TIDBITS Blog

Welcome to my blog, TIDBITS, which is an acronym for “The Interesting Details BehInd The Stories,” where I provide a window into my writing world. As I write realistic fiction, I do research into topics relevant to my stories. In addition to offering the magic of the imagination, I hope to provide my readers with a behind the scenes look at some of what comprises the work behind my work.

History of the White Wedding Dress

In my story, “The Glass Slipper,” Ashleigh borrows a vintage ivory wedding dress from Alice Blair, owner of The Glass Slipper, the shop she goes to for all her trousseau needs. Alice tells Ashleigh something about the provenance of the dress; it was worn by her grandmother just days before the advent of World War II. 

Though all of the bridal gowns Alice shows Ashleigh (before she offers her own dress) are white or variations of white, wedding dresses historically (and geographically even today) were not always this color. Popularly viewed as symbolic of purity today, white has not always been recognized as such. White even symbolized mourning to medieval French royalty, and it is still associated with bereavement in many parts of Asia. A variety of colors were worn by brides in distant eras and diverse locales, depending on fashion, personal preference, and the financial standing of the bride’s family.

Queen Victoria with her new husband, Prince Albert, on their wedding day, February 10, 1840

The first well known instance of a bride wearing white at her wedding, was at the wedding of Princess Philippa of England, who married Eric of Pomerania in 1406. The princess bride wore a tunic with a white silk cloak, bordered with squirrel and ermine. In 1559, Mary Queen of Scots celebrated her first wedding in a white wedding dress when she married Francis, Dauphin of France. But the white wedding dress didn’t gain widespread popularity until 1840, when Queen Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Goth in her sumptuous white bridal gown. The queen cherished her lace flounce and veil so much that she frequently wore them to special celebrations throughout her lifetime. With some tailoring, she even donned it for her diamond jubilee in 1896. Two reasons are cited for her choice of the white wedding dress: She preferred to wear only material made in England, and she wanted to support the declining lace industry in Bevon. The queen regarded white, the color she saw as reflecting purity, also as the best color with which to display the artistry of the lace.

Well-to-do brides in Europe and America preferred finespun white silk or lace after Queen Victoria’s wedding. After World War II, with the wide availability of affordable synthetics (nylon and rayon), the white wedding dress became the gown of choice for the overwhelming majority of Western brides. Up to the present, white is still the bridal color of choice. As Vera Wang, a popular wedding dressmaker has said, “A white wedding gown represents far more than just a dress. It is also the embodiment of a dream.”

Though the particular styles vary greatly, the white wedding dress has captured the imaginations of brides for generations. But will Alice’s bridal heirloom find its way through her family for generations yet to come?

Sources:

  1. “ A Brief History of the White Wedding Dress” by Yewande Ade, in History of Yesterday, August 28, 2021.
  2. “Wedding Dress” in Wikipedia.
  3. “Wedding Dress of Queen Victoria” in Wikipedia.

A History of the Wedding Cake

Who doesn’t remember the quintessential multi-tiered wedding cake of classic fairy tale renown? In my story, The Forever Flavor, Bijou is an artist busily planning her upcoming wedding. For decades, she has dreamed of celebrating with an exquisite tall cake taking center stage. Though Queen Victoria’s wedding may have popularized the towering confection, its history can be traced to a far more modest morsel.

Bijou, our fictional heroine, cares deeply about the beauty and taste of her wedding cake—and we’re not surprised. But before the era of elegant, fanciful, delectable wedding cakes, a wedding—or bridal—cake was not typically any of the above. Originating in ancient Rome, a simple wheat or barley cake was crumbled over the bride (and groom sometimes) for luck in fertility and finance. The newlyweds would share the crumbs as their guests gathered pieces from the floor or ground, hoping for their own share of good luck.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages, when we are introduced to the bride pie, the somewhat pretty centerpiece of a typical English wedding celebration. The not-so-tasty ingredients were a far cry from the confections that would come later. 

By the 1600s, the bride pie had evolved into the bride cake. These were sweet fruit cakes, which remains a popular flavor even today. Our seventeenth-century bride would enjoy her slice and then toss the remainder over her head—reminiscent of the Roman tradition of the barley cake crumble. As we approach the end of this century, we begin to glimpse white meringue-type icings on bride cakes.

Late in the eighteenth century, we see what may have been the origin of Bijou’s delectably dreamy, tiered cake. Legend has it that a young baker’s apprentice in London was in love with his boss’s daughter. As he looked across the street to St. Bride’s church, which consisted of a number of tiered spires, he imagined presenting the girl with a tiered wedding cake in a remarkably sweet proposal. He proceeded to bake his novel, elaborate creation. The girl of his dreams was duly impressed and agreed to marry him.

By the nineteenth century, formal wedding cakes were growing in size and popularity, especially with the debut of the tall wedding cake, covered in white icing symbolizing purity, introduced at Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding. This cake, influenced by the highly decorated, tall confections popular in France, set a new standard in England. In 1882, the first completely edible formal tiered wedding cake was enjoyed at the wedding of Prince Leopold and Princess Helene Freiderike. The creative pastry chefs securely stacked the tiers on top of each other using hardened layers of royal icing between the layers.

Since those times, tall wedding cakes have been popular in many parts of the world. In recent times, some brides have opted for creative, modern variations. The beautiful, sometimes colossal, cake creations, though soon consumed by many, share a common objective: To be a lasting memory for all, but especially for the bride and groom.

Sources:

“The Hidden Secrets Behind the History of Wedding Cakes,” by Marissa Laliberte, in Reader’s Digest, October 26, 2017

“The Strange History of the Wedding Cake,” by Abigail Tucker, in Smithsonian Magazine, July 13, 2009

“Queen Victoria’s 300-Pound Wedding Cake Set a Big New Trend for Brides,” by Ines Anton, in National Geographic, June, 2021

Evolution of the Bicycle

In my story, “The Bicycle,” a selection from my book, Pie in the Sky and Other Stories, an old childhood bicycle is the only vehicle by which Garret can finally reconnect with Annie, the long-lost girl of his dreams. Let’s take a look at the fascinating history of the bicycle as it evolved in Europe throughout most of the nineteenth century.

Over two centuries ago, in 1817, a German baron named Karl von Drais invented a steerable, two-wheeled velocipede, known variously as the draisienne or laufmachine. The old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” was at play: Karl no longer had a horse, and he needed a way to get around. Karl’s contraption, though a prime example of creativity, lacked pedals (among other problems) and fell far short of the speed and abilities of his erstwhile horse. But it was the conception of an idea that would later shake up the spheres of transportation, activity, and leisure.  Taking our leave of this great-grandaddy of the bicycle, we move along about four decades to…

French inventors Pierre Lallement, Ernest Michaux, and Pierre Michaux, who, beginning in the 1850s, developed machines with (wonder of wonders!) pedals attached to the heavy wooden spoke front wheel. Popularly known as “boneshakers” for their rough ride, they are regarded by some as the first machines known as bicycles.

That rugged ride failed to draw in enough customers, so Eugene Meyer, an enterprising French inventor, decided to soften the joyride with a pair of wire wheels. Recognized today as the “father of the bicycle,” he was issued the first French patent for wire wheels on a bicycle in 1868. Wheels whose rims attached to their hubs by flexible wire spokes could more readily absorb shock and support applied loads. In an attempt at improving stability, Meyer’s new model sported an oversized (about four feet high) front wheel. Though simply known as “bicycles” at the time, these bicycles later (by the 1890s) would become known as “penny-farthings” or “ordinaries,” to distinguish them from the “safety bicycles” that would come later. The origin of the name “penny-farthing” can be found in the large British penny (for the front wheel) and the much smaller farthing (for the back wheel).

Penny Farthing

Making our way westward to Britain, we meet James Starley and William Hillman, who, in 1874, built wire-spoke wheels under the first British patent on bicycles. Now they could provide a lighter penny-farthing bicycle to the British enthusiast. They named this bicycle Ariel, for spirit of the air. Up to this point, virtually all bicycle riders were daring young men.

Though the penny-farthing introduced the bicycle to the mainstream, most people were still wary of its four-foot high saddle. Impressed with his uncle’s work, John Kemp Starley nonetheless felt he could outdo James Starley. In 1885, John developed the “Rover,” also known as the “safety bicycle.” Its design featured a chain drive and wheels of equal size that facilitated a smoother, safer ride. Now ladies, gentlemen, and children felt comfortable hopping onto this updated bicycle. John Kemp Starley’s iteration became recognizable as the basic template for what would become the modern bicycle.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the bicycle proved to be an invention that had traveled a long and rocky road to become a widely recognized symbol of progress and freedom.

And Garret and Annie, so many years later, would become biking buddies and best friends. Covering much physical and emotional terrain, Annie exults in the freedom of the open road in her daily escape from home. And they both develop powerful qualities of tenacity and loyalty. 

But will these traits be enough to propel them along life’s arduous paths into each other’s arms?

Get your copy of Pie in the Sky and Other Stories now on Amazon.com on Kindle and in Paperback!

Sources:

 Wikipedia:

Ariel Motorcycles

James Starley

Wire Wheel

Eugene Meyer” 

“Penny-farthing”

History (online publication):

“The Bicycle’s Bumpy History,” Feb. 18, 2021

TIDBITS

Welcome to my blog, TIDBITS, which is an acronym for “The Interesting Details BehInd The Stories,” where I provide a window into my writing world. As I write realistic fiction, I do research into topics relevant to my stories. In addition to offering the magic of the imagination, I hope to provide my readers with a behind the scenes look at some of what comprises the work behind my work.