A Tale of Two Pillows, Part 2: A Wedding Anniversary Gift For One of My Brides

A Tale of Two Pillows, Part 2: A Wedding Anniversary Gift For One of My Brides

frog-closure-2My last post was about the first pillow I ever made. This post is about the last pillow that I made (perhaps latest is the better word to use, since I’m sure I’ll make more in the future). It also involves a mother—this time not mine, but one of my brides’— as well as a surprise gift: a first wedding anniversary gift for her daughter. And, thankfully, the craftsmanship of this pillow is markedly improved over the first one!

frog-closure-pillow-front

Cecilia, my bride’s mother, got in touch with me around the holidays wondering if I could make a pillow with the same frogs I had made on her daughter Sarah’s wedding dress. Her  first wedding anniversary was approaching and she wanted to surprise her daughter with a special gift and thought this would be something unique that her daughter would really appreciate.

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They had all loved the wedding gown I made the year before, especially the front frog closure on the jacket which referenced their Chinese heritage from the mother’s side of the family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tangible reminder of that element of the gown, instead of just photos or having to take the dress out of a box to see?

frogs-wedding-jacket.jpgI thought it was a great idea, and was flattered to be looped into another important milestone in this wonderful family’s life. This is what I love about my job: that I get to do this thing that I absolutely love to do which creates something with so much meaning and significance for my clients and their families.

good luck knot frog-closures

I happened to have enough fabric left over from making her dress that I could do it, so I got to work, replicating the frogs and ball button closure that I had initially created for the front of the jacket that went with the wedding gown, this time, for the front of a pillow.

wedding-jacket-frogs-frontWhen designing the original gown (which I’ll devote an entire post to in the future—for now I’ll just stick to the frog parts) I researched Chinese knots and chose a good luck knot to recreate in the same Italian silk duchess satin as I made the rest of the gown. The button is a monkey’s fist knot.

The whole point of this pillow was to have the exact frog closure on the pillow as the wedding dress, but as I was making the pillow I got carried away, thinking of all the even more complex and elaborate frogs I could make; I had to restrain myself! There now exists in my head an entire suite of frog embellished couture throw pillows! I started daydreaming of all the other pillows I could make, inspired by all my other brides’ dresses. I loved this project and hope to make more wedding gown inspired pillows for my brides, whether as a reminder of their wedding gown, or ring pillows for the ceremony.

frog-closure-pillowIf you’re one of my past brides and you’d like a keepsake pillow made with the leftovers of your fabric, or if you’re a future bride and you like the idea of a ring pillow made made to match or compliment your dress, let me know!

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Avi’s Moroccan Inspired Wedding Gown

Avi’s Moroccan Inspired Wedding Gown

moroccan inspired wedding gown.jpgWhen I first met Avi she told me the sweetest story of how her fiancé had proposed to her: he had taken her on a surprise trip to Morocco to get in touch with her Moroccan roots, tracked down the mud-brick home where her father (who passed away when she was a younger) had been born, and that’s where he asked her to marry him. The trip had made an indelible impact on her and as she began to plan her wedding decided she wanted to honor her Moroccan heritage in her wedding dress; not only as a tribute to her father, who would not be there to see her get married, but as a wedding day thank-you surprise to her husband for sparking a new appreciation for her family’s origins. [SIDENOTE: Shout-out to her husband for being so awesome!]

I loved the idea and the sentiment behind it. After discussing all the other details about her wedding and personal style—she would be having a destination wedding in Savannah, Georgia at the end of August and having an outdoor reception, so a breathable, not too heavy gown was a must—we started figuring out what “Moroccan inspired” would mean in the context of her wedding dress. We looked at all things Moroccan: tiles, rugs, and traditional Moroccan wedding dresses festooned with embroidery. The latter would be way too literal an interpretation, and the other things didn’t spark the degree of personal significance that seemed necessary given the original intent of the gown.

moroccan caftan 5.jpgI asked if she had any Moroccan family heirlooms that I might be able to see for design inspiration and after some thought she mentioned an embroidered caftan that her Moroccan grandmother had given her when she was little and which she wore as a child. The only problem was she didn’t know where it was or even if it still existed!

moroccan caftan 2A phone call to her mother in Pennsylvania solved the mystery of the Moroccan caftan (I wonder if that’s a Nancy Drew book?). It was in a box in a closet somewhere, her mother was sure, and she would bring it with her next month when she came to New York to join Avi for her next appointment with me. Perfect!

moroccan caftan detail.jpgI was really excited to see the caftan up close when Avi came back with her mother a few weeks later. Ever since the design consultation I’d been thinking about a technique that I’d always wanted to use on a wedding dress that would be the perfect vehicle to incorporate Avi’s Moroccan heritage in a subtle but significant way: I would reinterpret the embroidered motifs on the caftan using intricate hand-sewn bias applique. The scale and method would be different, but the scrolls and motifs would come straight from the caftan. Something new from something old, and perfectly unique to Avi!

When I showed them my sketches and explained the idea they loved it and we were all so excited to see it come to life the following summer.

bias tape draping closeup.jpgTo do the applique I first “draped” some ideas on the mannequin and made some fabric treatment samples, deciding which elements from the caftan would be best articulated with the bias applique. Then I drew out the whole border in pencil, to scale.

bias applique sewingA lot of tracing paper and measuring and design tweaking later, I had the final pattern and was ready for the task I’d been day dreaming about since Avi’s design consultation: sitting at my table, twisting and turning and pinning and stitching countless yards of bias tape by hand, following the pattern I’d drawn. If I’ve ever been in my happy sewing zone this was it!

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This is exactly the kind of intricate, tedious, repetitive task that I absolutely love to do!

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moroccan inspired wedding gown corset.jpg

moroccan inspired corset.jpgAvi’s mom flew me down for the wedding to help lace up the corset; she told me she didn’t want to worry about getting it wrong if she tried to do it herself, but moreover, after all the work I’d done to make such a special gown for Avi they couldn’t imagine her wedding without me being there.

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It was an honor to attend Avi’s wedding (as it is with each of my bride’s weddings that I attend). It’s so fulfilling to do something that I love so much and which means so much to my brides and their families.

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The wedding ceremony took place at Temple Mickve Israel, a beautiful historic synagogue in Savannah and one of the oldest in the country.  I made Avi’s veil with edging to match the corset and applique.

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The night before the wedding there was a Moroccan wedding party, complete with traditional good luck henna tattoos.

 

moroccan inspired gown backAfter the ceremony all the guests were taken to the wharf for a surprise riverboat trip down the Savannah River to the reception venue.

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It was windy on the boat! (Which was nice, because it’s hot in Savannah in August!)

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The reception was held at a 200 year old fort on the banks of the Savannah river, Old Fort Jackson. Avi changed into a short version of her wedding skirt that I had made just for the reception, which involved lots of dancing and was lots of fun!

 

Photo credits for Avi’s wedding photos: Jade + Matthew Take Pictures

Avi’s wedding planner: Bonnie Kaar, First City Events

Avi’s florist: Amy Harvey, Harvey Designs

Kate’s Bodice

colette-komm-lace-corset

This is a bodice I made for my couture bride, Kate, who was referred to me by her bridal stylist, Jackie Weppner, of Merci New York, after experiencing a wedding gown nightmare: the custom gown she had purchased from another designer didn’t fit her torso and they were frustrated and confused by a variety of aesthetic concerns with her particular gown which had not been an issue when she had tried on the original sample and bought the dress.

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back-lace-bustier

(The gown she had first tried on was most likely an actual runway sample; this is something brides should be aware of before buying a gown: designers will often send their runway samples out for trunk shows, but the production version of that gown can vary significantly in construction, fabrication, detailing and even design in order for them to be cost-effectively reproduced.)

side-button-closeup

When we all met to discuss what I could do to fix the problems there were only two months before Kate’s wedding. I had another gown to finish for one of my brides getting married at around the same time as Kate, so it would have been impossible to make an entirely new gown. And though Kate was at her wit’s end, second guessing the purchase of her gown in the first place and wishing she had found me sooner, Jackie and I were certain that I could address all the issues she had with the original gown by re-designing the bodice, replacing the interior of the skirt and creating something that she would feel spectacular in.

Kate Barone & Dominic Tropiano

She wanted to feel light and tiny in her wedding gown, and the original bodice weighed her down and swallowed up her tiny frame. The way it was constructed gave her – for lack of a better term – a mono-boob, and she wanted her bustline to be defined, yet minimized. She was uncomfortable in the gown and kept feeling the need to pull the bodice up to cover her bustline.  The interior of the skirt needed to be replaced; the skirt layers were prone to be tripped over, and the lining was too tight for Kate and her husband to do their choreographed first dance in, which required her to be able to kick up her leg. Essentially, I would create an entirely “new dress” and re-purpose the existing outer skirt layers.

bodice-comparison

In this photo of the original bodice (with the lace removed) over top of the one I made from her measurements you can see how the original was nearly two inches too short in the waist; no wonder she felt like she was constantly on the verge of a wardrobe malfunction in the original gown! In addition, the bodice had several layers of fabric where much fewer would have sufficed, and this unnecessary layering created the bulkiness that Kate didn’t want, especially around the neckline, where the thickness of the seam allowances created an unflattering ridge.

lace-placement-on-bodice

To make Kate’s bodice I used my special bustier construction techniques to create a light-as-air but highly constructed bodice that would give her the wrinkle-free, flawlessly defined figure that she was seeking. As you can see from the next photo, it’s sturdy enough to stand up on its own, but thin enough that light streaming through my window on a sunny afternoon filters right through it.

colette-komm-bodice-sunlit

The waistline of the original gown had been rather abrupt, where the opaque, dense bodice met the ethereal, airy skirt. I changed it so that the juncture of the two elements seamlessly melded into each other, and adjusted the angles and proportions of the dropped waistline to be more flattering to Kate’s figure. And, as always, I added functional lace covered buttons to the back of the bodice (where there had been none on the original).

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back-bodice

When the gown was complete we were all extremely happy with the results, no one more than Kate herself. While wearing the gown during the final fitting with her mother present, as well as Jackie, and her wedding planner, Lauren, she ecstatically proclaimed, “It’s perfect, it’s perfect, it’s perfect, it’s perfect! This is exactly how I always wanted to feel in my wedding dress!”

Colette-Komm-bodice-with-buttons

If you’d like to see Kate in her gown on her wedding day, her wedding, photographed by Christian Oth Studios, was featured on Style Me Pretty recently. Special thanks to Jackie Weppner of Merci New York, for the referral, and to Kate’s wedding planner, Lauren Sozmen, of Loli Events, who was extremely helpful in coordinating fittings with the bride who lives in Ohio. And of course, congratulations to my couture bride, Kate, and her husband Dominic!

Jenn – Salt Lake City, Utah

I’m excited to finally share photos of one of my latest Couture Brides, Jenn! She was a dream to work with and I’ve had fun sifting through all of her wedding photos by Heather Nan Photography to find these, my favorites of her and the gown I made for her.

After Jenn’s initial design consultation the three absolute-must-haves for her dress were that it had to have sleeves, she wanted it to show her collarbones because that’s her favorite feature, and she really liked tulle.

Less important were that it be an A-line or ball-gown silhouette—with not too much of a train—and that she also liked “sparkly stuff” but was not dead set on it…

With those criteria in mind I thought about it for the next few days. After drawing the first sketch I knew she was going to pick it, so I held off on doing any more drawings until I could prove my hunch. This was indeed her dress! When she saw it she loved it and that was that!

At the time of her design consultation, the wedding was going to take place in Newport Beach in March, so I did the original sketch with very slight cap sleeves and gave her the option of doing a longer 3/4 length sleeve depending on how the dress evolved; I would drape it both ways to decide what looked best on her when we fit the muslin. But before I got to making the muslin the location of the wedding was changed to Salt Lake City (same time of year), so we decided to go ahead with the longer sleeve since it would look and feel more appropriate in the colder climate. That’s one of the great things about doing a custom gown; it can evolve and change to perfectly suit many different criteria.

www.heathernanphoto.com

The gown is actually two separate pieces: a tulle and organza skirt, and the gown, which is more like a jacket with a train (in double face duchess satin—the same fabric I used to make my sister’s wedding gown). Jenn was planning to wear the gown as pictured for the whole wedding and reception, so I constructed it accordingly, but for a bride that just wanted to have shoulders and arms covered for the wedding ceremony I could have easily made the skirt underneath into a gown of its own with a strapless bodice or corset. Again, that’s the beauty of doing a custom gown—making it unique to the bride who will be wearing it.

Congratulations to Jenn and her husband! They are a lovely couple, and, as always, I enjoyed getting to know them and having such a special role to play for their big day!

Special Guest Blogger: One of My Brides, Lisa

On Choosing Colette Komm by L. H. Grant

A week after my engagement, on a flight from New York to Phoenix, I found myself sitting next to the head of Oscar de la Renta Bridal. I’d seen the collection online and loved it — one gown in particular. “Why don’t you meet me in Scottsdale and you can try it on?” The dress search has ended before it’s even begun, I thought to myself.

Two days later I was standing in front of a full-length mirror wearing the gown I thought would be “the one.” But something was off.  It wasn’t that the dress wasn’t beautiful or that it wasn’t flattering on me. Everything was lovely. There was just something that felt too manufactured about it — like a photoshopped image or a library filled with decorative books that have never been opened. I returned to New York empty handed.

Back home I visited more bridal salons, tried on more dresses and left with the same feeling I’d had in Scottsdale. It wasn’t until I walked into Colette’s studio that I found the authenticity I’d been looking for.

I once heard it said that great art is great not because of the questions it answers, but because of the questions it asks. As Colette showed me each gown in her collection, I found myself wanting to know more: how long it takes to hand-stitch each petal onto one dress, how she makes a skirt look like meringue peaks, how her gowns can at once be so exquisitely detailed, yet convey such a feeling of absolute simplicity.

As she told me about her creation process, and I watched her delicately handle each dress, I could see what made these gowns so different. Colette knew each stitch; she’d sewn each one with her own two hands. These dresses were never in a factory, never shuffled through a line of seamstresses, never a concept sketch sent to a sample room to interpret. Because Colette sees each creation from bride to sketch to pattern to muslin to gown back to bride, the final product has a sense of life, of history to it. Her gowns are Parisian architecture; the others, cookie cutter subdivisions.

On my wedding day the beauty of Colette’s work was evident not just to me, but to my guests — and not just to those who follow fashion. A dressmaker commented that she’d sewn hundreds of gowns but never managed to make any seem like they were an actual extension of the bride. “The dress is like part of your skin the way it moves on you,” she said. A retired police chief — a man I’ve known my whole life who has never taken any notice of fashion — was so struck by my gown that he said, “that’s exactly how I want my daughter to look on her wedding day.”

As for me, the greatest compliment I can pay to Colette and to the integrity of her creative process is to genuinely tell the truth: I have never seen a wedding dress — before or since my wedding — that I find more beautiful than the one she made for me. And for that, I thank her.

An Illustration of Susanne’s Dress

Here’s an illustration I did this weekend of Susanne’s dress. My original intent with this was just to practice rendering white duchesse satin and lace on a darker ground as a study for a larger 18 x 24″ illustration that I’m planning (this one is 11 x 14″). It’s rendered very simply in graphite and acrylic paint (I would normally use gouache but it was all dried out).