Third Act Trousseau

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Any good romance movie or book worth its popcorn salt has a wedding right before The End. And romantic Boomers like me crave details, dang it, details! I want to see it all, from the kneeling proposal and the bustling filling of hope chest to the glittering heaps of bridal shower gifts and bridal gown shopping. I adore it all–the assembling of the trousseau, the bridal party…

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…the proud parent clasping great-granny’s priceless pearls around the bride’s neck, the walk down the aisle to Mendelssohn–every precious moment.

lenox bridal

The bride wore cords

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Now, given how ridiculously obsessed with weddings as I am, it might surprise you to learn I had virtually none of the above. My now ex-husband and I eloped. The bride wore cords. At a later upstate New York celebration with some wonderfully sweet church friends, I wore cords again (!), mainly because my stern husband refused to bow to “worldly customs.” I was secretly heartbroken, but game, as new brides often are, to please my earnest sweetheart.

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These dear wedding guests raided their cupboards and basements to shower us with castoff utensils, well-loved Corningware, and other items they could spare from their own simple, newlywed houses.

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It was so generous and sweet of them. I was touched. But I also, in my secret heart-of-hearts, felt cheated. Where was my brand-new blender? Where was my gleaming silver service for eight?

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Growing up, Boomer brides-to-be like me reveled in the dream-inducing detailing of love’s finale—the all-American wedding with every bell and whistle. We were well-instructed by Seventeen magazine’s bi-annual “One Plus One” supplement–for “nearlyweds and newlyweds.”

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Thus schooled, gals my age started collecting items for our future home when we were in high school. My first purchase–Rubbermaid ice cube trays and dish drainer on sale. I stashed them in my granddaddy’s cedar chest-cum-hope chest.

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I ordered sample teaspoons in likely silver patterns, but never found one that could touch my mother’s marvelous Chantilly by Gorham, so I planned to kidnap the long-neglected silver to host sparkling dinner parties.

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I roamed department store china and crystal displays, applying the “how to match patterns” principles I’d learned in Home Ec classes and gleaned from alluring adverts of misty-eyed couples in oddly color-coordinated ensembles.

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Others might laugh at ads showing gleeful brides caressing a sparkling new toaster—I was busy noting the make and model.

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There was an expectation in those days that a girl’s honeymoon house would be wisely, carefully, and blissfully equipped with everything a bride could dream of.

lenox hope chest

“Isn’t this how you want to live?” queried soft-focus magazine ads depicting a happy couple, gazing adoringly at a fragile stem of crystal. “You betcha” was our collective answer.

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Wait, expectations

Sadly, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, singleness, divorce or early widowhood leaves a woman pining for the happy ending denied her.

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Perhaps the bride’s family didn’t have the resources to provide a dowry, that traditional running start towards a well-furnished honeymoon home.

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My father had to divert his entire retirement savings (and then some) towards caring for my gravely ill mother. There was no money for a trousseau, a fancy wedding, a brimming hope chest.

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But, I was young and in love, and didn’t think it really mattered. Reader, we couldn’t even afford a diamond. Who cared?

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After the divorce, I discovered it did matter, quite a bit, as my home goods were divided, the remainders revealed as the makeshifts they’d always been. I still had my mother’s silver, but that was about it. The chipped Corningware was still in use, augmented by my widowed father’s gifts of small appliances whenever he could spare the funds. Eventually, my good and generous father died, and with him, many of my girlhood dreams.

lenox paperdollsFirst comes love, then comes Lenox

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A few months ago, I came across the ad above and hope dawned anew. The image of the wistful, fresh-faced girl roused long-dormant dreams of a happy, beautifully appointed home.

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The bride was back—with or without a wedding! I was enchanted by a new thought—why couldn’t *I* engineer my own happy ending?

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Why couldn’t I begin a new hope chest, stock my kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining room with beautiful things, order my rooms to express the kind of joy a new bride brings to her honeymoon house?

bridal seventeen 003So, I launched out on an admittedly odd quest–to build a honeymoon house out of my empty nest. Those Seventeen magazines had established certain expectations for my future–one of gracious living. And now that I’ve been blessed with the wherewithal to create that dream in my own little home, I’m not holding back.

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I’m building my third act trousseau and acting like the bride I never was–taking all the time I need to carefully select the things that will make my little house a joy for myself and my guests.

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Living the Lenox Girl life

My muse on this journey is the darling little Lenox Girl! She’s a dreamer, our Lenox girl, but she’s a practical one. There’s nothing hazy about her vision of her future. Here’s how newly or nearly solitary women can build their dream house by following her lead.

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1. Start dreaming: We discover our young lady in her bedroom, cloistered from the busy work-a-day world. Women have always retreated to their bedrooms to dream. Set aside some evening hours to deliberately dust off any youthful dreams of your happily-ever-after. Write down the specifics. That’s the beginning of your own bridal registry. Getting a special notebook for this purpose makes you feel even more like a bride!

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2. Take your clues from your Star Style: The Lenox girl’s crisp, pretty party dress and simply styled hair reveal a very traditional, very feminine woman–she’s a Classically Ladylike from her shining bob to her patent-clad toes. Knowing your style lets you ignore that ultra-modern chrome-and-leather couch because you realize you’re a total Arabian Nights kind of girl at heart. (Not sure? Take my Star Style quiz for clues to your decor.)

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3. Organize and outline: Lenox Girl knows her house will have a dining room—why? Because social gatherings and intimate suppers are important to this well-dressed, ladylike teen. While our Lenox girl has placed this dream squarely in the context of married life, dinner parties are just as fun with a gathering of other gals or mixed groups of singletons and couples. Single women, especially those without nearby family, will quickly find such gatherings are a delightful excuse for cooking up something special and fussing over friends. Begin your list by figuring out exactly how you see yourself using your house–is it full of quiet nooks or open-planned for big parties? What’s the mood and function of each room?

lenox paris4. Do your homework: How did she find out that Lenox is the best? How does she know what color the beaches are in Bermuda and what color her dining room cushions should be? She did her homework! When filling your hope chest or linen closet, shop around, read reviews, ask the experts, but always consult your heart. Do you prefer the delicacy of bone china or the boldness of rustic pottery dishes?

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Do you want velvety solid color towels or whimsical prints? When in doubt, buy one set and use it for a week. You’ll soon discover if it truly reflects your heart’s desires.

lenox towels

Sometimes, it’s a beloved family memory (a copper teakettle like Nana’s!) that informs your list–sometimes, it’s a long-held aspiration (how many Boomer girls scrambled to get the “Good Morning, Glory!” sheets shown below?). Flip through magazines and rip out pages that appeal to you. Build a Pinterest board. Then, shop with your head and your heart.

bridal seventeen 0075. Color your world with specifics: Our little Lenox lady is nothing if not specific. She doesn’t want orange cushions in her dining room. Neither coral, shrimp, rust, mandarin, tangerine, flame, orange-red, sunset, peach, blood orange nor neon or day-glo orange—nope. She wants persimmon. And not just any old persimmon–bright persimmon! And a little orange tree in the corner.

lenox dining room

Applying that exacting level of detail clarifies, refines, filters and inspires. Gather as you go. You’ll be spending time with fabric swatches, paint chips, and wallpaper snippets, so organize them in your pretty bridal binders. A binder for each room isn’t a bad plan.

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6. Establish emotional touchpoints: Why does she want a little orange tree in the dining room? My guess is that she either saw such an arrangement in a pretty ad and tucked it into her inspiration file (part of your bridal binder!) or she realizes that the fragrance of this pretty tree will be a sweet reminder of her island honeymoon with its wind-blown scent of orange blossoms.

lenox bermuda poster

Do you have a something that stands as a living reminder of some precious time or person? Make it a fixture or feature in your honeymoon house. To celebrate some faux bamboo furniture my dear dad gave me, I’m redoing the guest room with soft tropical flora wallpaper. Rather than being a museum of my departed children, this newly painted and papered room will be a restful haven for friends.

bridal seventeen 0087. Move forward in optimism: There is not the least smidgen of doubt in the Lenox lass’s heart that this dream will not come true. She is fully confident in her ability to make it happen. Where did she get that confidence? She believes in herself because she can already see what she’s done and is happy with that. Prior outcomes CAN predict similar results, if the outcomes aren’t dependent on others.

lenox horst8. Anchor your dream with tangibles: She has already started to live her dream, incorporating its reality into her current life in small but meaningful ways. The bamboo bedpost she’s leaning on, the island-inspired lowboy; the tropical flower pinned to her sash; her indigo wallpaper recalling white sea spray on an ocean-blue ground. Her bedside trinkets, one of which I believe might be a Lenox dish, have been carefully chosen to express her taste; they’re not a clutter of childhood flotsam and jetsam. Each object has been selected to contribute to her dream life.

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Bring everything possible into line with your dream life. If you can’t afford a silver service for 4 yet, you can at least pick up a spoon in your pattern to elevate your daily bowl of raisin bran. Would you serve a bride breakfast in a chipped bowl on a rickety table or invite her to dine over the sink? I didn’t think so. Then don’t treat yourself that way either.

bridal seventeen 012Wedding march of time

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When you buy a wedding gift, naturally, you choose a very special something you hope the bride will cherish for a lifetime.

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Don’t stint when you’re purchasing your third act trousseau—get what you truly want, the finest you can afford, even if you know it will take a while to build up your renewed hope chest. You are, after all, the bride.

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Maybe it starts with fresh, fluffy towels after years of drying off with tatty, pulled, limp ones. Maybe it’s a matched set of mixing bowls–brand new!

lenox pyrex Or a sparkling crystal service that looks right at home beside great-grandmother’s china. Or maybe, as it did for me, it begins with a set of rose-pink sheets that makes me feel like a forest maiden, rising from her flower-strewn bower at dawn.

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What’s important is that it’s important to YOU! The Lenox Girl’s vision was entirely her own, formed by what she held most dear to her heart–and you don’t have to be a young girl just starting out or a “real” bride to bring those kinds of dreams to life. You just need a dream, a plan, and your own strong self to make it happen.

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So, if you’re ever going to have that honeymoon house, Honey, quit mooning and start moving! Take inventory and get going!

lenox kitchen inventory