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A Gothic Approach to Storybook Style — Virgins Saints & Angels’ “Once Upon A Time” Collection

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Life can sometimes imitate art, but rarely does it ever mirror the stuff of fairytales. But part of what makes fashion so powerful is its ability to elicit wonder, to create a sense of intrigue, to add drama or romance, to sprinkle a dash of whimsy… Through fashion, the line between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly fluid — and, as a result, we get to feel, if only for a short while, like the authors and protagonists of our own fairytales. It helps, of course, when designers themselves tap into their inner Grimm — or, when they reminisce about both the princesses and the ogres, sorcerers, witches, evil stepmothers, and impish villains that they read about as children. Having rediscovered her interest in the classic Snow White tale via ABC’s Once Upon A Time series, Mexico-based jewelry designer Cheryl “Finn” Finnegan, the brilliant mind behind Virgins Saints & Angels, crafted a gothic-feeling collection inspired by the main characters of this tale: Snow White herself and the Evil Queen. 

The Virgins Saints & Angels “Once Upon A Time” collection, then, features two distinct aesthetics: one luminous, with white pearls, clear and resplendent Swarovski Elements stones, and lace-like metalwork; and the other moodier and more sinister, with spider and dragon motifs, Swarovski elements in a sanguine red, jet black, blackened green, and a smoky topaz hue; and black and gray pearl beads.

Every piece in the collection works within the larger framework of the fairy tale and yet it doesn’t feel gimmicky or costume-like — a testament to Finn’s ability to draw inspiration from different sources without making the final product feel literal or derivative. The designs feel consistent with the VSA aesthetic

Take, for instance, the Virgins Saints & Angels Dark Magdalena ($244 at VSAdesigns.com), pictured above at top. As with many VSA pieces, this one features multiple strands of round pearls reminiscent of rosary prayer beads. To create an interesting visual effect, each strand features pearls in a different diameter, so that the shortest, innermost strand, features the largest beads; the middle strand, draping slightly below it, features slightly smaller beads; and the third strand, draping the lowest, features even smaller pearls. Dangling from the outermost strand is the crowning jewel of the piece: a medieval cross with isometric patterns adorned with jet black stones that enhance the gothic vibe of the vintage-looking piece.

As a nod to other Disney fairytales — and other villainous sorts — the collection incorporates a gold cuff with undulating dragon shapes that allude to shape-shifting Maleficent, the spine-chilling sorceress in Sleeping Beauty. The Virgins Saints & Angels Dragon Cuff ($330 at VSAdesigns.com), pictured second above, taps into the darker elements of the fairy tale canon, with a fire-breathing dragon in an “S” formation located at the center of the piece, its body almost serpentine, and its wings featuring intricate webbing details, a black stone positioned atop its forked tongue. Three black stones are encrusted above the dragon’s head and three beneath its tail, demarcating the upper and lower edges of the cuff. The open shapes in the cagework cuff, meanwhile, allow the piece to breathe a bit. If you look at the sides of the piece, meanwhile, you’ll notice the astounding degree of intricacy, with dragon heads along the top rim, facing inward, and dragon heads along the lower rim, also facing inward, so that each pair of dragon heads is united along the center by their long, forked tongues. These dragons must breathe fire because this cuff is wicked hot!

The dragon motif carries onto other pieces in the collection — like the Virgins Saints & Angels Dragon Crown ($460 at VSADesigns.com), pictured seventh above, which was actually worn by actress Lana Parrilla (who plays the Evil Queen) on ABC’s Once Upon A Time. The crown contains multiple undulating dragons and is adorned with Swarovski elements in a sanguine red color and in a forest green shade (as with the faceted, oval-shaped tone) at the piece’s center.

Other ominous designs include the Virgins Saints & Angels Spider Mirror Pendant ($207 at VSAdesigns.com), shown ninth above, an oval-shaped charm with a clear center and ornate embellishments all along its outer perimeter, meant to allude to the vanity-obsessed Evil Queen’s talking mirror. The Black Widow spider at the upper center of the mirror, meanwhile, adds a sense of danger and forbiddenness to the design. Similarly, the Virgins Saints & Angels Fang Pendant ($224 at VSAdesigns.com), shown eleventh above, boasts an intrinsically menacing vibe. No matter whether the fang belongs to a wolf, vampire, snake, bat, or werewolf, there’s no discounting its power of destruction. And, of course, there’s the Virgins Saints & Angels Dagger Earrings ($169 at VSAdesigns.com), shown last above, which presumably reference the Evil Queen’s desire to eat Snow White’s heart and her orders to the Huntsman to bring her precisely that.

Other iconography that cleverly references the tale of Snow White includes fleur-de-lis shapes which were once emblematic of French monarchs and were commonly found in coat of arms. The fleur-de-lys appears in such designs as the Virgins Saints & Angels Evil Fleur de Lis Necklace ($282 at VSAdesigns.com), shown third above, one of my favorite pieces in the collection. This double strand necklace features rows of silvery gray pearl beads, the lowermost strand further adorned with intricately etched, silver-toned charms, each topped with a fleur-de-lis accent, its lower region shaped to resemble the pointed tip of a spear.  For a closer look at this motif, check out the Virgins Saints & Angels Fleur de Lis Drop Earrings ($110 at VSAdesigns.com), shown eighth above.

And, of course, there’s no clearer symbol of royalty than a crown. The collection itself incorporates two crowns, but the crown is also used as a decorative symbol in many of the pieces, including the Virgins Saints & Angels Crystal Magdalena Necklace ($262 at VSAdesigns.com), pictured fifth above, and the Virgins Saints & Angels Royal Queen Earrings ($132 at VSAdesigns.com), pictured sixth above. The pendant’s shape might remind you of King Louis XV’s lavish Imperial Crown, which also featured rounded sides and a fleur-de-lis motif along the top.

For a more angelic look, check out some of the Snow White-inspired pieces like the Virgins Saints & Angels Starburst Earrings ($123 at VSAdesigns.com), pictured fourth above, with their elaborate scrollwork and clear crystal accents or the Virgins Saints & Angels Crystal Earrings ($172 at VSAdesigns.com), pictured twelfth above, which feel like they belong in Marie Antoinette’s treasure trove.

I personally love the more nefarious, sinister, sinful designs, but all the pieces in this collection are sure to help you write your own fashionable “happily ever after.”

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