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La Noche de Novia

La Noche de Novia, also referred to as a Berberisca, Soirée du Henné, Noche de Paños or Lilat el Henna, is a traditional Moroccan Jewish ceremony that takes place during the week that precedes a wedding. The bride makes her entrance, magnificently made up and dressed in the Berberisca gown called ‘Traje de paños’, “Vestido de Berberisca” (Spanish), or “Keswa Elkibra” (Great Dress in Arabic). The costume is made of velvet, richly ornate and embroidered in gold thread. The family of the groom and bride, accompanied by close friends, gather to sing and to praise the bride. The tradition is 2,000 years old.

The ceremony has been famously depicted by many artists including Jean Bescancenot, Charles-Emile Vernet-Lecomte, Alfred Dehodencq, Camille Corot, and Fernand Georges Ducatillion. Most notably, the dress was recorded in several paintings and sketches by Eugene Delacroix, the master of the French Romantic school.

My husband’s family was expelled from Spain in 1492. After the expulsion, following the inquisition, the family traveled to Safed, Israel; Thessaloniki, Greece; and Meknes, Morocco. They finally arrived in Fez, Morocco, during the 16th century and in the mid-19th century, they moved to Tangier.

La Noche de Novia Toledano

La Noche de Novia Toledano

I was lucky enough to have a Noche de Novia of my own. The special day was filled with joy, singing and laughter – not to mention alcohol and delicious food. Getting dressed for the reception took over an hour and gave me insight into the preparations such a special day must of taken in antiquity. There are dozens of pieces of the costume, each with a specific meaning, order and purpose – a belt (golel), headpiece (jemar), the jacket, the bodice, the laced sleeves (kmam) and more. Some of the items even have a superstitious and mystical connection to luck, fertility, and love.

La Noche de Novia Toledano

La Noche de Novia Toledano

La Noche de Novia Toledano

My dress came from overseas in Madrid, Spain. It had previously been worn by my husband’s mother and many of his cousins. I felt deeply honored to continue this tradition; especially to follow in the footsteps of many women who I respect. The beautiful ritual originates in the Sephardi Jewish Communities of Northern Morocco and its surroundings; in cities such as Tangiers, Gibraltar and especially Tetuán, which was also called “Yerushalayim Haketana”, the “Little Jerusalem”.

This ceremony is known in most Jewish communities as the “Hina”, a name that symbolizes the three Mitzvot specific to the Jewish woman: Halla, Nida, VeHadlakat HaNerot. Briefly, these actions mean lighting the candles, separating portions of dough for the creation of Challah (bread), and ritual bathing and cleanliness.

La Noche de Novia Toledano

La Noche de Novia Toledano

Aunts, cousins, friends, and other females related to the bride help her to get ready for her presentation. Each detail is just so – every pin, bobby pin and tassle is fussed with. More than anything, this time was for the bride to get to know her new family without her husband-to-be. This was a private time just for women.

La Noche de Novia Toledano

La Noche de Novia Toledano

I adjust the headpiece so that it is just so. The necklaces are from an aunt in Paris, France, and the Moroccan earrings are from a family friend. The bracelet I am wearing is from my husband’s mom. In this way, I wear pieces of important women in the family. The international family, and the continuation of such “seemingly-antiquated” traditions is beautiful.

La Noche de Novia Toledano

The Puntaktel is worn under the Gonbaiz and as a close fitting breastplate made of heavily embroidered velvet. The Hezam is a velvet and silk sash with ornate golden embroidered. It is wrapped around the bride’s waist several times.

La Noche de Novia Toledano

La Noche de Novia Toledano

Truly, a sign of the diaspora, I am happy to carry on traditions of a family who has been moved throughout the world often, whether due to persecution or economic need, and in each place picking up local customs and making them unique.


Double, Double Toile and Trouble

In French, the word toile (phonetically “twall”) refers to a simple woven fabric, in fact the word in French means “linen cloth” or “canvas”.  However, in interior design and haute couture, the term toile is mostly used in reference to  “toile de Jouy” – a cloth from Jouy-en-Josas France which originated in the 18th century.  This type of decorating pattern usually consist of a white background, on which a repeated pattern depicting complex scenes, can be found. The scenes are of pastoral farm life, picnics, high society, and any number of classic architecture motifs. The pattern consists of a single color, most often black, dark red, or blue. The fabric was extremely popular in France and Great Britain during the 18th century, and late in America during the Colonial Era.

It’s time for the resurgence of this trend!

James Merrell / The Walkup

Colefax and Fowler does a modern take on toile wallpaper. Bright printed pillows, and a graphic (zigzagged!) patterned throw bring this bedroom into the 21st century. A turquoise, gilded headboard doesn’t hurt either. Photograph by James Merrell via Design Gumbo.

The Walkup

London Toile Brights by Timorous Beasties offers a neon take on English cityscapes. 

Modern Toile Wallpaper

Somehow this match-matchy room, wherein the stuffed animals match the pillows which match the wall, comes off looking extremely cute, french and modern. Image via Le Petit Chou Chou

Balleroy by Manuel Canovas

Pink Toile on Toile via Manuel Canovas, Paris.

Surrender the Pink / The Walkup

A toile, Japanese print screen acts as a headboard. The bed’s dust ruffle and chair bring the nautical, fresh and revitalized Colonial bedroom to the present. Image via Surrender the Pink.

The Walkup

A grown-up office space. I imagine myself closing envelopes with wax seals in this sohpisticated nook. The geode bookends match the Toile pattern perfectly. 

The Walkup / House to Home

Like an aristocrat from days gone by, feel free to cover every surface with bucolic, toile scenes. Add some edge to the space by playing on the contrast of farm-scenes with more modern, colour-blocked upholstery. Midcentury Modern and geometric design elements finish off the eclectic space. Image via House to Home.

The Walkup

In the guest room of his Manhattan townhouse, Architectural Digest decorator Geoffrey Bradfield experimented with a black-and-white toile depicting the city skyline to create a modern take on a traditional design concept. The upholstered headboard was inspired by one in a Dubai hotel. Image via Architectural Digest, September 2005. Photography by Durston Saylor. 

The Walkup

Toile drapes, pops of red, long mirrors and classic bathroom floor tiling allow this bathroom to be a space which I would not mine relaxing in for hours. I particularly love the industrial pipes-meets-marble His and Hers sink station. 

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All Aboard!

More magical than station 9 3/4’s, luxury trains are vehicles designed specifically to offer sumptuous, opulent and elegant train rides. The idea of train travel was novel in the 19th century; trains had only been used as a means of transporting goods, such as coal. Without sleeping and dining cars, long distance traveling used to be a distressing and tiring experience. However, in 1867, “Hotel Cars” were introduced. Pioneer was the first railway carriage to introduce dining cars and sleeping cars in train leading to more comfort during travelling especially a long distance journey.

Vogue UK December 2005, Model: Rie Rasmussen, Photographer: Norbert Schroeder, Stylist: Charlotte Stockdale via Capture the Castle.
The Orient Express was the first luxury train in Europe. It embarked on its maiden journey on June 5, 1883 from Paris Gare de l’Est across Europe. Today the Orient Express not only provides luxury train travel across Europe but several destinations around the globe. Today’s Orient Express is a formal, black tie, white gloved affair. Although, passengers must wash up in basins and shared bathrooms….what was once the height of luxury now seems…less than.

Observation room of the Abraham Lincoln Pullman car Photograph owned and provided by Curtis Andrews.

The Classic and Edwardian trains travel with four beautiful pre-1940 dining cars on Rovos Rail in South Africa, via.

Part steampunk finery, part 19th century pedestrian yet, filled with the spoils of Victorian and Edwardian aristocracy. Louis Vuitton’s recent Fall 2012 show and ad campaign hearkens back to the heyday of train travel. Trains changed the way societies view their countries, traveling swiftly past sweeping landscapes, trains also allowed the idea of a “country home” or a vacation home to become a reality. Prior to trains, most societies had never meanders further than 100 miles from one’s home-base.  Through the 1800’s, tributaries of train tracks, like veins began to overtake Europe, lessening the divide between major cities. By 1845, 2441 miles of railway were open and 30 million passengers were being carried. The railways, offering as they did new opportunities for travel and commerce, and breaking down social barriers in the process, were immediately popular.

Ad photography for the Louis Vuitton Fall 2012 Ad Campaign by Steven Meisel via The Empress of Dress. Who doesn’t immediately think of haute couture, vintage travel when ones sees an LV trunk?


Eva Marie looks dapper in this editorial clearly inspired by Hitchcock’s suspenseful classic “North By Northwest”.  Photographed by Gabor Jurina and styled by Susie Sheffman for Fashion magazine Oct 2010. Via.

THE QUEEN OF SCOTS PULLMAN leaves GLASGOW (Queen Street) at 10:05am and EDINBURGH (Waverley) at 11:15am weekdays for KING’S CROSS, LONDON. Through connexion for the Continent via Victoria. Ad found here.

London Transport Museum has rescued a limited number of original 1960s luggage racks from decommissioned Metropolitan Line trains, found here.

Have you ever wanted to live inside the retro-futuristic world of a Jules Verne novel? Do you prefer submarine portholes to skyline views? Then say hello to your dream home, only for a cool $1.75 million, here. 

1950 ad for the Union Pacific railroad

Tracks made of stone and iron carried wagons from mines and quarries under horse power. The invention of the steam engine changed things dramatically. The Age of Steam, as it is dubbed! During the reign of Queen Victoria Britain emerged as the most powerful trading nation in the world, provoking a social and economic revolution whose effects are still being felt today. Since the latter part of the eighteenth century the process of industrialisation had built a firm foundation for nineteenth century growth and expansion. At the heart of this was the successful development and application of steam technology.

Between 1809 and 1839 exports grew from £25.4 to £76 million, almost a decade later the data was at £124.5 million, with the major export markets being Europe, India and Asia and, increasingly, the United States. Trains made the rich richer and created a middle class throughout Europe. Travel reading, in the form of popular serial publications, and mystery novels, also increased.

Orient Express editorial, photography by Benoit Perevelli for Madame Figaro.

Maharajas’ Express: A Luxury Train in India, via.

Photographed by Arthur Elgort for Vogue UK in August of 2009, model Anja Rubik. 

Railroad lamp with changeable lens, red or white. Hand held light signal of the SNCF, Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (French National Railways). The red knob turns for positioning of the red filter, the on/off button is on the top. From the 1950s or 1960s found on ETSY. 

March 30th 1868 The Pullman Palace Car Company introduced the first railroad dining car.

What is your preferred method of transport; locomotive, planes, automobiles, hot air balloon, scooter?