Updated: Jul 26, 2021
With the current excitement surrounding the acclaimed Netflix show, The Crown, I decided to reminisce about my trip to one of my favorite cities in the world, London. This vacation was particularly special to me, not only because I love the United Kingdom and everything having to do with the British Royal Family, but because it was precious time spent with my Mom, one of my ultimate style inspirations. London is rich in art, fashion, culture, and history, and frankly, I can get used to the fancy accent. *Cue Taylor Swift's London Boy*
The year 2018 saw the monumental lavish fairytale wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Though so many people have varied opinions on the marriage, and Markle herself, my mind and eyes were solely focused on the elegant wedding dress I was about to see at Windsor Castle. Designed by Clare Waight Keller of the French fashion house Givenchy, Markle walked down the aisle of St. George's Chapel just eight months before I would enter the same grand hall on the royal grounds of the palace. Delicate, modest, and humble, the dress featured a flattering boat-neckline, with a silk overlay and an organza petticoat as well as an intricate hand-stitched embroidery on the 16-foot veil that displayed the flowers of the Commonwealth. My jaw dropped as I gazed at the white, bonded silk creation. Everything about this garment was a literal work of art. As we enter our tenth month living in the pandemic, it's a bit humorous to remember learning that the veil construction was so exquisite that the embroiderers had to wash their hands every thirty minutes to ensure it would remain pristine until the big day. Not only did the dress make an incredibly minimalist statement to the fashion and bridal industry, but it also inspired me to acknowledge that less is more as far as my own style is concerned. To quote none other than Coco Chanel, "simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." I believe Markle and Keller took that statement and elevated it to the overall outline of the dress. Seeing this visionary masterpiece was the greatest highlight of our trip, and it brought me back to the chills felt throughout my body at 3 in the morning as I watched the bride exit the vintage Rolls-Royce on TV and grace the long walkway of the chapel while Elin Manahan performed "Eternal Source of Light Divine." Staring at the gown behind the thick glass wall, I admired the 500 hours it took to manufacture this timeless piece with every detail and seam I observed. I am all for the latest trends, but there is something so refreshing about classic attire. After the wedding, many people described the dress as "plain" or "simple," but seeing the fabric in person made me appreciate the beauty of the design and its utter elegance and sophistication. No matter how I feel about this controversial couple now, I will never forget the experience of taking in the short glimpse I got of the genius behind the regal gown; it was genuinely re-Markle-ble (too easy, sorry).
If you're an avid royal observer like me, an excursion through the historic Windsor Castle grounds is necessary. Similar to Buckingham Palace, there are several magnificent rooms and royal suites to explore. The castle is complete with art by famous painters spread among the elaborate halls, and the ceremonial porcelain used for state dinners presented in the ballroom was something to see. Looking at the gorgeous china, we chuckled at the use of paper plates and plastic cups back home. Outside of the castle, we wandered through the town of Windsor, set in a quaint and enchanting atmosphere. The cobblestone village center houses dozens of little shops, restaurants, and pubs though we mainly bought bobbleheads of The Queen and Prince Philip as we were caught in a huge touristy hub of town.
Kensington Palace, the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the former home of Princess Diana, was such a fascinating place to visit. Unlike Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, Kensington is not overtly opulent. Although it housed some of the most prominent royals over the centuries, it resembled a standard red-brick apartment complex from the outside. The inside, however, was the most glorious attraction. We were lucky to see some of Princess Diana's wardrobe, as well as some of her hand-written commentary about the design process of some of her most notorious custom pieces. My personal favorite dress to see in this exhibition was the legendary midnight blue dress that Princess Diana wore to a White House gala and famously swirled around the dance floor alongside John Travolta. Being in the same room as some of her infamous outfits, my Mom recalled each dress from the red Catherine Walker suit to the same designer's velvet tuxedo halter gown. Watching Emma Corrin play Diana is as close as I can get to understanding the glamourous yet tragic life of the iconic princess, an unfortunate shame for us, Gen Z'ers.
After the palaces' tour, we visited the revered Westminster Abbey, where numerous Royal occasions were held, including The Queen's wedding to Prince Phillip in 1947 and her Coronation in 1953. The large Abbey is situated in the heart of London and has been the focal point of various of the country's most notable events in history. From kings and queens to soldiers and poets, history, tradition, and heritage are all at the forefront of this enormous structure. Looking at the outstandingly beautiful front corridor, the brilliant stained-glass windows, and overall architecture, I suddenly felt as if I was transported into a dream. Following the theme of history, we toured the Tower of London overlooking the famous Tower Bridge, home to the radiant treasures of the Crown Jewel Collection. I was absolutely astonished to see the royal jewelry that has belonged to each monarch since the 1600s. With nearly 23,578 gems on display and royal robes and ceremonial tiaras and crowns stored at the tower, the security was (understandably) intense, and it was such a breathtaking and inspiring visit to see this fortune.
One of the best parts about traveling to London amid the brisk holiday season is that the city is glossed up with twinkling lights and a festive spirit. London embraces the bitter cold in its winter months, and even on the darkest of days, this chaotic English city capital is full of life. With London being one of the four central fashion locations worldwide, shopping was an integral part of our itinerary. From Oxford Street to Knightsbridge, you can find anything from the highest luxury fashion labels to trendy local boutiques, although I became instantly infatuated with the famous department store, Harrods; the landmark department store full of merchandise with 5000 brands and 7 floors from clothing to furniture. I spent more than two hours in the shoe section marveling at the assortment of couture footwear. From Jimmy Choo's patent leather pumps to the colorful array of Manolo Blahnik's crystal kitten heel slingbacks, I couldn't resist indulging in the plethora of luxury shoes, whether boots or sneakers. To this day, I regularly think about the shopping paradise that tempted my shoe addiction. I was enthralled by the clothing section, too; from the chic outerwear to the polished range of apparel, I was in my form of heaven.
As we strolled through Bond Street, the famous London neighborhood known across the globe for its wealth of stylish stores and exclusive brands, located in Mayfair's delightful town, I stumbled into Mulberry, the contemporary British label often worn by Kate Middleton, of course! As the store hypnotized me with its smell of fine leather and luxurious goods, I was forced to purchase something—anything. I chose the effortless black Bayswater shoulder bag made in quality gross grain leather and finished with a signature Postman's lock; it quickly became one of my favorite
and classic accessories in my wardrobe. Notting Hill was our next stop (yes, we bumped into Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant). I was especially taken by the store, Olivia Rubin, known for vibrant and colorful collections and a rainbow signature cardigan. Color and fun always influence my classic style, and from the moment I stepped into this shop, I was captured by the creativity and sparkle that each design possessed. With the use of vivid color and a combination of pearl and crystal buttons, Olivia Rubin adds fun to the average black sweater. Taking in the delight of each pattern and pretty print, I walked out of the store carrying multiple shopping bags of clothing I couldn't wait to wear.
Following a full day of shopping in the city's popular streets, we enjoyed a traditional afternoon high tea ceremony at the Rosewood Hotel. The tea was an elegant treat and a memorable experience understanding the proper tea etiquette and being dressed in our finest outfits. Sipping out of the lovely dainty teacups and nibbling on the pretty and delicate pastries, we bonded over the uptight yet refined feeling that overwhelmed us in the grand tearoom. After the seventh round of mini cucumber sandwiches, I swear we were about to throw up from sheer exhaustion. Afternoon tea soon became an evening feast. We wanted to run out mid-meal to find a less fancy dinner but were interrupted by the announcement of Santa. The sound of the giggling little kids in petite evening wear meeting the old bearded man dressed up in a Santa costume was adorable to watch, though we would've liked to be eating pizza in bed by the time we hit dessert. With each decorative plate, the waiter brought us, we tried to hide our laughter at the weight of the stuffy aura around the room. By the time we arrived back at the hotel, we were released from the formal rules and relaxed with fresh French fries.
As I said, traveling to London during this time of year is extremely lively and joyful; however, we did not expect the abrupt closing of practically everything in sight leading up to Christmas. As two New York Jews, we naively believed we would be able to continue to explore the city during this time, and after a freezing walk through Hyde Park with nobody in sight, we decided to hide in the warmth of our hotel for the last two days of our trip. Ordering room service and binging one of the best British TV reality shows, "Dinner Date" (seriously, look it up), we relaxed in bed and in pajamas for the entire holiday. After a few hours, the room was filled with spaghetti marinara and fish and chips, and honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to this mother-daughter trip.