Let's start this post with the reminder that the creative process is rarely linear. It is one of the things that I love about my work (hello, exploration!) but it's also quite nerve-wracking at times. I suppose that depends on the amount of diversion within one project as well as how close the deadline looms.
I know I can't be the only creative who sometimes feels this way and Fabiola's 8 (9*) person bridal party was one of the instances when I felt this way. Lol. I'm writing this over a year later (I know I know) and reviewing the photos to add to this post gave me flashbacks. It's wild knowing that I likely felt even stronger emotions about it at the time if I gave my mind the downtime to even process anything additional.
Fabiola herself was recently featured in a "Meet Me at the Alter|ations" post for her bridal look along with her mom's Mother of the Bride garment edits. Their alterations deserved a post all on their own, as did this vibrant bridal party of hers. I remember the moment I met them most as a group to consult about their design. Whew, a group! Ahh, pre-COVID memories!
The group's concerns and ideas were run of the mill: accommodating different body types and support for the bustier ladies, especially since it was a mix of energies that would come alive on the reception dance floor. Fab also wanted some glam and sexiness to the look. Last, but not least, the wedding was taking place in the Caribbean so that also gave climate and style leads. This leadership landed us on an A-line silhouette (universally flattering and airier in the warmer temps) and a one-shoulder bodice (open yet supportive). A slit was sprinkled in for good measure.
Fabiola knew her color upfront, which brides often do. Fuchsia! I keep a library of swatches in my studio that can be used for reference. This time they were even better than that and we found the perfect fabric from my dear Roz at Sew Much Fabric in Texas! It was a bright berry colored satin.
I generally sketch post-consultation to give myself time to brainstorm and then clients review. In this case I did a variety for bridesmaids and 2 maids of honor. They coordinated and had the same base. The bridesmaid look was initially designed to have a sheer asymmetrical skirt attachment whereas the maids of honor was to have a longer shoulder cape. (Keep reading to see that process divergence.) To accent the skirt attachment, bridesmaids had bling appliques applied to their belt while maids of honors had a different design of crystals to accent the shoulder.
Now, let's talk about these sheer attachments. I ordered swatches of metallic threaded silk chiffon from a favorite local hidden gem. Literally any they had in pink... maybe 5-6 options. We settled on a berry pink with silver threading that *seemed* to match the fuchsia. Fast forward to its arrival and ya girl was reminded of a little thing called dye lots.
Dye lots are when fabric manufacturers are producing a color in whatever quantity, but there is variance between the 'lot' when colors are mixed over time. For example, the idea of color matching on a paint or makeup palette the exact same each time.
I remember seeing the fabric in its cut length and comparing it up against the original swatch. It so clearly could not be another one of the samples I had, however, I did not match my selected sample either... which meant it did not match the fuchsia. I even messaged the seller asking if I could be a victim of the dye lot devil. As they reviewed things on their side, it seemed that was indeed the case.
The little luck I had left in the situation did redeem itself in that the cut fabric was lighter (easier to dye over than lift). And the fiber was silk. This means it was dyeable. Now, I don't do a whole lot of dye work (read: I hadn't done it since college), but I had 12 yards that I needed to get in formation. Off to the Dharma Trading website I went. Ordering gloves, selecting a dye based on fiber application and a computer screen swatch (even worse than in person lol), and hoping for the best. I also ordered a 5 gallon pot to perform this stovetop. Many dyes are washing machine-friendly these days, but I wanted to be able to keep a watchful eye... and not stain the washer neon pink.
I did test dip a strip of the silk after mixing my concoction and it seemed promising. On a wing and a prayer, I tossed the rest in! It didn't take long for the dye to take so once I reached a shade I liked, I was ready to quickly remove it so as not to oversaturate.
I had a problem.
5 gallons of PIPING HOT PINK water... Steel pot... 12 yards of fabric.
I could not lift the pot without massive fear of dropping it and having a new pink kitchen.
So I stood there in the middle of the floor for a while. Until...
Luck be the lady lightbulb moment. The sink and stove are bridged by the countertop. It wasn't the shortest counter and it rounded a corner, but I slowly slid the pot over until i could tip it in the sink and relieve some of the weight of water. Then tipped the rest without a spill. BLESS!
I did throw the silk into a rinse cycle. I had no chance to care much about shrinkage at that point because it was necessary. After drying was the next momentous task of pressing all of the shriveled silk back out flat. (Note to self: fold and dry it flatter next time.)
You live and learn. And persevere. That color match ended up being better than the original swatch!
And now for fittings. Those are always a process for groups, but Fab had a few ladies in NYC and one in Delaware. Appointments started off strong, but another long story short, I ended up driving to NYC to perform a mass fitting at one of her bridal events. It was... frenzied. Lol.
It was during this fitting that we decided to move the bridesmaid's skirt attachment to the shoulder and taper it to create a smaller version of the maids of honor capes. It provided a chicer look with more maturity and movement.
Somewhere amongst all of this, that asterisked 9th custom gown was added. The sister of the groom received the bridesmaid design in a navy shade to coordinate with the groomsmen. If I remember correctly, it was so late in the game that it didn't get the same custom process but rather a few extra crossed fingers.
Ironically, this addition paled in comparison to keeping multiple slightly different yet custom sized pink panels to 8 gowns organized. I‘m absentminded by nature so was anxious about sewing one person’s gown to another. So I only allowed myself to work on one gown at a time and although I rarely label things, the labels were at an all time high this go-round.
Gown pick-up coordination was just as eventful. Generally, clients have garment delivery appointments where they have a final try-on to ensure fit. This was more so gowns being picked up and traded off by whomever was able. But all in all, they made it to the right hands and fit onto the right bodies!
As I wrap up this story, I ponder what I may be forgetting... lol. But I also am a bit in awe looking back and thinking that I did this much work... by myself.
Creatives really can have a special streak of crazy.
The project called for a lot of late nights as I worked it in with the rest of my business and commitments.
(However on one of those late nights, I was an angel in disguise and was able to catch a leak in a neighboring studio. In theory, I saved the whole collective, tons of irreplaceable art... and the entire building, which includes a school and offices, from a HUGE flood. I was there on a late Saturday night and the building could have been unoccupied until Monday morning, leaving it susceptible to a profuse leak from the main plumbing. I’ll spare the photos, but I remember the building owner turning to me and saying “thank you for being a workaholic.” 😅)
Looking at the photos and seeing the reward makes it all worth it. I'm currently reading Cicely Tyson's memoir, Just As I Am, and she refers to art as a transfer of happiness. That resonates with me as I hope to accomplish this with the work that I do. Once I complete garments, they go to an owner. The wearer brings it to life and is the final factor in its production. And that's what the aisle of Fab's wedding was... a fashion runway of its own sort. A production. A transfer of happiness.
Another thank you to her for her trust and all of the ladies committed to helping her bring her special day to life!