Parliament, 14 March, and b) and c) from the NATAN runway. I do not like the versions of this as presented on the runway, but on Mathilde - I love! She looks great in bold colors like orange, and this matches without being too matchy-matchy.
  2. At the Network of Enterprising Women MARKANT annual award ceremony, 16 March. Not bad either, but it pales in comparison to Outfit 1.
Photos: Belga

24 March 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Scroll Tiara

UPDATE: This post was updated and rewritten after this tiara was worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day. Read the new post here!

Here's another tiara out of the British royal family vaults: the Scroll Tiara. This delicate diamond piece has served as something of a starter tiara for royal ladies throughout the years, beginning with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The then-Duchess of York acquired the tiara and wore it prior to becoming Queen Consort, at which point her tiara access would have increased. She's said to have given it to her daughter, the Queen (who has never worn it publicly).

Next, the piece was lent to Princess Margaret, and it became a go-to tiara in her early years. She stopped wearing it as her own tiara collection grew, especially after the Queen Mother gave Margaret the papyrus or lotus flower tiara.

And it served the very same purpose for Princess Anne. She last wore the Scroll Tiara publicly in the early 1970s, at which point the Queen had given her the Meander Tiara and she had received the Festoon Tiara as a gift for a ship christening.

So it seems that this tiara has a role to play in the Windsor family: a small (but not too small) all-purpose diadem to fill in at your regular old tiara-wearing appearances until larger, or personally owned, pieces are acquired. If that's the case, it makes sense that we should see it reappear in the years to come. A first tiara for Catherine Middleton or Prince Harry's future wife, perhaps. Or maybe even a shot on the head of Beatrice or Eugenie, who probably won't have many tiara occasions and would logically borrow something for the rare time they do need one (after all, their mother only has one to loan out).

I can't say this one is a favorite of mine (I can't get away from the visual of opposing waves running away from the wearer's head), but it's growing on me. What do you think? And who are you betting will be the first to wear this again?

UPDATE: This post was updated and rewritten after this tiara was worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day. Read the new post here!

Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 13-19 March

Here's what Letizia wore from 13-19 March:

  1. Audiences at Zarzuela Palace, 15 March. Pink and professional. I'm glad she stuck with the gray pumps and not the pink version.
  2. Opening the International Conference of the World Health Organization, 17 March. It's gray suit week in Spain! Not a fan of the random necklace strung about there, I must say.
Photos: Terra/Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images Europe/Zimbio

Week in Review: Crown Princess Mary, 13-19 March

Here's what Mary wore from 13-19 March:
  1. Skiing holiday in Verbier. And...that's all I have to say about that.

23 March 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Adult Bridesmaids

Royal weddings don't have adult bridesmaids. Seems like that was one of the few "facts" all royal commentators, no matter how ill-informed, could spout off...until Kate Middleton went off and asked her sister Pippa to be her maid of honor. What?! Was this a break with tradition? A royal bride going renegade? The answer: no, of course not. Adult royal bridesmaids are completely common, as is asking your sister to be a part of your wedding party. (Just like in real life, go figure.)

A quick inventory of notable British royal weddings will show you where the idea of children-only bridal parties came from: Sarah, Sophie and Anne were all accompanied by bands of kids. Diana had the oldest of the bunch, a teenage Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (couldn't exactly leave the management of a train like that to a bunch of four-year-olds, could she?).

Really, you could say that Kate's just skipping back a couple generations to mine her tradition: the chief bridesmaid at Queen Elizabeth's wedding was her sister Princess Margaret.

And the same occurred further back in history, too, and the weddings of the future Queen Mary, the future Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Princess Marina (below, left to right).

More recently, Autumn Phillips rounded up a band of bridesmaids in strapless green Vera Wang for her 2008 wedding, including sister-in-law Zara Phillips. I'm still surprised no one told her shoulders ought to be covered in the church. It may have been a private wedding, but it was still held at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle! All the better to show off one's tan lines, I suppose.

Sisters Lady Davina and Lady Rose, daughters of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, swapped bridesmaid duties at their weddings.

Crown Princess Mary tied the knot with her two older sisters (and friend Amber Petty) by her side. These gowns were reportedly chosen by the Queen and Mary together, but I think we know which one had the final say, based on color alone. I don't mind the dresses, but the hair...it's like plopping a dinner roll on the back of your head.

One of Princess Máxima's sisters served as a bridesmaid in a gown perfect for a February wedding, if regrettably made from the red carpet remainders.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit had a friend to help manage her delicate bridal gown, as did Queen Sonja before her.

And we can't forget the sequins on parade at Tatiana Blatnik's wedding.
On second thought: I take back what I said about Autumn's strapless gowns. At least those gowns were intrinsically attractive. I'd take those a million times over if I could erase the memory of this Greek tragedy.

Travel back a generation, and you'll see Greece's Princess Irene supporting her sister Princess Sofia and her sister-in-law Queen Anne-Marie at their respective weddings.

Queen Beatrix, as a wee Crown Princess, called on her sister Princess Christina (among others) for some train assistance.
I love the way they carry the train, like the little birds that flocked around Disney's Cinderella. Perhaps they whistled a happy tune while they worked.

Princess Grace brought a bevy of sunshine-colored attendants with her, and she didn't even have that large of a train to manage.

The list, as you can imagine, goes on and on:
These are bridesmaids from the weddings of (left to right): Princess Anita, Princess Aimée, Princess Laurentien, and Princess Mabel.

If you extend the field to teenagers, you get even more to pick from, including Lady Sarah Chatto's lookalike maids.
One of the most memorable bridesmaid dress designs ever to appear in a royal wedding, if you ask my opinion. And one of the more flattering ensembles, too. Perhaps the reason why other royal weddings have been devoid of adult bridesmaids is because it's hard to find an adult willing to spend her 15 minutes of fame in a color-coordinated outfit? We're not seeing anything worth of a place in 27 Dresses or anything, but still: there are far, far more flattering things to be worn.

Here's hoping Pippa's got plenty of say in what her sister's cooking up for the big day! Which of these would you be game to wear? Anything you wouldn't be caught dead in?