16 August 2010

the dresses

Why have one wedding dress, when you can have two? I was lucky because since we held our ceremony and party over two days, I got to have two dresses. The challenge was finding two dresses I really liked, while staying within a very strict budget. After a couple frustrating months of searching, my mom came up with the genius idea of altering her wedding dress, so that I could wear it for the ceremony.

Here's Mom in her dress, in 1972. (How groovy are her bridesmaid dresses?!)

I grew up on tales told about this dress. My grandmother and mother sewed it, from veil to hand-embroidered hem. Before they started sewing, they went to Garfinckels, the big department store in downtown Washington, D.C. and Mom tried on dresses in their bridal salon. She found a dress she liked, and Mom and Grandma then found a pattern with a similar silhouette that they could use as a starting point. I can just see my Mom and Grandma, turning the Garfinckels dress inside out in the fitting room, examining every detail of the construction and planning how they would recreate it.

They bought the fabrics at G Street Remnant shop in D.C.: silk organza, silk peau de soie, and re-embroidered Alencon lace. (We found some similar lace online, which goes for a mere $150/yd today!)

Grandma had a next-door neighbor who had worked in costume shops in Hollywood and had helped sew the dresses for Gone with the Wind, among other movies. She helped Mom and Grandma figure out how to transform the lace into a triangular yoke and then embroider the lace along the hem, so that the lace would trail up and over the silk band about 12" above the hem.

The dress had organza leg-of-mutton sleeves, with deep lace cuffs and a long row of tiny fabric-covered buttons on each cuff.

It's a beautiful dress, and I was very nervous about altering it. It almost seemed like sacrilege. But Mama gave me full encouragement to change it in whatever way I liked, so we started thinking about how we could update it for me. The sleeves had to go, as did the high collar. Unlike my mom, who was married in a church in January, I was planning an outdoor wedding in June!

We briefly contemplated doing the alterations ourselves, but we were nervous with so little time before the wedding. Luckily, we found the most amazing seamstress in Cary, NC named Olga Samarskaya. Olga has a thick Russian accent, a brusque, no-nonsense demeanor, and the warmest heart you will ever find. She was a Godsend.

I brought Olga a set of rough sketches, and we decided on a v-neck that followed the line of the yoke. Olga took her scissors to the sleeves during the first fitting (eeeek), and had wonderful ideas about how to alter the dress so it would hug my figure just so.

Olga also talked me into a deep v-neck in the back as well. Because, as Olga said, "you want to be a little sexy on your wedding day, dear."

I felt absolutely beautiful. It meant so much to wear the gown that my Mom and Grandma had put so much love into. Grandma passed away 12 years ago, but it felt like she was there with us on my wedding day.

And then for our party on Saturday, I wore a simple J. Crew dress. It is called the Aubrey, and they don't seem to sell it anymore, but it is made from a lovely embossed cotton fabric. So cool and comfortable for an outdoor party.

I can't end this post without a few words about Matt's outfits. (I kept calling them his "outfits," which he didn't like very much. I think it implied a certain orchestration of the wardrobe that he didn't want to own up to. This coming from a man who has a very sharp sartorial eye despite anything he might say to the contrary.)

He wore slacks and a vest both days. He was very dapper. On Saturday he wore his royal blue Crocs. Because Crocs rock, no matter how many people pooh-pooh them.


jess @ fushmush said...


you did such a fantastic job on your mum's wedding dress. You've managed to keep the essense of it but update for 2010 at the same time. I'm very impressed. It looks beautiful (and so do you :D)

Marmee said...

Your Grandma would be so proud to be a part of your wedding. She was so fearless about trying to make things herself -- she used the Featherweight in your blog header to make coats and bathing suits, upholstery and curtains, just about anything we needed. "Oh, I could do THAT" was her constant response, and it gave all of us confidence that we could too.

house on hill road said...

i love that you had your mom's dress re-made for you. that is awesome! you look beautiful on both days.

Laura McCarty said...

Absolutely stunning.

Courtney said...

Both dresses are stunning, and I LOVE that you remade your Mother's dress. It was beautiful on both of you!

Matt's "outfits" are very dapper as well!

amy h said...

What a special dress. A beautiful bride!

Linsey said...

Wow! Both dresses are amazingly beautiful. I'm having such fun reading about your very special days!

Sandrine said...

You were amazing!!

muebles rivas vaciamadrid said...

In my view every person ought to look at it.

Olga Samarskaya said...

Julie, THANK YOU SO MUCH! You make my day.I was pleased to work on your dress.
I wish you and your husband Health,Love, Luck an long life, because anything else you can buy.