Why Vanessa Redgrave Wore White to Natasha’s Funeral

By: Matt Donnelly / March 23, 2009

Of the countless images the world has seen from Natasha Richardson’s Sunday funeral, one of the most striking is that of her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, clad in a brilliant white pantsuit and paisley scarf.

While fashion would seem an unlikely concern for Redgrave at present, such a bold contrast to the rest of Richardson’s black-clad family is no coincidence.

What could the motives be for such an unusual look at such a bleak time?

“This is clearly a statement on her daughter’s life, not her daughter’s death,” says expert Dr. David Kessler, coauthor of On Grief and Grieving, with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

“She may have wanted everyone to remember the brightness of Natasha.”

Redgrave buried her daughter, 45, less than a week after a skiing accident in Canada resulted in fatal trauma to Richardson’s brain. Since Sunday’s service Kessler’s website has been inundated with questions about Redgrave’s suit.

“It’s more questioning than criticism. People have been saying, ‘Is this OK? We haven’t seen this,'” Kessler tells Celebuzz.

Moreso, is it acceptable?

“People forget that our grief is unique, like a fingerprint,” he says. “Celebrating life versus mourning the death? That could be her style.”

And regardless of public opinion, Redgrave as an icon could influence funeral garb moving forward.

“Public figures have always influenced how we grieve. When Jackie Kennedy had her stiff upper lip…at JFK’s funeral, the world said, ‘That’s how we grieve. We hold it in,” Kessler says.

“Years later, there was a shot of Nancy Regan touching [President Ronald Regan’s] casket and crying. After that, we saw people doing it because they felt permission.”

Just today, it was revealed that Redgrave has postponed a scheduled NYC performance of Joan Didion’s play The Year of Magical Thinking, about a woman who loses her husband and daughter.

“We grieve in character, and that applies even more to an actress,” says Kessler.