Monday 21 October 2019

Blog Tour: Guest Post From Louisa Leaman Author of The Perfect Dress

 Today I am very excited to be part of the blog tour for The Perfect Dress by Louisa Leaman. The ebook is out now and the paperback comes out in February 2020. I have a fascinating post from Louisa today detailing the exquisite dresses featured in this novel. If you love the sound of that, you can click here to order the book now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews!

Here's what it's all about...

Fran’s wedding dress shop isn’t like any other. A treasure trove of history, filled with gowns from every decade for every type of bride. But not as you’d expect.
Something bold for the shy and retiring.
Something simple for the woman who is unafraid to stand out.
And something dazzling for the bride who wouldn’t normally dare to be different.

No matter your expectations, you’d never guess your own perfect dress. But Fran knows… she feels the wisdom woven into every gown, a gift from the previous owner waiting to be handed down to the next bride.
When Fran finds a dress that seems to be perfect for her she can’t wait to know its complex history which starts with her getting to know the son of the previous owner…

And here's that insight from Louisa Leaman, author of The Perfect Dress...

‘Its form: full-length, nipped waist, sweetheart-neck, elegant lace sleeves, a dramatic full skirt and a train that goes on for over four meters.  She sits motionless for a minute, the dress spread across her arms, barely able to see straight, barely able to think. The lace overlay is impeccable. French, surely? Its dense and detailed flower pattern is hypnotic to the eye . . . Such attention to detail, such hand-stitched care – one of those wedding dresses. In fact, it is more than that. This one is exceptional, once in a lifetime.’

This is the moment my wedding-obsessed heroine, Francesca Delaney, uncovers her dress of dreams in a house clearance. Writing the details of exquisite bridal wear in my debut novel, ‘The Perfect Dress’, has been a joy. I wanted each of the gowns to feel vivid and distinct in readers’ minds. It helped that I had a rich resource to inspire me. Prior to starting the novel, I had researched and written about wedding dresses for the Victoria & Albert Museum website. Their collection of historic bridal-wear spans five centuries and includes dresses, veils, shoes, groom-wear and under garments.

I’m often asked which of the book’s dresses is my favourite. The truth is I love them all, but I have to pay homage to the ‘Alessandra Colt’ dress described in the extract above, as it is the one that changes Francesca Delaney’s romantic fortune. The idea of it originated from a real-life Norman Hartnell gown in the Victoria & Albert collection, worn by a woman called Margaret Whigham (who later become the Duchess of Argyll) in her marriage to stockbroker Charles Sweeny, at the Brompton Oratory in 1933.

Norman Hartnell made a name for himself as the dressmaker of choice among London’s youthful society debutantes. He was best known for dressing the ladies of the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth II (watch Netflix’ ‘The Crown’ for a glorious reenactment of her dress fittings!). I was intrigued by the way in which designers of that era were so invested in their clients, building close relationships, often designing their entire wedding trousseaus, as well as evening gowns and occasion dresses. This inspired my fictitious fashion house, Garrett-Alexia.

Margaret Whigham loved publicity. Her daily life was chronicled in numerous gossip columns and she knew how to work the press (readers of ‘The Perfect Dress’ will see this echoed in fame-hungry reality-television bride, Karina T). Two thousand onlookers came to see Margaret’s nuptials and coverage dominated the next day’s front pages. The crowd was so large, traffic was brought to a halt, which can be seen in the newsreel clip ‘Brilliant Society Wedding’ on the British Pathe website.

For such a grand occasion Margaret Whigham required a dramatic dress. Norman Hartnell’s svelte design hit the mark, with its silk satin and tulle, embroidered with appliqués, seed pearls and glass bugle beads, hand-stitched by thirty seamstresses over six weeks. The most impressive feature, however, is its integral train, nearly four meters long and two meters wide. In my novel, Alessandra Colt’s dress was designed two decades after Margaret’s and represents a typical 1950s silhouette, but I knew I had to give at a Whigham-esque train. And where Margaret’s dress was appliqued with stars and orange blossoms, which have a traditional symbolic association with marriage, Alessandra Colt’s dress features humming birds, which represent infinity – ironic or a good omen, readers can make of that what they will.

Both dresses, real and fictitious, failed to secure lasting marriages, but they’ve each gone on to have exciting after-lives. Margaret Whigham’s dress has delighted and educated onlookers at exhibitions across the world, while Alessandra Colt’s dress has played its part in the realm of romantic happy endings, by encouraging good love between a pair of deserving souls.

Thanks so much to Louisa for stopping by today and readers please do remember to stop by the other stops on this tour!

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