Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Karen Willis Holmes e-boutique launches today!

Karen Willis Holmes is excited to announce the launch of the e-boutique. Now you can view and shop our ready to wear wedding gowns and bridesmaid gowns online in the ‘Shop the Collection’.

The e-boutique also has a range of accessories from veils, belts and jewellery, perfect for complimenting your wedding gown.   If you are after some inspiration to achieve the complete look from earrings to petticoats why not check out ‘Shop the Look’ and ‘Karen’s Picks’.

To start viewing and shopping please follow this link: 

For more information, please contact us on (02) 9519 3901 or

Karen xx

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Crown fit for a Princess

With just two days to go until the big day it is all about accessorising the dress for a Royal Crown – and Kate has a selection of glittering and stunning tiaras to choose from.

(L-R) The Duchess of Teck, the Strathmore and the Delhi Durbar.

The Strathmore Rose Tiara
The Queen mum sported this simple yet stunning floral headpiece in 1928, a gift from her parents the Earl of Strathmore on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Albert in 1923.
The tiara is beautiful, as it has five large roses on it, and is completely made out of diamonds. Queen Elizabeth has worn this tiara a few times.

The Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara
It was commissioned in 1914 by Queen Mary who wanted to recreate the lover's knot tiara that belonged to her grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse. Originally each knot was surmounted by an oval pearl to mirror each drop below but by 1935 it was simplified to its present form. Queen Mary passed it to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth who in turn presented it to Diana upon the occasion of her marriage to Prince Charles.  It is unknown who owns this crown now.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara
Queen Mary purchased this tiara in 1921 from the collection of the
Grand Duchess Vladimir, aunt of Tsar Nicholas II, for whom it was made in the 1880s. It neoclassical design comprises 15 interlaced diamond-set ovals each centred with hanging pendant pearls. It is a perennial favourite and the pearls can also be changed out with emerald drops (Queen Mary devised this with the remaining unmounted Cambridge emeralds). It is sometimes seen without any drops
....what a versatile piece!

The Delhi Durbar
Made by Garrard for Queen Mary during the Delhi Durbar in 1911. The Delhi Durbar signifies when King George V and Queen Mary became the rulers of India.  It mas most recently been seen on Prince’s Charles’s wife Camilla, Duchess or Cornwall.

The Duchess of Teck Rose and Crescent Tiara

This neoclassical crown once belonged to Queen Mary's mother, the Duchess of Teck, whose prized jewelry collection was passed down to her daughter, Queen Mary upon her death in 1897.

The Fringe Tiara 
Created in 1919 using diamonds that had been part of a tiara/necklace given by Queen Victoria to Queen Mary on the occasion of her marriage in 1893. Queen Mary gave it to the Queen Mother when she ascended the throne in 1937. The Queen Mother lent it to both her daughter Princess Elizabeth and granddaughter Princess Anne on their respective wedding days. It may be a bit severe in design but it is definitely no stranger to a royal wedding.

The Girls Of Great Britain & Ireland 

Delicate and light, absolutely befitting a youthful bride. The tiara was originally given to the future Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth's Grandmother) for her wedding in 1893. The tiara was purchased by a committee that raised money from the girls of Great Britain and Ireland, hence the name. Worn by Queen Mary (left), it was passed to granddaughter Elizabeth (right) on her wedding day.  It is one of Queen Elizabeth's favourites as it has high impact and is reportedly very lightweight and versatile.

I hope you all have a fantastic time celebrating the royal wedding as I will be and check back next week for my review on the gown and an extra treat!

Karen xx

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

With just over a week to go till Prince William’s wedding to Catherine Middleton, I am finishing off our royal wedding dress blog posts with Princess Diana.  A wedding that captured the world and a woman that captured their hearts. 

Princess Diana and Prince Charles Wedding

29th July 1981
The most watched and remembered Royal Wedding is that of Diana and Prince Charles on July 29th, 1982 at St Paul’s Cathedral.  Beloved by the people Diana’s dress is the one of the most show stopping, iconic wedding gowns of all time.

3,500 people attended the wedding with another 750 million people watching the ceremony worldwide.  Two million spectators lined the route of Diana’s procession from Clarence House.  Diana arrived at St. Paul's Cathedral in a glass coach, escorted by five mounted military police officers. The carriage was too small to for Diana's father and Diana in her dress and 25 foot train causing the taffeta gown to crease.

Diana’s wedding dress was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel and was constructed of ivory silk taffeta, vintage lace, hand embroidery and sequins.  Additionally, 10,000 tiny pearls and mother-of-pearl sequins hand-sewn onto the bodice along with a 25 foot train.
Charles wore his full dress naval commander uniform.
After the ceremony, the couple went to Buckingham palace for a small dinner for 120. Appearing on a balcony, Diana and Charles pleased the crowd by kissing.

Karen xx

Friday, April 15, 2011

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip Wedding
20th November 1947
With the decision of King George IV to broadcast by radio the wedding service at Westminster Abbey people in nearly every part of the world were able to share directly in the marriage service of Princess Elizabeth, heiress presumptive to the British throne, when she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on Thursday; 20 November 1947.
Although a certain amount of austerity overshadowed the happy day, the wedding procession encompassed all the traditional splendour and the sight overwhelmed the thousands of jubilant onlookers to whom the Second World War was a thing of the recent past. The Duke was dressed in his naval Service uniform. The Princess wore an embroidered ivory satin gown with a long train of silk tulle.

After the wedding ceremony The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh rode together in the Glass Coach back to Buckingham Palace, where the crowd chanting 'We want the bride and groom' brought them out on to the balcony.
The occasion served to testify to the people's feelings for the royal family and to the continued stability of the monarchy.

Her gown was designed by Norman Hartnell and was made from at the queen mother’s request an unusually rich, lustrous stiff satin which was made at Lullington Castle, combined with a silk, from the Scottish firm of Winterthur near Dunfermline used at Hartnell’s discretion.  The design was only finalised three months before the wedding date.

The beading on the gown was quite extravagant and was scattered from the neckline to the hem using twenty thousand pearls from America. Softly spaced throughout the dress were garlands of pearl orange blossom, syringa, jasmine and White Rose of York. These were skilfully combined with flowing lines of wheat ears, the symbol of fertility, and worked in with the pearl and diamante. The traditional cathedral length train and double strand of pearls completed her sophisticated royal look.

Despite the many attempts of the press to bribe Hartnell's staff, the only glimpse newspapermen had of the dress, was when the covered four foot box containing the dress, left Hartnell's salon the day before the wedding.

Karen xx

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Royal Wedding...

The Wedding of the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
26th April 1923
The marriage of the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, was held at Westminster Abbey on 26 April 1923. The marriage was the first occasion rising from an English king's consent to the marriage of a royal prince, in direct succession to the throne, to one of his own subjects.
They could not have known that thirteen years later in 1937 the Duke, second son of George V. would become King George VI and she would be crowned Queen Consort.

The Queen Mum’s wedding gown was designed and made by Madame Handley Seymoure, a former London court dressmaker to Queen Mary.  The gown was made from an ivory silk moire and was embellished with pearls.   The shapeless silhouette, shortened train and manner in which she wore her veil portrayed the fashion of the 1920’s era, not the characteristic of prior royal brides. Two young trainbearers and six bridesmaids attended her.  Sadly, it is not considered memorable for its beauty and style but I disagree.

The marriage in 1923 was the first royal wedding to be recorded on film.  Despite the arrival of the motorcar, carriages were used for the procession, and a strict dress code was laid down in the instructions that accompanied the invitations.  The religious ceremony was followed by the traditional afternoon Wedding Breakfast.  A number of ornately decorated wedding cakes were created for the occasion, including one supplied by McVitie and Price that was nine-foot high and weighed 800 pounds.

Karen xx

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Royal Wedding...

Prince Rainer marries Grace Kelly

18th April 1956
A true Hollywood and Royal Fairytale was the wedding of film star Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco on April 18th 1956.  The couple were officially wed on this day and the next day they wed publicly in an elaborate Catholic Mass in Monaco.  During the ceremony they looked straight ahead, never looking at each other, just as they had been directed by senior church officials.

At the time, film star Grace Kelly was tied to an MGM contract for another 7 years.  To get out of her 7 year contract with MGM Grace Kelly had to agree to the wedding being filmed by MGM for worldwide distribution.  In later days she regretted the filming intruding on her wedding day and much preferred the private ceremony with Prince Rainier the day before.

Grace Kelly's wedding dress was designed by Helen Rose, wardrobe designer at the film production studio MGM and was made by the MGM wardrobe department as a gift from MGM.  The wedding gown was made from antique Valenciennes rose point lace, 23 metres of silk taffeta and 81 metres of tulle.  Her veil was covered with appliquéd lace lovebirds and thousands of seed pearls.

The lace decorated upper bodice and high neck of the wedding gown was a decorous choice for an actress who could no longer have any doubt cast on her suitability as a royal bride and princess.  Prince Rainier designed the Napoleonic influenced dress uniform.

I love Grace Kelly’s poise and elegance.  Her conservative wedding gowns with high collar and long sleeves in lace and full skirt compliment the silhouette of the gown accented by her waist.  The true vision of a Princess her look has gone on to inspire many bride to be’s including Nicole Richie.

Karen xx

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pretty in Pink

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon walked down the aisle in a stunning blush custom Monique Lhuillier for her wedding to Jim Toth on March 26th.  Whether it be an ode to her role as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde or a representation of her bubbly and individual personality I love Reese’s look.

Reese Witherspoon in Custom Monique Lhuillier

If you are inspired by  Reese’s elegant lace corset bodice and full tulle A-line skirt gown I think the ‘Estelle’ gown from our ready to wear collection is a perfect match for you.  ‘Estelle’ features a similar lace corset bodice with ribbon top stitch detailing with a half circle tulle skirt.

If you want to stick to traditional white or ivory for your special day why not accent your gown with an accessory in a colour like Reese.  She choose to accent her blush gown with a silk satin ribbon with cascading silk flowers, which matched the dress of Witherspoon's daughter Ava, 11, who served as maid of honor in her own custom Lhuillier.  
Reese changed into a second Lhuillier design – a white silk minidress with a party skirt – for the reception. 

The ‘Estelle’ gown is available at our ready to wear stores in Sydney and Melbourne.
For more information contact

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Real Wedding... Kate and Tim

This artistic couple met on a film shoot for the band Tim played in.
The couple were married on the 2nd October 2010 at St Mary’s Star of the Sea.  The aesthetics and decorative interior of the church and it stain glass windows drew Kate to pick it for the ceremony.  The reception was held at The Harbour Room, St Kilda.

Kate chose the theme ‘Four seasons in one day’ for the wedding because of the unpredictable nature of Melbourne weather – however on their day it was perfect with a burnt orange sunset for cocktails on St Kilda Beach. Kate’s theme of ‘Four seasons in one day’ also represented life, love and relationship for the couple and was evident throughout the day.

The ‘Save the Date’ cards were four badges representing the season, which then followed through into the invitations the bride and groom made.   Kate says “I DIYed most of the details and had Tim in the back shed, ‘handymaning’ and spray painting ice-cream cone holders as well joining me in a production line – cutting out our pop-up invitations and pinning on seasonal badges.

When it came to picking the perfect gown for the day Kate was ahead of the game, “I visited Karen’s store in Sydney. It was my first ever visit to a bridal store. My mum and I were on holiday in Sydney and we went in for a bit of fun. I had not been proposed to yet but I loved Karen’s style and I knew that a proposal wasn’t too far around the corner. Karen’s studio in Melbourne was my first stop when he put a ring on it.”

Kate chose the ‘Velvet Ribbon Bodice’ – an organza wrapped corset bodice with velvet ribbon detailing, with the Full ‘Petal Skirt’ – an organza layered skirt with scalloped edges.  For an individual twist Kate had some of the organza layers made with grey organza for a gradating colour effect.
“The dress I choose for my wedding from Karen Willis Holmes was the first and only dress I tried.  I loved the petal skirt. It was soft and feminine and I was able to add some colour, which felt like I’d really added a bit of me to the gown. I had never actually pictured the type of dress I would want for my wedding, but together with Karen I was able to make additions her beautiful design that for me, together with jewellery and my sister-in-law veil felt like it was always meant to be.”
Perth designer Sophia Kyron made the stunning and unique custom neckpiece.

The tables were seasonal themed. Summer was dressed with carnation filled ice-cream cones. Spring – green grass, eggs in hot pinks nests that read love, honour and obey (with obey crossed out of course) Autumn – we made fairy light leaves that hung from beams above the table and autumn leaf place mats. The bridal table was winter with huge white paper flowers.

The bouquets were from Soil Flowers – and again each bouquet met the seasonal theme.  Photographer Jonathon Ong photographed the day and captured the couples arty attitude and expression in the shots.  The couple had their day videoed by the Bird Collective and mixed up the music with flamenco guitarists for cocktails, a pianist for dinner and iPod for dancing the night away.  Guests were given Porcelain igloo candle holders and asked to light their candle at the beginning of the night and then take it home – ‘This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!’

 “Our priest included everyone in on our vows asking them to commit to continue loving and supporting us as friends and as a married couple to which they replied – We do!”

Karen xx

(All images by Jonathon Ong)

Friday, April 1, 2011

To celebrate the countdown to the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton this month I thought I would look at and share with you some of my favourite royal weddings.  Influenced by tradition and history royal brides are bound by customs and ‘rules’ when designing and choosing their wedding gowns. 
They cannot only consider their likes, dislikes and individual taste but also the traditions and expectations that the monarchy and general public place on them.  In today’s society where so much influence is put on fashion and style it is important to remember that these royal occasions are part of the history and therefore transcend time.
 What better way to start of then our own Australian Royalty – Princess Mary and her wedding to Prince Fredrik of Denmark.
A Danish Royal Wedding - Princess Mary
14th May 2004
Our very own ‘Aussie’ Princess – Mary Donaldson famously met HRH Prince Fredrik during the 2000 Sydney Olympic celebrations at the Slip Inn.  Four years later on the 14th May 2004 they married in the Copenhagen Cathedral followed by a reception at Fredensborg Palace.  on the occasion of her marriage to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, she became Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

Mary delighted royal-watchers and fashionistas alike when she married into Europe's oldest monarchy, working closely with Danish designer Uffe Frank to design a gown that balanced the traditions of the monarchy with modernity, topped off with a veil first used by Crown Princess Margret of Sweden in 1905.

The wedding dress, made of ivory duchess satin, featured a dramatic, almost off-the-shoulder neckline, lily-shaped sleeves, and panels opening out in folds from the waist to reveal 100-year-old lace. The six-metre train, edged with Chantilly lace from France, made a simple and elegant background for the flowing Irish lace veil.  The tiara Mary wore was a gift from Queen Margrethe and her husband Prince Henrik while the medieval-style drop earrings were specially made for the occasion using platinum with brilliant-cut diamonds and South Sea Pearls.

The veil, together with a handkerchief, two pieces of lace bordering and a fan, was a gift from Princess Margret to her daughter Princess Ingrid, the grandmother of Crown Prince Frederik. She used them at her own wedding in 1935. Some or all of the pieces in the original gift have since been used by Queen Anne-Marie of Greece in 1964, Queen Margrethe of Denmark in 1967, her sister Princess Benedikte in 1968, Princess Alexandra zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in 1998 and Princess Alexia of Greece in 1999.

And there was, naturally, an echo of Australia in the ensemble, with crooked-leaved Australian eucalyptus – known as Snow gum – sprinkled among the palace garden's flowers composing her unusual trailing bouquet.

Karen xx