A Monarchy Tea Inspired By Royal Fashion @ FIDM Los Angeles/Irvine

Recently, my sister sent me an invitation to an interesting lecture held at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Los Angeles (at their Irvine campus) which included an enjoyable mid-morning tea buffet.  I will get to the tea part, but first, a bit about the collection and FIDM.

Helen Larsen exhibit

Helen Larson exhibit

For 50 years, Los Angeles based historian, Helen Larson collected over 1,100 garments, primarily from England, creating an impressive historical fashion collection that apparently has left some British fashion historians wondering, “how did we let go of some of these iconic, historical pieces worn by our royals?”  FIDM’s fashion council and museum curators are on a fundraising campaign to purchase the entire offering from the Los Angeles based Larson estate, in an effort to keep this important collection from being broken up.  This lecture and tea was one of their fundraising events.  They have two years to raise the requisite funds.

Helen Larson was intrigued with royalty.  Most of her pieces with royal provenance were acquired during the 1960’s and 1970’s, when she employed British costume historian and dealer Doris Langley Moore to bid for her at auctions, as well as make contact with extended members of Britain’s royal family in hopes that they might part with old clothes worn by their illustrious relatives. Larson funded her hobby of collecting by creating an early “costume rental business” for the Hollywood entertainment industry.  She gathered impressive pieces worn by Queen Victoria and a variety of British monarchy through various sources and trunk buying at a time when few were purchasing “old” clothes.

Monarchy collection on display at FIDM...

Monarchy collection on display at FIDM…

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About 100 guests attended this event which included a tour of the gallery featuring several of Larson’s royal collection, a lecture describing the provenance along with fashion details of each piece, and my favorite part, a Victorian inspired tea menu.

FIDM is a modern looking institute with high energy and invigorating design.  It was exciting to be around such potential. My sister has always been into fashion merchandising (which was her college major and degree) –  and going with her was a treat.  As we walked in, here is what we saw:

The interior is modern and conducive to collaboration, learning, and innovation.

FIDM L.A. has produced many renowned designers, including current popular fashion designer, Monique Lhuillier, who designed this Barbie Bride collectible.

Barbie dress by FIDM graduate

Barbie dress by FIDM graduate

They are proud of their graduates and show off their achievement in the lobby.

In the museum gallery, we were treated to a truly incredible display, including a reception gown worn by Queen Victoria (whom was a bit shorter and more stout than I remembered from my history classes).  It is the black gown above.

Princess’s gowns were included, this was my favorite in the gallery.

O.K., we saw the collection, listened to several lectures, now, finally, the food.

Notice I didn’t say, the tea.  Typical of many a caterer, the tea just reeked.  It reeked of coffee.  They used a hot water urn that had obviously been used for coffee and it bled into the delicate fragrance of whatever tea bag one used.  So I will skip the tea beverage discussion and move onto the food, which was really good and nicely done.  The selection was so appropriate for a mid morning tea.  The finger sandwiches were nice and moist (no dry bread here).  The scones were perfectly sized, distinctively flavored, particularly the pumpkin scone.  The accompaniments were spot on and plentiful.  The caterer did a beautiful job of keeping trays refreshed as we masses hovered over platters of deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad with almonds and celery, and plenty of sweets with scones as a feature (as it should be, particularly at a British royal inspired event.)

The breakfast tea foods...and proof that we enjoyed it all...

The breakfast tea foods…and proof that we enjoyed it all…

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There were two platters of scones, and plenty of toppings for them.

Here’s proof that all thoroughly enjoyed the food, which included “seconds” by most…

We met interesting people and had dynamic discussions about the collection, teas, podcasts, and tea houses.  In particular, we enjoyed a spirited conversation with a young filmmaker and costume designer named Colleen Marie Monroe.  Check out her podcast which features fascinating costuming stories at constumecafepodcast.com.

As we talked about the tea,  I got truly encouraged that the twenty-somethings in the arts looking for great tea…and I mean the whole tea leaf… will lead the way to continuous improvement of quality in our U.S. tea business.  It seems that art, fashion, design and tea have a strong synergy.  To this point, a dear friend of mine just got back from Harney & Sons SOHO (NYC) tea shop, he said it was run by and inhabited by “hip twenty-somethings.”  All of which, I think, bodes well for more and better tea product in the U.S. going forward.

Regarding today’s tea service…I was thrilled with the food.  I will keep giving feedback –  one person, one caterer at a time – offering  this tip about serving tea (the beverage);  it’s pretty darn simple, “when serving tea – use fresh, clean, filtered, hot water that is pure of other fragrances, scents, or impurities.  Serve from  a vessel/urn dedicated to water only, never one that coffee has inhabited.”  It’s simple.

Week 10 Challenge Update:  Well, I have my fingers crossed still.  The four pounds I dropped while being under the weather last week have almost stayed “off.”  (down 3 🙂  I am so excited, while not the best way to lose a few pounds, I’ll take it!  I suffered for it …  So, two weeks to go and 8 down, 2 pounds to go… I am working out a bit everyday now (except Sundays…that’s currently my day to watch NFL playoff  football – go 49ers!)  Coincidentally, my challenge ends when the season ends…January 31.

Enjoy tea!!!  and tea time….


  1. Wow.. this sounds great! I wish I had known about this I would love to have attended. Fashion/Tea.. perfect combination:)

    • Yes, fashion and tea is a perfect combination. I have been noticing this, as well as, whenever I am around artists or students…tea is important to them.
      I felt so lucky to have gotten invited to this event, if I hear of future ones, I will notify you in advance. Thanks for your comments!

  2. You’re so great at finding these amazing spreads! The food does look amazing, pity about the tea. As you say, it’s not difficult, it just requires a little attention to detail. Great news about the youth of today and their tea drinking, that does bode well for the future, as you say.

    Excellent job on the weight front1 I weighed myself today for the first time in weeks, because I’ve been feeling a bit bloated, and found I’d gained 3 pounds since the last weigh-in. I wasn’t surprised and I know it’s due to lack of exercise, but hopefully that will change as the weather improves.

    • Yes, I just love to find these kind of tea spreads…they are fun and usually surrounded by interesting events, people, or location. All conducive for relaxing, discussing and munching and sipping … Thanks again for your continuous encouragement for my challenge…almost there …yay.