Monday, January 16, 2012

Blessings and "The Dress"

Shortly after our trip to Nebraska in August for Czech Days, our life took a very hectic turn. All the very best blessings. First of all, both my daughter Katy and my daughter-in-law are expecting baby girls. They are due in the next few weeks! I have one grandchild, Katie, who is 20 months old. I will have three granddaughters, all under the age of 2 years. How very exciting!!

And another very exciting blessing! A new son-in-law. Just a few weeks after our trip to Nebraska, Kevin Armor, asked for my daughter, Sarah's, hand in marriage. When Kevin and Sarah came home for our annual Czech festival, Westfest, he took me aside and asked for her hand and I gladly approved. They got engaged in September. They began planning a December 17th wedding (and here is the kicker) Sarah tells me she wants ME to make her wedding dress. ACK!

I decided to journal the adventure of making “the dress” which I will write out in my handwriting and seal with the dress when it is preserved. Since “the dress” was the reason I was AWOL from the blog for so long, I will share the tale with you. I hope you find it interesting. Here it is...

For several years, my youngest daughter, Sarah, has told me that she wants me to make her wedding dress. Even if I had a year to make her dress, I still would be very hesitant. Let's be honest, I am no seamstress. I only have basic sewing skills. I can follow a simple pattern but have never had to alter a pattern or a finished garment. Yes, I can do embroidery but given that I only had a few weeks to make the dress, I would not even be able to do much needlework. So, I tried desperately to get her to change her mind. I was so afraid of letting her down on what should be the best day of her life. She was certain I could create her dress. Me, not so much.

Since 2006, I have learned how to make a few Czech costumes. I started with a basic sewing knowledge that my mother, Peggy (Nix) Hill, shared with me when growing up and my grandmother's Singer sewing machine (circa early 1900's). When my girls were young I did a little more sewing and made much of their clothes. All very simple dresses, rompers, etc. All with a pattern and guidance from my mother. When I decided to make Czech costumes for my daughter, I was incredibly blessed to have help from a renown Czech costume designer, Maggie Grmela. I called, emailed and visited her many times with what she surely thought the most elementary of questions but she always helped me so patiently.

After Sarah and Kevin's engagement was announced, she again told me she wanted me to make her dress. This was the end of September, was she kidding? Nope. Sarah saw a photo of a dress she liked online. The dress she liked did not have any beading or embroidery. Whew! But, she would like me to do some embroidery and bead work. “Well...we will see what I can do.” I mean, after all I only had a few weeks. The dress would need to be finished by mid November so that she could take bridal portraits. Even now remembering this, I can feel my heart racing and blood pressure going up!

Well, since there was no changing Sarah's mind, I began asking experienced seamstresses for help. I turned to a childhood friend, Sally (Sutterfield) Castellano of Sally Sews. Sally was my best friend growing up. As a matter fact, she was my maid-of-honor when I got married in 1980. Sally moved to Oklahoma years ago, but we reconnected a while back thanks to Facebook. Sally was a big help. She sent me a list of tips and offered support and advice throughout the process. Thanks Sally! As I mentioned before, Maggie Grmela, was a huge help. I will go in to more detail later.

After one last ditch effort to get Sarah to change her mind, I decided to get started. (What was the last ditch effort you ask?) I searched online for bridal stores near her in Denton, Texas, for dresses that would be available for in-store purchase. After all, if you order a dress these days it can take months to come in. I bombarded, yes bombarded, Sarah's email and text messages with beautiful dresses for her to consider. All with a return response that they are pretty, “but just not me, Mom.”

Luckily, the dress that inspired Sarah's design was a somewhat famous dress that was worn by the Crown Princess of Denmark, Mary McDonaldson. I was able to find sketches and descriptions online, that at least gave me a starting place. The dress was elegant and unique. The Crown Princess' dress featured a boat-neck with ¾ sleeves (known as calla sleeves). Sarah did not care for the boat-neck. She said it looked like it did not fit. Fine with me, I would not know how to do that kind of neck line anyway. She also did not like the sleeves. The focal point, and what really attracted Sarah to this design, was the skirt. The skirt appeared to me made of several panels that folded back. do I do that? Sally helped me find a pattern (Vogue #2788) that I could modify. Sarah liked this neckline better. Wonderful!

So, with a design in mind I began looking at fabric. I don't know anything about bridal fabric, so I asked Maggie. I took my general idea to Maggie and she gave me some advice and tips. She showed me a wedding dress that she was altering. Fabric weight. Boning. Bodice stiffener. Horsehair braid (what the heck was that?). Dress needs to be fully lined. My pen was swiftly writing all of this down as Maggie spoke. My head was spinning when I left her house. What was I doing? I have a full time job, could I really do this? I told myself that I would at least try. Worst case scenario, if this did not work out Sarah would have to buy a wedding dress off the rack. I'll be honest here. Before I started, I did a lot of praying. I know that a wedding dress may not be high on God's list of priorities right now but I knew I couldn't do it unless I turned it all over to Him. I'll admit that I have always trusted God but the last few years have taught me that God is not only with us. He will see us through all things. Nothing is too large or too small to leave at His feet. So that is where I left it...
To be continued tomorrow...

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