30 November 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Princess Mabel's Gown

HRH Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands and Mabel Wisse Smit
April 24, 2004
Delft, Netherlands

Goodness me, our little digression into the wedding gown of Princess Mabel in last week's comments spawned an immediate outpouring of Wedding Wednesday requests. Well, I don't blame you. If you've never seen it before you really can't comprehend it in a single glance. So here you go, kids: Bows Gone Wild, starring Mabel van Oranje.
When Mabel Wisse Smit married Queen Beatrix's middle son, Prince Johan Friso (who preferred to be called Friso) in 2004, she turned down conservative designs from the Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf and requested they make her something "memorable" (mission accomplished). She's not a conventional girl, this one, and stated herself that she was never the little girl with wedding dress dreams.
The end result is actually a very flattering silhouette in snow white double-faced duchesse satin with a bateau neckline, long sleeves, and a flared skirt leading to a 3.15 meter train (10 feet 4 inches - including the bows, of course). She topped it with a short veil and a diamond sunray tiara.
The tiara's large diamonds are borrowed from the Dutch Sapphire Tiara. I find it somewhat, erm, pokey in a photograph, but in movement it works. The huge diamonds capture every last possible bit of light. The tiara itself has a rather two-dimensional effect; it almost seems like a fairytale illustration of a tiara come to life to me.

But none of that matters, really, because what you want to talk about right now are the bows: 248 of them, to be exact. Yes. Two hundred and forty eight. That's 128 bows for the skirt, 85 on the bodice, and 35 on the train. All handmade from crepe georgette (no wonder the thing took more than 600 hours to make), and symbolizing longevity, commitment, and permanence. Placed on a trelliswork background, they cover every single part of the gown, growing gradually in size from the neckline to the hem and then catching a serious case of gigantism on the train. The pattern covers the seams, so it looks like the gown is cut from a single piece of cloth.
Believe it or not, the dress isn't the only infamous part of this love story. Like a few of her princess peers, Mabel's past includes some sketchy bits. She was alleged to have had a relationship with a drug lord called Klaas Bruinsma. When questioned about this by the Dutch government, the couple gave what Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende termed "incomplete and incorrect information". They stated that while they had left details out, they hadn't lied, and repeated that the Mabel had not had a romantic relationship with the man. Nevertheless, the government did not ask parliament for the required permission for the prince to marry. (The scandal flared up again later when Friso and Mabel admitted to changing Mabel's Wikipedia entry themselves to make it less harsh with regards to these events.)
Friso married her anyway, obviously, and lost his place in the Royal House and in the line of succession. I'd say that the bows were an attempt to create a bigger story than the scandal on the wedding day, but she's kept up a string of eyebrow-raising Viktor & Rolf creations in the years following...so, this is just her style. That style, including the notorious bowfest, is entertaining for sure, but also overwhelming.
Some of Mabel's more notable outfits
Princess Mabel and Prince Friso had two daughters, Luana and Zaria, before Friso was tragically buried in an avalanche while skiing in Lech, Austria in February 2012. He was in a coma until he died of complications from the accident in August 2013. Princess Mabel continues in her work as a human rights activist - work she's been doing since before she married Friso - and has worked with The Elders and Girls Not Brides. 

Mabel's dress: fun and quirky or way too much?

Photos: People/Corbis/Harper's Bazaar/ANP/PPE

Week in Review: Princess Mathilde, 20-26 November

Here's what Mathilde wore from 20-26 November:

  1. Visiting schools with UNICEF Belgium, 21 November.
  2. a and b) Attending a round table on human trafficking, 24 November. The giant sweater masquerading as a coat is growing on me.
Photos: Belga

29 November 2011

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 20-26 November

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

  1. a) Attending the premiere of the film Nova Zembla, 21 November, in a gorgeous black dress from Ralph Lauren (b). It's such a simple dress, and in a color that usually signals boring for me, but she does it just right with the jewels and the (neat!) hair (c-e). The shoulder ornament is a diamond aigrette dating way back to Queen Emma, and is the same one we saw her break out for her 40th birthday. One of the best Máxima appearances this year, don't you think?
  2. Visiting the "Children Make Music" project, 22 November.
  3. Two events on 24 November. Well, it's not like anything's going to compare to outfit #1 anyway.
Also in attendance at the film premiere were two of Princess Margriet's sons and their wives, Prince Maurits and Princess Marilène and Prince Floris and Princess Aimée. Aimée looks stunning and Marilène...has a lot of hair.
Aimée and Marilène
    Photos: Dutch Photo Press/Net-a-porter/PPE/Nieboer/Royal House

    Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 20-26 November

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

    1. At the farewell ceremony before departing for an official visit to Chile, 21 November.
    2. In Chile, day 1, 22 November. Hey, I'm just happy any time she goes with red.
    3. Still on day 1, 22 November, in Felipe Varela. Now, see, this is the kind of thing that only Letizia could pull off. Lurve.
    4. Official dinner, 22 November. This is a chic little outfit...but, urgh. Maybe sleeves are better. Not exactly flattering on the upper body.
    5. Day 2, 23 November. Another cute little white number that's just childlike enough only she could handle it.
    6. Still day 2, 23 November, and the much worn navy suit has returned.
    7. Day 3, 24 November, prepped and ready for a Chilean safari...or something.
    Photos: Terra/Daylife/Getty Images

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

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

    1. Attending the Anders Wall lecture, 21 November.
    2. a) Awarding the Polhem Prize, 23 November, in (b) By Malene Birger. See, this is what I was talking about last week: this is not a maternity dress, it's just a dress that happens to fit over a bump. And you can tell, because the front hem is higher than the back one. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted to see her in a (not black) color and some sparkle, but this is my new pet peeve.
    Photos: Lehtikuva/Svenskdam/Malene Birger

    28 November 2011

    Week in Review: Crown Princess Mary, 20-26 November

    Here's what Mary wore from 20-26 November:

    1. Day 1 of the couple's trip to Australia, 20 November, beginning with (a) flats and a hat to open the Sculpture By The Sea exhibition and then (b) ditching the hat and switching to heels for more events. Prefer the hat version, myself.
    2. Meeting the Governor-General, 20 November. Simple but lovely dress, the perfect background for what we're all really looking at: the twins!
    3. Day 2, 21 November. Ah, yes! Much better without some strange winter jacket on top.

    4. a) Dinner on day 2, 21 November, in (b) a repeated dress from Diane von Furstenberg. Look familiar? It's the short version of the dress Carole Middleton wore to the evening bash after William and Catherine's wedding.
    5. Day 3, 22 November, in an outfit that morphed as the day went on. She took a repeated dress (which many of you will be happy to see again, its last appearance was much loved) and topped it with a hat (a) and then wore it without the hat (b) and then added a ruffled front cardi (c - while checking out a portrait of herself, which must be a surreal experience) and also wore it with both cardigan and hat. And that's what we call coming prepared for all eventualities!

    6. Day 4, 23 November. I usually just go for whatever picture shows the outfit fully, but I couldn't resist the ridiculous chicness of this pose in that Egg chair. I like the outfit, too, but the chair...sorry, I'm an interior designer. Can't help myself.
    7. Dinner, day 4, 23 November, repeating another dress from when she was pregnant with the twins - early on, during Nikolaos and Tatiana's wedding festivities.
    8. Day 5, 24 November. Love the more casual shirt with the slim fit white skirt.
    9.  Dinner, day 5, 24 November. Oh, no. Not a fan of the random patchwork business.
    10. Day 6, 25 November. Hmm...a lovely pop of color and print, or way too much of a 1970s flashback?

    11. a) Reception on day 6, 25 November, wearing b) a new Georg Jensen necklace. (Here's the full fantastic red dress.) This whole trip was a showcase of jewelry from all Mary's regulars: Marianne Dulong, Ole Lynggaard, and of course Georg Jensen. Several items were new, too, which makes one wonder if she's sitting on a stash of unimagined size, or if she's found other ways to work out loans for herself.
    12. a) Day 7, 26 November, repeating outfit #2 but adding a brooch (b). Strange positioning there, no?
    13. Gala dinner to finish out the official portion of the trip, 26 November. I do believe this is a reworked version of the dress she wore to Victoria and Daniel's wedding - the strange lace on the top has been removed, and the shoulder drape has been added. I did not like it then at all, and now I am in love. Perfect!

    Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/Reuters/Zimbio/Georg Jensen

    Week in Review: Crown Princess Mette-Marit, 20-26 November

    Here's what Mette-Marit wore from 20-26 November:

    1. a-c) Opening the Seamen's Church in Miami, 20 November. Those of you that found the first outfit from her Miami trip a little too saucy for church will be happy to know that that was just a dinner and a visit beforehand, and on the day of the actual church opening she was perfectly demure and lovely. I especially like her brooch-to-outfit matching skills here.
    2. At a Coldplay concert, 23 November.
    Source: Aftenposten/Vg

    26 November 2011

    Gold Star: Queens with Diplomatic Flair

    Dressing diplomatically is an art form, if you ask me. The outfits on a royal foreign trip are not the point of the thing - even someone as frivolous as I can admit that - but when they're done just right, they can help the whole operation along. A detail here or there can be just the thing, a little exclamation point, to emphasize thoughtfulness, consideration, and respect for the other country. Today we're handing out gold stars to two queens for just such exclamation points.

    Many of you have asked to be kept updated on the lovely new Queen of Bhutan, so here you go: it seems the photogenic King and Queen haven't stopped moving since the wedding. They've paid state visits to India and Japan, and have touched down in Singapore and Thailand. This past week has seen them visit the United Kingdom. Talk about your trial by fire, and for a 21-year-old queen at that: Jetsun Pema laughs in the face of royal brides taking the slow route into their new lives!
    Naturally, she's brought with her a whole array of colorful national dress options, some of which are shown above. It's nice not to have to spend time coming up with synonyms for beige for a change, isn't it?

    We also got a few tastes of her Western style, just for a little variety.
    Well, there's that beige problem again, but the only thing we can conclude here is that Her Majesty has a taste for expensive handbags: I spy Chanel and an elusive Hermès Birkin bag.

    This is not what she gets her gold star for, though. Diplomatic dressing, that's our point here.
    Her white outfit, worn while debuting the King's photography book in New Delhi, is both gorgeous and the perfect nod to Indian style; but the real winner is the kimono in Japan. Their visit seemed to be a great success, and gamely sporting another culture's national dress is the perfect sartorial expression to sum it up. Well played.

    From a 21-year-old queen just getting her feet wet to one that's the definition of a pro, our second gold star goes out to Queen Elizabeth.
    This week saw the Queen host a state visit to Britain from Turkey, including some married people cuteness and a little forward-facing side-eye directed at the First Lady's intriguing taste in footwear. (Suddenly I'm dying if she noticed Sheikha Mozah's icicle boots.)
    It's the state banquet, though, that gets our star. And not just because she seems to have decided to go with "giant diamonds" as her accessory theme for the night, either (though that's certainly grounds on its own). She chose this night as her first public outing of Queen Victoria's magnificent waterfall brooch, and it was no mistake: the brooch includes diamonds given to Victoria by the Sultan of Turkey. Sneaky little diplomatic gesture, isn't it?
    She wore the brooch with the coronation necklace (also from Queen Victoria) and a pair of earrings once worn by her mother which were another fabulous part of the Greville inheritance. The brooch is supposed to be a part of the summer exhibit at Buckingham Palace next year, "Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration". Start shopping for plane tickets now if you need them, kids.
    Another notable brooch popped out to say farewell to the Turkish guests: an emerald carved with a rose on the front and surrounded by diamonds, a gift from the Ladies of India to Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar in 1911.
    Since we're talking jewels, you know, as we do, this trip also gave us good shots of two royal ladies we don't usually get to see in their state visit finery: Princess Anne sat in Camilla's spot for the banquet (Camilla was out sick) wearing the Festoon Tiara, and Princess Michael played the lead royal lady role at the Guildhall banquet (that's usually the Duchess of Gloucester's spot these days). She wore one of my favorite Kent tiaras, an oh-so-pretty diamond and pearl number, and paired it with a rather costume-ish bodice decoration. I suspect that it's fake (look at the size of those pearls!) and that it might even be a part of the gown, which is...odd. She did manage to cover up appropriately for the devout Muslim guest of honor, so I suppose points have to be awarded for that.

    Do you have a favorite moment from these trips?

    Photos: Getty Images/Reuters/Daylife/Hello/Royal Collection

    Week in Review: Crown Princess Victoria, 13-19 November

    Here's what Victoria wore from 13-19 November:

    1. a and b) On an official visit to Järfälla, 14 November, wearing an H&M maternity coat with a By Malene Birger scarf. The coat is actually maternity wear, which is awesome because I think she's been making do with tent dresses and repeats intended for not-pregnant people for too long - as you can see in (b), because that coat is from pre-pregnancy days and it will not close anymore.
    2. Attending a lunch at the palace, 15 November.
    3. a) At the World Child and Youth Forum at the Royal Palace, 17 November, in a dubious shoe choice with those tights. The whole family was there, with an apparent winter white and/or brown dress code (b and c).
    This one is actually from 11 November, presenting awards at the Royal Swedish Academy of War Science's gala:
    And I think we might finally have a winner! A great maternity gown, even if she has caught her sister's fur shrug flu (this one is from Malina). This gives me great hope that she might pull out something stunning for the upcoming Nobel Prize ceremony. Fingers crossed, everyone!

    Photos: Purepeople/Abaca/Kungahuset/Lehtikuva

    25 November 2011

    Flashback Friday: Ladies in Uniform

    Lord knows I love a man in uniform - I certainly take every possible opportunity on this blog to point that out. But as I said when we saw Mary in her military best a few weeks ago, I also love a lady in uniform, and I decided that it's high time we threw a little appreciation in the female uni direction.

    Spotting royal ladies in uniform is not nearly as common a sight as it is with their male counterparts, but that doesn't mean they don't have just as much aplomb when they do bust out the bona fide military fashion. Some of them have spent actual time in training with the military, and some wear the uniforms of their honorary appointments (and others wear non-military uniforms), but they always do whatever group they're representing proud.

    Princess and Queen Elizabeth
    World War II really did require all of Britain's resources, including the future Queen. Princess Elizabeth trained up as a mechanic, and later sported a specially designed uniform to ride sidesaddle each year at Trooping the Colour. She stopped riding during the ceremony when her trusty horse Burmese was retired in 1986, and now rides in a phaeton for the event.

    Princess Astrid and Princess Anne (twice)
    Not to worry, though, there's another fierce lady keeping Trooping the Colour from being a male-dominated royal event: the Princess Royal. Anne is the royal I most often call out for looking crazy good in a uniform, and I wouldn't mind if she just went ahead and ditched all of her 1980s treasures and went the uniform route every day. Princess Astrid of Belgium, another sovereign's daughter, also gets a piece of that sentiment. She's always sure to wear her uniform for National Day, and she always looks smart as can be. I think she might operate best with a limited hat selection, to tell you the truth.

    The Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the late Princess of Wales
    Like Anne, Camilla and Sophie also have honorary military appointments to their names. They refrain from using their ceremonial uniforms like their sister-in-law does, but are always game to muck in and suit up when they visit their regiments. See how delighted Sophie is to be donning that helmet? That's dedication, friends. Diana held a few honorary appointments of her own, but was most famous for her cheeky takes on military style rather than any actual uniforms. The only proper uniform I've ever seen her in (perhaps someone else will have another example to share in the comments) is not military, but from the Red Cross.

    Princess Iman, Queen Noor, and Queen Rania
    Over in Jordan, they have a tradition of sending certain young family members to Sandhurst in Britain for military training, and the females are no exception: Princess Iman (daughter of King Hussein and Queen Noor) is a grad. And neither Queen Noor nor Queen Rania are strangers to wearing the uniforms of their honorary military positions.

    Princess Marie, Charlotte Casiraghi, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Crown Princess Mary, Crown Princess Victoria
    In Denmark, Princess Marie holds down the fort on the civil side of things with the Danish Emergency Management Association, and Charlotte Casiraghi does the same in Monaco with the Maritime Police. Crown Princess Mette-Marit has participated in exercises with the Norwegian Civil Defense, while Crown Princess Mary has trained with the Danish Home Guard. As part of her training as the future Queen of Sweden, Crown Princess Victoria did a training stint with the military. But as awesome as that picture of Victoria in face paint is, nothing quite compares to this:
    The future Queen Margrethe
    Tell me something: is this the best picture ever, or is this the best picture EVER? You are correct, it is the best picture EVER. Way to rock the shades, Daisy. And though we might not see her in uniform these days, she once spent time with the Danish Women's Flying Corps.

    Who wears the uniform best?

    Photos: BilledBladet/Polfoto/Daylife/Getty Images

    Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 13-19 November

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

    1. Visiting Deventer Home Entrepreneurs, 15 November.
    2. Opening the Amsterdam Participation Market, 17 November.
    3. Making a school visit, 18 November.
    4. Attending the world premiere of a Dutch documentary, 18 November. The best in an extraordinarily typical Máxima week, I suppose.
    Photos: PPE/Buys/Het Koninklijk Huis/ANP/Dutch Photo Press

    24 November 2011

    Tiara Thursday: The Modern Gold Tiara

    Since the topic of the week is shiny and new jewels, here’s one of the most distinctive ones to have been added to a royal collection in recent years. Oh, I can’t wait to hear what you guys think about this one...
    Modern Gold Tiara with topaz centerpiece
    Let’s call it the Modern Gold Tiara. This intriguing gem was a gift from King Harald of Norway to his wife, Queen Sonja, for her 60th birthday in 1997. Unlike traditional tiaras, this is mostly metal on display: strips of gold with tiny diamonds set in gold wedged in between periodically. It comes with earrings and matching necklaces.
    Sonja in the topaz version
    When it first debuted, reddish orange topaz stones were featured in the center element - the unusual combination of a round stone above a diamond shape. Topaz was also featured in the necklace that matches exactly, and the earrings. Over time we’ve learned that it is actually a convertible piece.
    With tourmaline centerpiece
    The second version to appear featured a large rectangular green tourmaline center edged in diamonds (this, of course, is the version she tends to wear with her favorite Big Bird yellow gown, much as she does with her larger green stone tiara option). Note that the necklaces and earrings are also transforming; this really is a convertible set.
    The third and latest version features more small diamonds in the center, which really highlights the other small diamonds scattered along the sides.
    With diamond centerpiece
    Modern is the only word for this...well, that and galactic, possibly. Star Wars, Star Trek, Wonder Woman: all valid comparisons. But you have to admit that it is a great match to the quirky queen’s dress sense. (And her daughter’s too, which makes me think it must be destined for Märtha Louise someday in the future.)
    It really is an excellent example of a new and modern jewel addition: it features experimentation with different materials, the use of semi-precious stones, and maximum convertibility...but you have to be able to get past the sheer force (see what I did there?) of the design to appreciate all that first, I suppose.

    An intriguing modern design, or just a little too far out of this world?

    Photos: ANP/Scanpix/PPE

    Week in Review: Princess Mathilde, 13-19 November

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

    1. Celebrating King's Day in Brussels, 15 November. I'm not even going to try and play like I'm pondering it: I LOVE the leopard. So help me, I do. It takes a lot to make an animal print classy and not trashy, and she's pulling it off with the assistance of those gray accessories. J'adore.
    2. More celebrations at Parliament, 15 November. This, on the other hand...not so much. Too. Much. Fringe.
    3. a and b) Visiting the province of Luxembourg, 16 November in a colorblocked coat which is lovely, but Princess Claire did it better (see below).
    4. a and b) Visiting a literacy project, 17 November.
    5. Launching the "Week of Reading Aloud", 18 November, in a combo that I disliked so much I think I ended up coming around to the other side and now find it oddly enjoyable.
    King's Day is a family affair (except not for the actual King and Queen), and Princess Astrid is the only other one that hatted up, in her upturned mixing bowl with the Hello Kitty bow stuck on front. That eternal rebel Queen Fabiola went without (can't be messing up the hair, man)...
    ...as did Princess Claire, who seems now to be back in royal action with her errant hubby, Prince Laurent. In the realm of colorblocking, both Claire and Mathilde picked outfits that seem to be aiming for that young mod look, and Claire (who looks like she's 15 anyway) is just a better fit.

    Photos: Zimbio/Getty Images/PPE/Nieboer/Belga

    23 November 2011

    Wedding Wednesday: New Bridal Tiaras

    Royal weddings are prime showcases for heirloom tiaras - after all, a girl does need something borrowed - but they're also often showcases for new tiaras. Whether you are honoring a new gift, you just feel like something new, or the family was plain out of tiaras for the new girl to have, there are plenty of weddings that have brought us new jewels to gaze upon.

    Left to Right: Princess Claire of Belgium, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
    The Belgian royal family is not sitting on a huge stash of tiaras, so when Claire Coombs married in, they had to rustle up something new for her (reported by some to be a converted necklace from Queen Elisabeth). Norway has a fair amount of diadems, but not really anything that would fill the "all-purpose, small, and diamond" category for a new Crown Princess, so they bought one when Mette-Marit joined up. And though you might disagree with me, I've always thought that was part of the reason Crown Princess Mary got a newly purchased tiara too. Apart from the tiara that now sits on Princess Marie's head, smallish diamond gems that are not already in constant use seem to have been nonexistent.

    L to R: Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent; Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg (then a Princess of Belgium)
    I'm afraid the days of lavish wedding gift jewel hauls are gone for most brides, but once upon a time getting multiple tiaras for your wedding was commonplace for a royal bride. Honoring a relative by wearing their gift on your big day is always smart, but perhaps even smarter is honoring the institutions that give you gifts. Greek Princess Marina wore a fringe tiara given to her by her new home, the City of London, while Belgian Princess Joséphine-Charlotte honored her home country by wearing both the Belgian Scroll Tiara and the Congo Diamond Tiara to marry into Luxembourg's royal family.

    L to R: Sarah, Duchess of York; Princess Margaret; Empress Farah of Iran; Crown Princess Sarah of Brunei
    Sometimes, for whatever reason, you just want something new. Sarah Ferguson wore a new tiara from Garrard, and Princess Margaret's Politmore Tiara was bought specially prior to her wedding day. Farah Diba wed in the Noor-ol-Ain Tiara which was created by Harry Winston for the occasion. I'd wager a guess that the tiara worn by Sarah Salleh for her wedding to Brunei's Crown Prince was freshly made too. All of these ladies could have worn something from their respective royal families, but for whatever reason - and I would guess the reasoning here is quite diverse - they opted for new instead.

    L to R: Sophie, Countess of Wessex; Princess Máxima of the Netherlands; Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau
    Finally, if you can't get something new, you settle for a new configuration of old stuff instead. Sophie wore a (new to us) configuration of old pieces when she became the Countess of Wessex, and Máxima put a new spin on an old gem by topping a pearl button tiara with diamond stars instead. Her sister-in-law Mabel did a similar thing by using the diamond-only setting of the family's large sapphire tiara.

    As lovely and meaningful as traditions can be, I suppose there's something to be said for making your own mark, or putting special memories together with a piece that you'll call your own for the rest of your marriage. My personal favorite version is Máxima's - that sly little magpie was already showing us just how much fun she intended to have with the family jewel box.

    If it was you...would you rather have an old tiara or a new one for your wedding day?