I’ve been complaining for over a week now that I have to destroy a beautiful peach dress in my current WIP, and I love the dress too much to ruin it. It’s a shame I’m not an artist, because, in my head, this gown is as clear as one of Godey’s fashion plates. It’s slightly off the shoulder, with sleeves that stop above the elbow. There’s a wide band of glass beads around the neckline and at the cuff of the sleeves. And if my heroine shrugs her shoulders, just so, the dress will slip from her shoulders, offering her companion an ample view of what could be his. Did I mention it was peach in color? Not pink. Peach.
I’ve cried on the shoulders of my friends and critique partners, and when I explain that my character is okay with the thought of getting rid of it, but I’m the one having trouble coming to grips with its destruction, they look at me as if I’m crazy. But it was to be her engagement dress, and events didn’t quite unfold as she had anticipated. So the dress had to go. I spent all day Friday working on it, and finally, with a few tears, said goodbye to the peach perfection.
And then, yesterday, during a lake-effect snowstorm, I drove to the other side of the city for a field trip with my chapter of the Romance Writers of America. We were to view a series of wedding gowns from the 1830s up to the 1990s. The crown jewel of the exhibit was a gown created by French designer Charles Frederick Worth in 1879. Worth was the Vera Wang of his day. Everyone who had the necessary wealth to own one of his creations lined up around the block for the privilege of wearing his gowns. And to have one of his gowns in any historical collection of textiles is truly a gift that keeps on giving. The entire collection of gowns sparked a plethora of ideas among our group, as we fashioned our own stories about what truly happened to the women these gowns belonged to.
The Worth gown was a confection in ivory silk satin, and had all the bells and whistles. It had ruching, beads, pinched pleats, lace cuffs, seed pearls, a cutaway skirt—everything my heroine would want in a wedding gown. Eureka! Suddenly the engagement dress gave way to a wedding gown, complete with a lace veil. I can’t wait to sit down this afternoon and begin to construct Jasmine’s perfect gown for her walk down the aisle. Because, as we all know, romance books must have a Happily Ever After.