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Dressing Crown Princess Mary

Dressing Crown Princess Mary
Crown Princess Mary. © The Australian Women's Weekly. Not for republication.

Styling Crown Princess Mary of Denmark was a dream come true for The Weekly's fashion editor Mattie Cronan. She reveals what it was like to work with some of Australia's top designers and dress the Crown Princess for the cover of The Weekly's 80th birthday issue.

Being asked to style and work on a cover is an exciting task. We only have 12 covers a year, which leaves no margin for error. Choosing the right photographer, finding the best location and getting the clothes just right is one big puzzle that needs to be fitted together precisely. So to be asked by The Weekly’s editor to style the cover for 80th birthday issue was such an honour, and then to find out I would be dressing Crown Princess Mary, in Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. Wow. To say I was excited is an understatement. This my biggest career achievement to date, it was such a huge task.

Crown Princess Mary had suggested that since this was a birthday celebration for The Weekly, she would love to wear Australian fashion. We were thrilled. I got to work speaking directly to the designers in strict confidence to set the wheels in motion. With so many talented local designers it was very hard to narrow it down to a very select few. In the end we chose labels that represent Australia on a world stage and also those that suit the Crown Princess’ own personal style. My personal aim was to capture timeless images.

I approached each designer individually. Some made custom gowns, while others provided gowns and dresses from their very latest collections that had most recently been shown at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and were not in store yet. I trawled the internet looking at trends locally and internationally and worked on a couple of colour palettes, one quite bold and another that was golden and soft and that in the end worked perfectly within the palace walls. I had several meetings with the Editor-in-Chief, our Deputy Editor, Creative and Photographic editors and of course our photographer. It was such a seamless job to work on we were all well prepared and had a strong vision from the start and the images far exceeded our expectations.

Our first shot of the day was a custom Carla Zampatti gown. I met with Carla and we discussed colour options: red, yellow, navy. Carla is one of The Weekly’s constant go-to designers and even though as a general rule bright colours work best on the magazine cover, the one fabric that she and I were continually drawn back to was the most gorgeous softest pale pink brocade. Carla decided on a customised variation on her off the shoulder Tuxedo hem dress. It skimmed the ankle at the front and had an exaggerated train at the back. The textured fabric was stunning against the Crown Princess’s luminous skin, she looked so regal as she sat in a gorgeous gilded chair in a room full of extraordinary tapestries.

The second look we shot was by Toni Maticevski. The Crown Princess clearly loved wearing this gown and beamed while she wore it out in the grounds of the palace garden. Prior to the shoot I had met with Toni’s Sydney-based PR. We had a secret meeting in a café called Bambini — so from then on we referred to our plans as "Operation Bambini". Toni provided some truly stunning bespoke gowns, all of which were fantastic, but it was the Monaco gown that stole the Crown Princess' heart.

Before lunch we moved into the dining room with Crown Princess Mary wearing a Jayson Brunsdon skirt. Jayson has already made a few pieces for the Crown Princess, she is often seen wearing some of his designs all over the world. So Jayson was of course keen to create something unique for this special shoot. The designer was working with some incredible brocades and we thought about the various silhouettes that would work for the shoot.

We started with this gorgeous oversized floral brocade in a metallic Blue and silver on a black background; Jayson and I were both loving the new ankle length skirts around at the moment, so he sketched up a suggestion that I loved immediately. It was modern style that worked perfectly in the series. The end result was a dramatic image, set against a work of art by a contemporary Danish artist providing a striking clash of colour and print.

After lunch we moved into the Grand Ballroom where we had expected to shoot our cover options. First up was Alex Perry. The Alex Perry dress came down to the wire, Alex had made two custom gowns for our shoot after Judith Cook, The Weekly’s Style Director and I had a fun meeting with him in his East Sydney studio. Alex sits in a room filled with inspiring fabrics, mannequins and gorgeous new season samples. Corkboards line his office walls and are covered with sketches from his newest collections. We talked colour, fabrics and we were all so excited to be working on this very exciting and top secret project. Yellow was our first choice, Alex had thought it would be best to have the colour dyed to our specific colour choice, as it would be too hard to get something ordered internationally in time.

So Alex got to work, he sketched and pinned tulle and lace on to mannequin in front of us to show us what he had in mind. Judith and I both left very excited about what he was about to create. As I left for Denmark some weeks later Alex was still awaiting one of the fabrics to come back so he could whip up his gown fit for a Princess; luckily it arrived in time for his team to drop everything and create a truly stunning gown which our Deputy Editor Juliet Rieden hand delivered to me when she arrived in Copenhagen the day before the shoot. It was such a special moment, as Crown Princess Mary stood in Grand Ballroom wearing the gown with the exquisite tiara and earrings she had worn on her wedding day to Crown Prince Frederik nearly 10 years before.

Our final look of the day was by Aurelio Costarella. Aurelio had provided a few gorgeous gowns. One of which had been recently shown at Mercedes Benz Fashion week as part of a stunning installation to celebrate his 30 years in the business. The Hestia gown is golden hued with streams of soft diaphanous silk tulle, it had not yet been worn and had been saved for the right occasion to present itself. The soft layered dress lent itself to the relaxed and barefoot cover picture which was actually the very last shot of the day.

The Crown Princess looked radiant and elegant sitting crossed legged as the gorgeous European afternoon light steamed into the grand ballroom. As soon as these images came back into the office Editor-In-Chief Helen McCabe had no doubt this would be our cover. It is the Crown Princess as we have never seen before.

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