High Tea: polished charm and delicacy

I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.
— Marie Antoinette

The concept for this production came to me at a time when I was watching a lot of period film pieces like “Marie Antoinette” and “Anna Karenina” mostly for the beautiful costumes, decorated ladies and impressive productions but a sad truth stood out to me while analyzing these beautiful films; these high society women, who were so incredibly extravagant and polished, were nothing more than pawns in a game made for men. These women were the property of their fathers before being married off to a stranger and they had absolutely no rights, even when it came to their own children.

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These women were expected to act with the highest of grace and refinement. Their only accepted form of expression, extravagant dresses and hairstyles, were also their torment. The dresses were heavy and the corsets tight, restricting their physical, emotional, mental and metaphorical movement. It occurred to me that while these majestically decorated women were having tea in their parlor moving with the most polished of charm and delicacy, they were continuously falling apart inside. Emotionally and physically unable to move they would often succumb to “hysteria” and ailments of the mind. Some of them being shipped off to mental institutions while their families went on without them.

I wanted to express this idea by showing an affluently refined woman out in the manicured gardens of the family estate while teacups fell all around her, crashing on the ground at her feet, while she remains proper and sophisticated. Never showing a trace of her vulnerability and decay.

For weeks I scoured the Internet and dress designers for the perfect dress and just could not find exactly what I was looking for. Either they were out of my budget, not the right color, or design. So I decided in a moment of frustration, to make my own dress, even though I had never before sewn.

It took me months and probably years off of my life but I finally completed the dress with the help of talented designer Jayme Lowenstein Lillie. I had intended to only take the one photo but I just had to document the dress so I ended up doing a whole set showing more of the story and emotional intent behind the series.

My team was incredible and really came through to make this idea come to life and the shoot successful.

Model: Kaity Tainer

MUA: Shalonda Paguero

Hair: Rachel Rochelle

Assistant: Surreal Charnell & Ian Price

Location: Rust Mansion, Tacoma, WA. - Ian Price

Shot on a Cannon 7D with an 85mm lens. 

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Here are the mock up drawings from the idea stage.