August 12, 2023

Arsenic Dress Editorial


Yep, you read this title correctly. Here’s the backstory: once upon a time in Victorian England, people became obsessed with a particular shade of green. Codified for the fashion and interior design worlds of the day as “Scheele’s Green” which the Paris Review recently called “the color of fake foliage and death,” it was achievable thanks to arsenious oxide in its proprietary dye formula. Of course wearing evening gowns and covering one’s house in wallpaper drenched in poison has some gnarly effects on health and well, chances of staying alive. People actually died from contact with dresses made from the arsenic-soaked fabric, and from working in factories that produced faux flowers that used the dye to color the foliage.

Even after its deleterious effects were common knowledge though, people still sprung for the trending fabric products in Scheele’s patented green. As Katy Kelleher wrote for the Paris Review, “It was a garden color, and for city dwellers, the allure was impossible to resist.” Because apparently it “so accurately mimicked the hues found in nature. It wasn’t too yellow, nor was it too teal. It was a middle green with full saturation…the color of fiddleheads and ivy vines.”

Fiddleheads and ivy vines. I mean I get it, those are evergreen ingredients in our design portfolio. Practically included in Edges Wild’s branding hex codes. So while it might seem like a questionable choice for an aspirational bridal photoshoot to be like “hey, remember Victorian death dresses? I’m super inspired by those” I think goth girls everywhere will understand. Don’t think too hard about it. Just let the brush with mortality and the fact that we have different ways now of producing gorgeously bright shades of this verdant favorite (so that you can have your Kiera Knightly library-scene-in-Atonement dress and wear it too) transport your imagination to safer, less sinister places. Like the Conservatory at the Bryan Museum in Galveston where my team and I set up this editorial photographed by Casey and Sarah at Endless Exposures, and let our inner Green Goth (that’s actually a thing) out to play.

We shot three distinct visual concepts in the space of this session, so I’m not even a little bit done sharing this one or talking about the branching decision tree of inspirations that came into play as I planned and designed for this day. Did I actually dye my own wedding dress green in what might as well have been a cauldron (20 quart water bath canner; shut up I might need it to make a huge batch of jam one of these days), on my kitchen stove in a bizarre midnight moment of method-acting (so far no regrets) while in the pre-production stage of this project? Yes. Will I document that here at some point? Yes, probably. TLDR, if you’re as enchanted as me with saturated green (including Aimee’s hair, look closer if you didn’t notice it already!) stay tuned, because I have so many more related images and vignettes to share.

Team credits:
Venue: The Bryan Museum, Galveston TX
Venue coordinator: Peter Ochoa, Director of Events at the Bryan
Planning and Art Direction: Hannah Mitchell Lowery
Models: Aimee Holloway and Nicholas McCrary
Wardrobe: Etsy, Taft, and My Flaming Heart Vintage in Houston
Floral Team: Abbey Barthauer, Sydney Cooksey, Ummehaani Karimjee

Fern by fern

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Where Nature, Whimsy and found Poems carry the day