Update from Bridal Central

Can you believe my hands and wrists are still operative and basically pain-free? Could this be a miracle bestowed on me by the forces of good as a reward for my selfless, motherly devotion? I suppose it’s possible; who else but a devoted mother would undertake such a project? (A compulsive over-achiever who’s suffered from severe bridal gown withdrawal—that’s who.)

So far, I’ve sewn over 1,000 crystals and rhinestones on the lace and spent weeks pleating, stitching, cutting and sewing huge sections of fabric together. I doubt I’d be willing to take on a project this extreme for anyone but my daughter—or possibly a beloved future daughter-in-law. But I must admit that even though this dress is testing my abilities, I’m having the time of my life.

 Not every bride will have the opportunity to help design her own gown, but I wish she could. My daughter wasn’t nearly as eager as me to get this project under way, but she’s definitely making up for lost time. Although she has no—as in zero, zip, nada—desire to pick up a needle and thread, she does enjoy coming up with design ideas and picking out laces, beads and trims.

 Frankly, we’re both surprised that so far our joint effort has been amazingly amicable. Thankfully we share a common fashion sense and somehow, I have managed to rein in my own desires in favor of hers—for the most part. Our first purchase was the lace for the front of her skirt. I had the perfect type in mind: a rare, centuries-old style called Lyon. We went to Sposabella Lace in NYC, a fabulous source for fine laces, trims, fabrics and headpieces. Eager to share my love of Lyon, and certain she’d love it as much as I did, I asked the salesman to pull out some samples. Sara took one look at it, thought it was horrible and described what she had in mind.

 Waaaaa! No Lyon lace?! Mentally smacking myself, I listened as she described her perfect lace, and then asked to see samples of that type. (It makes things a whole lot easier knowing what’s available and what to ask for.) Draping it across her skirt, she took one look in the mirror and said, “It’s perfect.”

 Well that was easy! I didn’t like it—at all—but said nothing and willingly paid for 5 yards of it. As soon as I started working with it and adding all those beads and crystals I realized that it was absolutely gorgeous. Thank goodness I’d kept an open mind and remembered that it was her dream dress, not mine—regardless of who was paying for it.

 Of course, I’m no saint. I was pushy about two of my fashion favs. (So far.) I begged her to give in to one request regarding her veil. Sweet daughter that she is, she agreed. (Details to be revealed after the big day.) I also came up with an idea for a section of the hem which I l-o-v-e-d. Knowing her as well as I do, I had a suspicion she might not share my passion. When she reviewed the sample section I’d pinned on the skirt, I could tell she wasn’t completely enthralled with it. I ignored her reticence and barged ahead, even though I did feel just the teensiest bit ashamed of myself. (Not ashamed enough to cancel my plans, however.) Thankfully, as the dress is evolving she agrees that, yes it does look fab and she likes it.( I still love it with a capital L-O-V-E.)

 Now that my book has been released, I’m gratified to realize that I’ve been able to follow most of my own advice. A caveat for everyone: Advice is incredibly easy to give and woefully difficult to receive. So where am I falling short in the “physician heal thyself” philosophy? Sticking to a budget.

We (my husband and I) hadn’t set a “carved in stone” figure for her dress and headpiece; rather I (he hadn’t a clue and was relying on me to be “sensible”) had a general figure in mind—ample enough to create a fabulous gown but not extravagant enough to warrant taking out a home equity loan. I’ve discovered that it’s a lot harder to be faithful to a figure when you’re selecting bits and pieces of a dress, rather than purchasing a finished product.

 Sara’s gown is an exceedingly elaborate creation--to put it mildly--and beaded trims and lace can range anywhere from a few dollars a yard to a few hundred dollars a yard. Gulp! So far I’ve been able to “just say NO” to the more extravagant ones. So where did I go wrong? I was way, way off in estimating how many yards of fabric I’d needfto create this dress. This wouldn't be a big deal if I was using some of the cheezy fabrics you'll find in many off-the-rack gowns. (Sorry, I'm a bit of a fabric snob.) But only a luscious silk satin would do for my only daughter's wedding gown!

Would you believe she’ll be draped in 30 yards of silk when she walks down the aisle? And that's not including the 8 yards of veiling and layers of lining, netting, and interlining. No clue how many yards of fabric are in a typical wedding gown? In my 30 years of dressmaking, I’ve NEVER used more than 12 yards on any dress! Oh well, she wants to look like a princess—and she will. She’ll also never be a runaway bride. Not only is she eager to marry the man she loves, she’d never be able to move fast enough to escape!

 

 

 
 

THE BICKERINGS' FIRST FITTING

Yesterday was a momentous day because Sara had her first dress fitting, causing me to reflect on two of my former blogs: “Stress Not” and “Neither Rain, Nor Sleet”. I think I was correct when I said that although Sara and I would bicker, I couldn’t imagine us getting into a knock-down, drag-out. Of course I did yell, “GET OUT!” and gave her a “gentle” push out of the car when we got to the train station within minutes of missing our last chance of making our Kleinfeld’s appointment.

The Di Fabbio clan has a history of squabbling; like the time we embarked on a raft trip down the Housatonic. My husband manned the tiller and provided the rhythm section with his incessant command to:“Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” . My three sons filled in the chorus by whining, “Stop splashing me! Move over! Get out of my way! You’re hitting my oar! Saaaaara!” I punctuated this floating sideshow with periodic warnings to: “Be quiet! Stop fighting! Stop picking on Sara!”

We brought this show along on our vacation to an underground river exploration in Cancun. It was an awesome experience—minus the bickering. We donned lifejackets and then floated our way through this subterranean marvel. Even though there was plenty of room to maneuver , it didn’t prevent us from crowding and annoying each other relentlessly. Every kvetch and criticism echoed loudly and relentlessly throughout the entire tunnel system.

Since this was getting to be predictable behaviour for every family outing, we named our selves, "The Bickerings". My sons may have outgrown this behaviour but Sara and I have not. Even though Sara should be intimately aware of the fitting/dressmaking process, she is as impatient as me, which results in “Is this supposed to do....?” “Shouldn’t this be shorter?” “Will it be tighter?”

I give her the look that says, “Why are you asking me such a stupid question?” Since both of us speak “look” fluently, she then said, “Well, I didn’t know if you noticed or I just want to make sure it will be tight enough or . . . ” Thank goodness neither of us holds a grudge or takes our bickering seriously. Super good thing; because she asked, “Am I being really annoying?” and I replied, “Yes.” (She wasn’t being that annoying, but I was tired.)

Bickering aside, I enjoyed the fitting, but I’m feeling serious pressure. I know there’s no repeat when it comes to a wedding gown; it’s either perfect or it’s not. She’s not the one who’s obsessing; I am. I’m fearful that I’ll watch her walk down the aisle and think, “I should have . . . “ Of course regardless of how awesomely perfect it is, I’m sure I’ll still be beating myself up because I should have . . .

Part of my dilemma also refers to the “Neither Rain, Nor Sleet” blog where I have been self-righteous enough to preach about not allowing your heart to override your brain. Before Sara got engaged, I scoffed at anyone who spent thousands of dollars on a dress. Well, my heart has already thrown the first punch—and it was a near knock-out. Although it costs less to make a dress than to buy one, it’s not free. In fact, the cost of materials can far exceed what the majority of brides would spend on the finished dress—especially if you’re a fabric-junkie like me.

I’ve already spent a sizable amount. Guess what I’ve purchased? Some of the lace and a few pounds of crystals. Not the 15 yards of silk I’ll need, nor the 20+ yards of trim or the additional yards and yards of lace. (Uh, oh) I’m trying to slow down this runaway train, but I fear it has no brakes. On a positive note, I could win the lottery or become an heiress before the wedding. (Not likely since I don’t gamble and I don’t have any wealthy friends or relatives.)

If neither of those fantasies comes true, at least I don’t have to make all my purchases at one time. I can spread them out over the course of the dressmaking. The woman who purchases a ready-made gown has to make her decision right then and there and either take out a second mortgage or keep it real.

My brain—although groggy—is fighting back; coming up with ways to stay solvent while creating a masterpiece. I’m not sure who’s going to win; maybe it’ll be a tie. But I’m feeling a bit better knowing that if my heart wins the war, I can always hop on the train to NYC and load up on more goodies.

 

 

 

 

 
 

THE MIRACLE CURE

As I was babbling away to my husband about the latest wedding news, he said, “Boy you have been on an unbelievable high ever since Sara got engaged. What are you going to do after the wedding is over?”

As the penultimate multi-tasker, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of projects to keep me from being sucked into a morass of depression. I’m well-aware that Sara and I are in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m wringing out every single, solitary second of glee I can. Luckily, Sara is way more rational and grounded than I am. I know she’s enjoying being the bride-to-be, but she hasn’t put the rest of her life on hold. I’m glad; many women are so focused on their wedding, they can’t cope with reality once their Big Day is over.

I never miss an opportunity to tell any woman I meet—no matter how casually—that my daughter is engaged. I’m an expert at working this into any and every conversation so artfully that it flows as naturally as hot fudge on a scoop of ice cream. Much to my satisfaction, my audience is usually as thrilled as I am—even though they don’t know me and have never met my daughter. I even went so far as to tell the woman who was making a “courtesy” call to me from CVS about the impending wedding. By the end of our conversation, she was begging me to bring in pictures of the gown when it was finished.

Today, I stopped at Joann’s Fabrics to pick up some thread—about 5 large spools of white—and some beading needles. (Those puppies are going to get quite a work-out. They’re ultra-skinny to start with, but by the time I’m done shoving them through beads and silk, they’ll make a strand of hair look fat.) While I was there, I spotted something that would make a subtle, yet awesome touch to her gown. Spreading it out on the cutting table, I said to the fabric cutter, “Isn’t it pretty?”

She said, “Yes, it is. What are you making with it?” (Just the question I was fishing for.) Although I couldn’t see my face, I know I looked as excited as if I’d won the lottery. “I’m making my daughter’s wedding gown.” I beamed.

I didn’t get much of a response from her because I know she was thinking, “What kind of dress is she making with this tidbit of fabric?” (Yes it is a small piece of fabric, but isn’t it “all in the details”?) I then elaborated on the whole event, describing the dress, giving her a bit of background information, etc.

Guess what? It turns out that I made her wedding gown about 25 years ago, as well as her cousin’s dress 4 years prior to that. Wow, small world isn’t it? Thank goodness she loved her dress and enjoyed working with me. (Pretty scary that her memory of the whole event was still fresh in her mind.)

I must admit I’ve been getting just the teeniest bit nervous because I haven’t been feeling the expected rush of creative overload when I think of her dress. I guess it’s because I’m well-aware that this is the dress of a lifetime. I think my fashion-loving neurons are having a panic attack from the enormous pressure I’m putting on them.

Now that Sara and I made our first lace purchase, the atmosphere in my brain has mellowed a bit and all those little neurons are lining up in an orderly fashion, ready to go to work. Each one has a pad filled with ideas along with an enthusiasm to work together toward a common goal. There was plenty of back-clapping after hearing that Sara approved my latest purchase.

Sara had her first wedding anxiety dream . I have a history of horrendous dreams and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of my own nightmares. Thankfully my waking hours are remarkably stress-free. If they could bottle this high, the pharmaceutical companies and liquor stores would be out of business.

 

 
 

NEITHER RAIN, NOR SLEET . . .

Recently Sara and I went to NYC to officially launch our Quest for her Dress, which included an appointment at Kleinfelds followed by a search for lace and other goodies. Imagine my angst when our friendly weather man predicted a blizzard! Our first NY trip was cancelled when Sara was called into work. Although I dealt with that in a reasonably mature fashion, I knew I was going to pitch a major tantrum if our second trip was also postponed.

Of course it was snowing when I woke up and thanks to the record-breaking cold, it was not only sticking to the roads, it was also turning to ice. Since I was dying for the games to begin and I drive an Expedition, I decided we should forge ahead. At 8:30, Sara and I headed off to the Southeast train station to catch the 9:13 train. Thanks to the non-Expedition owners on the road, it took us 1 1/2 hours to get there. We missed the first train and barely caught the second one, but luckily made it to the Holy Land of Bridalwear in the nick of time.

The “Kleinfeld Experience”—as they call it—was wonderful. The salon is tastefully decorated with an amazingly tranquil atmosphere, in spite of the horde of gown-hungry brides packed in the waiting room. I was particularly impressed with their lighting designer. Everyone looked like they’d just had a spa treatment complete with hair and makeup. Even I didn’t grimace when I caught a glance of myself in the mirror. The staff was impeccably turned out, cordial and attentive, and the management team was vigilant without being obtrusive. No one was hiding behind their computers checking out FB or dozing at their desk. Kleinfelds hasn’t earned its reputation by accident; they’ve worked hard to become world-famous and continue to do so.

We saw all the stars of “Say Yes to the Dress” including Randi. I don’t know why I was so excited to meet him and shake his hand; although it’s probably because he has my dream job. He brought in a few dresses for Sara to try on and even put a veil and headpiece on her. How fun is that?

Despite their extensive inventory, we didn’t see one dress that tempted either Sara or me. There were plenty of stunning mermaids—which isn’t her style—and there were a few over-the-top numbers that were definitely fab, but outrageously priced. One of the mannequins was decked out in a beautiful tulle, lace and crystal dress that carried a $24,000 price tag! Can you imagine dropping that much on a dress you’ll wear once – or twice – or even a hundred times?

One of the dresses Sara tried on was a Randi pick. I recognized it right away because it’s been featured multiple times on “Say Yes to the Dress”. Those of you who are fans of the show, may know the one I’m talking about. It’s a strapless silk satin ball gown with a pleated bodice and a massive amount of rhinestone beading at the neckline and waist. (Of course “strapless” doesn’t help narrow down the style since that describes 99% of their inventory.)

It was beautifully constructed out of a top-quality silk satin, but the style didn’t require couture sewing skills; no crazy draping, tucking, poufing or swirling. The beading was stunning; packed with real Swarovski crystals; and these weren’t dainty little numbers. No, no. These oversized beauties frolicked across the bodice in all shapes and sizes: ovals, rounds, teardrop, marquis and square. Loved it!! The flaw? They were GLUED ON! Glue on a $10,000 dress? What! What! I never glued stones on any dress I ever made; not on an $800 wedding gown or even a bridesmaid dress.

We weren’t really expecting to find The Dress at Kleinfelds, but it was worth a shot. Of course I would have been crushed, but at least I wouldn’t be attending her wedding with my arm in a cast, aided by a Seeing Eye dog after sewing on thousands of beads!

We left Kleinfelds and headed off to the fabric district to find at least one of the laces we’ll use on her gown. As a lace connoisseur I had my heart set on a gorgeous French Lyon. Sara wasn’t sure what she wanted but as soon as she saw Lyon lace, she knew it wasn’t that. Even I can’t believe how readily I bid a silent adieu to my visions of that lovely stuff gracing my daughter. Luckily for both of us I’m still repeating my daily mantra: “It’s not my dress.” Won’t it be a miracle if I can keep this up until October?

It didn’t take long for her to spy something she did find appealing. (I refuse to name it or describe it, but eventually the finished gown will make its website debut.) We draped it on her as she posed in front of the mirror. She loved it; I liked it; we bought it. Wow, that was simple. (Did you notice the “I liked it”? Forgive me: it took a while for it to worm its way into my heart and fill the empty spot left by the banished Lyon. Now that I’ve been able to drape it over my mannequin and play with it, I love it too.)

We also saw some gorgeous beaded trims that were just as blingful as the stuff gracing the $10,000 dress. Guess what? Each glistening stone was sewn on by hand; not a drop of glue to be found. I’m not implying these goodies weren’t expensive—I put a serious hurtin’ on my credit card—but we could have stuffed our shopping bags with sparkling trims and not come anywhere near racking up a $10,000 bill.

The majority of women won’t have all the options that Sara does. However, they will have the opportunity to carefully inspect a gown before ordering it. Regardless of your budget, please make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. It’s not realistic to expect fine silks, hand-beading or couture designs if your budget is $500, but you’re still entitled to proper construction, quality synthetics and a good fit. Follow your heart, but make sure your brain is coming along for the ride.

 

 

 

 
 

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