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Monday, September 19, 2011

Priscilla of Boston is Closing After 65 Iconic Years

I just can’t believe it…and yet I can.

After 65 years of dressing brides for their big day, Priscilla of Boston is shutting its doors.

And they just introduced their new collections for the season: Priscilla of Boston, Platinum for Priscilla of Boston, Melissa Sweet, Reverie, Jewel and Vineyard Collection.

This is the same company that created Grace Kelly’s iconic bridal gown that she wore to her wedding to the Prince of Monaco. 

The gowns covered several different price ranges – however, admittedly, most of the gowns cost more than what most brides are willing to spend these days. Here is the painful truth: our economy is in really, really poor condition. People are still getting married every day, but their budgets are smaller. 

One of the new gowns, a personal favorite of mine, called "Lex."

And let’s be realistic – why should brides have to spend over $5,000 for a wedding gown if they want something like nice beading or silk when they could go to a department store and only pay a few hundred instead? Yes, generally designer gowns are created in a very meticulous way, with hand-beading and the like, but the prices still seem utterly inflated for something that is only going to be worn once. And it is not fair that a bride who spends around $1,000 only gets a very basic white dress with cheap material. People in the wedding industry either need to “get real” with brides’ budgets or they will be left in the dust.

The company is actually owned by David’s Bridal, the cheaper alternative to a more luxe bridal salon like Priscilla. Those at the company are saying that they are closing Priscilla of Boston to focus and invest their resources more into David’s Bridal salons instead.

This makes perfect sense to me. David’s Bridal is more affordable for brides as it is, and is usually the first bridal salon an American woman chooses to enter. However, it is on the low end in appearance and selections compared to many other brands/salons. It is hard to find a more luxe gown in one of their stores; however, David’s Bridal recently teamed up with Vera Wang (arguably the most popular name in bridal fashion, but usually rather pricey) to create a line called White by Vera Wang that is hot-off the runway but affordable for today’s bride. The new collection has garnered plenty of excitement from brides, and rightfully so – the gowns are truly Vera but will not break the bank. Who knows – maybe David’s Bridal would like to approach Kenneth Pool next? (Now that would be a Cinderella dream come true!) David’s Bridal could expand to host several big-name designers with collections at a significant fraction of their usual prices, with a more posh-looking environment for their customers.

White by Vera Wang

I am very sad that such an iconic name in bridal fashion is coming to an end, but I am also hopeful for the future of the wedding industry and the options it gives to its couples. I raise a glass of champagne to you, Priscilla of Boston – thank you for 65 years of innovative and beautiful fashion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Love/Hate Triangle of Sleeping Beauty, The Swan Princess, and The Princess and the Frog

I really, really love The Princess and the Frog. Though it wasn't the Box Office sweeper Disney execs were hoping for, I think the story is clever (I think it was very smart and, dare I say it, “hip” of Disney to go off of the book The Frog Princess for inspiration instead of simply the story of The Frog Prince), the characters are engaging, and the animation is gorgeous. Disney certainly isn't crying over their Princess Tiana merchandise sales.

From my childhood, I have fond memories of The Swan Princess. While not a Disney film, it was a princess movie that entertained my naturally girlish fantasies that fit nicely next to my library of Disney VHS tapes. Watching it as an adult, I notice its flaws, but can still enjoy it, if not for nostalgia’s sake. And come on – the antics of the Pillsbury Doughboy before the film and the “Eternity” music video afterwards is classic entertainment!

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered quite a few similarities to these two films, and in fact one other film that links the two together…and upon some research, finding out how much backstabbing and one-upping is done within the entertainment industry.

Richard Rich, an Animation Director, used to work for Disney, but eventually left the company (The Black Cauldron was his final Disney project, which caused quite a bit of chaos with the company). He went on to create his own animation studio and beat Disney to the punch to make a film based off of the story of Swan Lake…obviously, Disney didn’t like that. They eventually dropped the idea of making a Swan Princess film (granted, this idea might eventually resurface after renewed interest from the film The Black Swan, but that’s only my musings), but old grudges die hard, and some remnants of this fight showed up in The Princess and the Frog.

It’s true that many fairy tales share similar details to each other. Companies like Disney are not at fault for this…these stories are thousands of years old, and through word of mouth and different interpretations, they might have stemmed from only a handful of stories but have taken up their own individual names at this present day.

The queen bee of fairy tales.
So I’ll ignore certain similarities, like the obligatory evil sorcerer/witch character. Magic easily justifies crazy transformations of characters and situations and dates back to the very beginnings of theatre. The ancient Greeks loved writing in their gods changing things to cause resolutions to major plot points, and later on playwrights such as Shakespeare used magic in all sorts of situations.

Instead, let’s compare Jean Bob to Prince Naveen.

The teeth detailing here is interesting to say the least.

My colors are more refined, yes?
Originally, Disney’s animators tried drawing frogs in all sorts of ways, even with a more realistic approach – but those images just didn’t measure up. Even in the teaser, Naveen didn’t have his final look set. To be honest, I do prefer the direction they eventually took. As the animators noted, having Naveen and Tiana (as frogs) have more human attributes in the form of a frog made them more pleasing to the eye, and were therefore more likable and relate-able for an audience. I also love Naveen’s accent…but with both of those pieces put together, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between Naveen and Jean Bob. Jean Bob, however, was not the prince in The Swan Princess, and only had the obsessive idea that he would turn into a prince if he was kissed by a princess. 

Disney's concept art for The Princess and the Frog.
But let’s give Disney some credit here. They did not start this copy-catting process – at least in this particular situation. 

The Swan Princess clearly took some ideas from Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and in fact, many general ideas for a classic Disney film.

And why should that surprise anyone? Not only has Disney paved the way and set the standard for animated films, but after all these years, they are still considered to be the best at what they do. And Richard Rich came from Disney…so why wouldn’t he “borrow” some ideas?

Odette and Aurora have quite a few similarities, from a design standpoint…even in key imagery. In both films, when the princesses are born, a huge party is held, and their betrotheds (Derek and Phillip) who look to be between the ages of 5-7, stand over the cribs of the future brides…one looks at theirs questioningly, while the other gives the baby a locket. 

Well...guess my whole life is planned out already. Yay!
True princesses always like shiny things.
Eventually, however, Derek does look at Odette with disgust, as they go about their childhoods hating each other and hating the fact that they are forced to marry (a fact that both Phillip and Aurora despise, but they do not see each other and it eventually works in their favor as they fell in love without the knowledge that they were engaged in the first place). Both Odette and Aurora are tall, slender blondes with long wavy hair that hits at the same place, and their princes are tall, handsome brunettes (Phillip is a little more clean-cut).

And let’s not forget that in The Swan Princess, Odette’s prince is named Derek…which sounds an awful lot like Eric from The Little Mermaid, a film which would have been very influential to the Swan Princess while in its infancy of pre-production. This comparison is minor, but still a similarity.

Devastatingly handsome.
This is the entertainment business, folks…it is give and take, borrowing, stealing, blackmailing, and getting even. With The Princess and the Frog, Disney just jabbed back a bit at Richard Rich…they were just waiting for the opportunity. And it made their re-entry into classic animation that much sweeter. But hey, they did try to be original…it’s the thought that counts.