Tag Archives: figural lace

The Bride’s Dearest Wish in a Wedding Veil: 1921


Your Dearest Wish Woven Into Your Veil of Lace

By Djuna Barnes

New York, Feb. 12. A bride’s dreams woven into her wedding veil! Could anything be more lovely than the hopes of a woman’s heart patterned into a lasting record of exquisite lace?

Helen Clarke does just this. Not only is she a maker of lace but also a weaver of dreams, for the designs of the wedding veils she creates are symbolical, expressing the dearest wish of the bride whose head each is to crown.


“Young girls,” Miss Clarke said, “come to me, blushing and say, ‘I’ve heard that you make lace, and invent figures and designs to portray what one wishes to have come true.’

“The young bride goes on—here in my little private office she tells me the one great desire of her life. Perhaps it is to stay beautiful always, and perhaps it is a wish for a home that shall never know trouble, and perhaps it is only a vague longing to become something greater than she now is, through love.

“She asks me ‘Can you do it?’ and I always answer ‘I can’.”


The lace maker spread out a gorgeous veil, some seventeen feet long, on which great birds stood, and smaller birds flew away into a moon caught among the branches of a deserted autumn tree. And when she was asked what it all meant she smiled, with something like a break in her voice:

“This,” she said, “is the bridal veil for the oldest woman bride I’ve ever made anything for. She is 64, and when she ordered this she said, ‘It’s soon I’ll be flying away, but it’s a grand time I’ll be having while I stay, and will you put all that into the lace and say nothing to anyone’?”


And so Helen Clarke puts stitch by stitch into bridal gowns and bridal veils, all the little hopes and hopes that are not little.

There it may remain, an indelible record for the bride’s daughter, and her daughter’s daughter, to see and dream about—and understand.

Salt Lake [UT] Telegram 15 February 1921: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is rather startling to find this brief evocation on the dreams of brides written by Djuna Barnes, whose family was, not to put too fine a point on it, appalling in its feckless distain for orthodoxy. For example, among other horrors, the 18-year-old Barnes was forced into an “unofficial” marriage to her father’s mistress’s 52-year-old brother. The explanation for this bridal article is that, in dire need of money, Miss Barnes walked into the offices of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1912 and said, “I can draw and write, and you’d be a fool not to hire me.” They did and for much of the next decade, she wrote everything from theatre reviews to profiles of prize fighters to a piece on how it felt to be force-fed in jail.

She, herself, had an inclusive philosophy of love and wandered the world in search of it. Mrs Daffodil wonders what pattern Miss Barnes would have asked Helen Clarke to weave for her?

A veil-less Djuna Barnes.

A veil-less Djuna Barnes.