This moody, Cottagecore Emily Dickinson-inspired shoot took design inspiration from Dickinson to reimagine what modern queer love could look like in Victorian-era New England.
The prolific work of the literary giant Emily Dickinson is a crown jewel of the New England region. However, Dickinson’s personal life has historically been swept under the rug. Leaving little to be reported of the reclusive Amherst, MA resident. Upon second look, through the lens of a more accepting time period, one can now see that Emily lived the life of a closeted queer woman, writing hundreds of poems and letters to the true love of her life, Sue Gilbert.
Emily never married, knowing that her heart belonged to Sue and Sue alone. With this newfound knowledge, we wanted to pay homage to the love of all loves. A truly free and reimagined Emily and Sue. Set in Emily’s home region of Western MA, a barn sits atop a bucolic meadow that predates Dickinson by approximately twenty years. Ancient apple trees, stone walls, and a romantic cabin can be found throughout the two-hundred-year-old property- a couple’s secret paradise. A free world for two, even just for a moment.
We took stylistic cues from Alina Smith’s series Dickinson which beautifully explores Emily and Sue’s romance but has given it a modern spin. From a design perspective, we wanted to evoke a classic Victorian New England aesthetic but infuse it with a contemporary lens for our reimagined love story. Additionally, we strove to reference the dramatic, moody tone of the series with a fresh, modern twist, and the talented Evangeline Lane captured this beautifully.
We utilized a muted early spring palette with accents of earth tones and pops of blue. Colors such as mauve, mustard, and ochre were paired with locally foraged wildflowers, garlic scapes and blueberries. The florals have visible depth and tactile texture by featuring amnesia roses, delphinium, and painted baby’s breath. Emily was famous for her gardens, so we knew the designs should be flower-forward. Tropic of Flowers took inspiration from Emily’s love of botany to create wispy, wild, and meadow-inspired designs.
The tablescape displayed classical New England chinoiserie, blue vintage goblets, gold flatware provided by The Borrowed Teacup, and patterned buffalo check tablecloth via La Tavola and gauze napkins. Juxtaposing a classic farm table paired with modern white bistro chairs provides a fresh take on traditional elements. For the lounge, we showcased a Victorian-era velvet chaise lounge, a snake throw pillow (a nod to Emily’s poem “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass”) and an abundant amount of candles to add to the mood. A botanical hanging escort card display of VIP literary giants was hung from an ancient apple tree. For favors, botanical bookmarks were provided as a gift.
The creative direction of the stationery was guided by Tropic of Flowers and took design inspiration from the Dickinson title sequence. Incorporating custom illustration elements created by KZ Fine Artistry contributed to unique handmade vintage charm. The suite was displayed on beautiful upcycled vintage fabrics provided by Swanson Fabrics.
The menu was driven around Emily’s real-life famous coconut cake recipe, along with Alma Kitchen Co’s cookies. The culinary artistry is a true showstopper, which is topped with lush, wild herbs and flowers. Cocktail historian Al Culliton curated classical period-accurate signature cocktails, each named for one of Dickinson’s poems.
Delicate and beautiful Victorian-Esque-inspired clothing was provided by Grace Loves Lace & Flair Boston. The brilliant jewelry was provided by Esqueleto and accessories by Hushed Commotion. Dewy, natural, and effortless makeup by Tori Schade completed the look.
This unique cottagecore shoot showed us a reimagined world where a Victorian-era LGBTQ couple’s love could thrive in a more accepting and modern space. Who better to take inspiration from than the passionate love of Emily Dickinson for Sue Gilbert captured so beautifully in Emily’s poetry?
Photography by Evangeline Lane
Accessories Hushed Commotion
Calligraphy/Illustration KZ Fine Artistry
Cocktail Design Al Culliton
Cookies Alma Kitchen Co
Flatlay Fabric Swanson’s Fabrics
Furniture Rentals, Floral, Paper & Design Tropic of Flowers
Gowns Grace Loves Lace & Flair Boston
H&MU Tori Schade
Linens BBJ La Tavola
Tabletop Rentals The Borrowed Teacup
Venue Like So