I guess you could say I was an interesting 13-year-old girl being obsessed with learning about the Cold War. While girls my age were checking out the newest Nicholas Sparks novels from the library, I was checking out anything that had to do with world history from the 1930s to 1989 with my biggest obsession being Cuba. There was something I couldn't shake about a Caribbean country with so much flavor, culture, and life becoming one of America's hardest relationships-putting it as nicely as possible. The fact that it was a country literally stuck in a time capsule and nearly impossible for Americans to even travel to for over 50 years was enticing in itself. 

When I decided to let myself even dream about starting my own line of wedding gowns, I knew that I wanted my aesthetic for Gretchen Dawley bridal to be vintage-inspired since I have lived in nostalgia land since I was a little girl. After having a dream one night of me walking through the streets of Havana draped in silk chiffon, I took it as a sign that Cuba would be the inspiration and driving force behind my first collection. I chose to focus in on 1950s Havana because that was a very crucial time in Cuba's history. The country was on the brink of a revolution and political change, but it was also a time of high society and nightlife where you could see the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole performing on any given night. 

After years of dreaming and romanticsizing, I recently got to live my dream of traveling to Havana. It far exceeded my high expectations, becoming one of my most favorite experiences to date. Before I left, I wanted to create a piece to play with conceptually while I was there. My purpose was for it to give the feel of what I want this collection to embody: high society, the salsa culture, and the beautiful decay of the architecture. I found a 1950s knee-length negligee at a thrift store and transformed it into a slip dress. The Lola slip dress gives a sexy, high society feel, but plays with the mixing of fabrication to show distress. It was incredible finally getting to run through the streets of Havana literally draped in silk chiffon. Some dreams really do come true.

All photos were taken in Habana Vieja by the talented Sharlene Durfey. She is a Los Angeles-based photographer who specializes in fashion editorial making iconic imagery with whoever she comes into contact with. I had the privilege of traveling with her, gathering inspiration, and exploring the magical land of Cuba. For photo inquiries, you can contact her at 

Happy Monday!


xoxo, G