Sunday, February 3, 2013

What's A Gown Worth?

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.


  1. Gorgeous and very interesting. The details are wonderful. Your blog reminds me of your book covers. :)
    -R.T. Wolfe

  2. Fantastic post, Becky! LOVE the sensory details about the gowns. You made me see and feel them! I'm a fashion gal, so this was awesome! :D

    Traci :)

  3. One of my pinterest boards is dedicated to vintage fashion. I lean mostly towards dresses from the 1910's, and love the incredible detail that went into them. I have a story idea for that age, and I swear my heroine will be the best-dressed gal around!
    Lovely post. I would love to attend that exhibit...

  4. I'm smiling because I ruined a lovely ivory satin gown in my second book.

    Loved the post and picture!

  5. Do you know if the famed Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida is named after Charles Frederick Worth? His name is new to me and it seemed like a possible connection.

  6. you're lucky to have seen that collection. I am drooling just from imagining it!

  7. We "ruined" Gigi's Vera Wang gown in Love, Eternally. Thanks for the reminder. :) One of my great-grandmothers wears a gown worthy of Worth in an old family photo, and I wish it had been passed down to me! I have spent many an hour looking at antique clothing in museum collections and wondering who owned the beautiful gowns, waistcoats, gloves and hats. Thanks for a great article!

  8. That exhibition was on in Wellington (New Zealand) but I couldn't fit in time for a visit. I thought it would be great, and was sad to have missed it. I can understand your grief at destroying a beautiful gown.