The Story of the Dress – Part VI The Amazing, Beautiful and Enchanting Wedding

Catherine and John were married this past weekend!  She looked absolutely beautiful in her dress and John was very handsome in his tux!

Mrs. Catherine Game and Mr. John Cawood

Most of my “art time” for the three weeks before the wedding was spent on tweaking her dress – completing the beading, trimming seams, tacking down the lining and hemming the underlining, lining and dress.  On Catherine’s last visit up north before the wedding, I took the bodice in about 1″ on each side seam creating a perfect fit, showcasing her figure.  I cut the hem line for the lining and underlining and proceeded to hem both.  As I worked on covering the remaining stains with beads, new design challenges emerged.  Working with the original bead designs from my mother’s dress, I tweaked and adjusted the final composition, while keeping in mind what went on the left front skirt panel would also go on the right front skirt panel (and the same with the back) to follow the symmetry of the dress.  One side held quite a few stains, while the other only had 2-3 small spots but both sides received equal beaded treatment.  When it was all said and done, it looked beautiful and no stains were seen!

Back in March, I opened a cupboard door looking for something and out fell an old tattered white cardboard jewelry box. I bent over to pick it up and realized it held an old necklace and clip earrings that had belonged to my Grandmother Alma.  As I held it in my hands, I couldn’t believe what I saw.  The strands of beads matched so closely to the beads from my mom’s dress!  What a synchronicity!  I showed it to Catherine on our next visit downstate  and she decided to wear it with a little bit of tweaking.  Instead of two twisted strands of beads, she wanted only one and we shortened the length of it by about 2 1/2 inches.  Removing the old dark cording that was twisted with the strands, lightened the weight of the necklace and I added a string of the very tiny seed beads from my mother’s dress.  The clasp on back was broken, but I went to our local bead shop, Twisted Sisters, and purchased a lobster claw.  With the one strand removed,  a hole was now available for the claw!

During the ceremony, Catherine looked up at John. Notice her necklace once worn by her Great-grandmother Alma Woodward.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Well, the necklace wasn’t quite finished when we arrived at the Kettunen Center, but I thought I would have plenty of time to complete it.  After all, we arrived on Thursday evening, a day and a half before the wedding would begin, at 3 p.m. that Saturday.  On Friday, many hands pitched to wrap small white lights around grapevine which suspended from the dropped ceiling, transforming a basement into an enchanting dance hall.  Saturday morning rolled around and we all were very busy, perhaps extremely busy, finishing decorating the reception room, setting up tents, hanging fabric on the outdoor arbor, putting centerpieces on the dining tables, etc.  Hugs and introductions were made as guests arrived!  The joy and excitement built as many important people in Catherine and John’s lives, met the others for the first time.

A hydrangea from John's mom, Becky, floated in a round vase, with a bundle of sticks tied with milkweed fiber, moss, votives and a dried milkweed pod holding the table number was placed into a sand weighted wine bottle decorated the tables.

The time was zooming by too quickly!  At 2:30 (wedding to begin at 3!) I arrived to our room where Catherine and her attendants were getting dressed.  As I moved around to get my dress, I realized, “Oh my god!!!  I didn’t get Catherine’s necklace finished!” I scrambled over the bed, only to realize I couldn’t find my little magnifying glasses to attach the lobster claw.  I looked about and saw Laura, a friend of Catherine’s who also happens to have a terrific art background.  “Laura!” I squeaked, “I can’t see to put the hook on, could you do it?!” With unending calm, Laura said, “Sure!”  and with deft assurance, she completed the necklace!

As the necklace was placed around Catherine’s neck (and of course I could not see clear enough to fasten the tiny clasp – helped once again by Laura), she turned and I saw my beautiful confident daughter physically surrounded by some of her closest friends with many “threads” encircling her from her maternal line:  part of a necklace once owned by her maternal Great-grandmother Alma she wore around her neck and her dress made from one once worn by her maternal GrandMary and sewn by her mother.  In her hair she wore a beautiful hair ornament created by Catherine the week before.  Four generations of women were represented!

Brian escorting Joan up the aisle.

Our son Brian escorted me to my seat, I thought how quickly time appears to move and how important these traditions are in bringing family together.

Russell walks Catherine down the aisle.

As Catherine walked down the aisle, escorted by her father, she beamed and her dress shimmered in the afternoon sun, with light bouncing off of each curve and drape of fabric.  In a quantum world, where we are so connected in ways we don’t fully comprehend, isn’t it fun when the universe presents us with gifts and opportunities that create so much enjoyment!

PS – Thank you, Megan Ziegler for the use of your photos!

Their first dance as a married couple!

The Story of the Dress Part I

Catherine and GrandMary with GrandMary's wedding dress

Shortly after their engagement, Catherine and John started to think about their wedding plans.  They considered what kind of wedding they wanted, Catherine considered what kind of dress she wanted that would make sense with the type of wedding they wanted.  She wondered if GrandMary would mind her 1951 wedding dress being remade to fit Catherine.  I called my 79-year-old mother and asked for permission.  My mom stated, “Well sure!  I won’t be using it anymore!”

This past summer we visited Mom and sisters, and at that point, my mother’s dress officially changed ownership.  In the evening, we pulled the dress out and assessed its condition.  The yellowed, heavy duchess satin from the 1951 wedding bore old stains of celebratory wedding cake and punch.  Even some of the delicate beads had lost their coating.  Catherine took it to an eco-friendly cleaner and we were thrilled with the results!  Many of the old stains were removed, others lightened and the yellow was gone!

In August, I began deconstructing the dress to determine how much fabric was usable.  I cut and sewed a demo bodice out of another fabric to be certain Catherine would have a dress that fit.  After the fit was established, I ripped the demo to use use as a pattern and I cut her new dress from my mother’s old one.

Catherine and I discussed alternatives if the pattern pieces would not fit around some of the minor stains that remained.  We decided, being the creative folks that we are, we could come up with a solution!  We also discussed the story of the dress; who it belonged to, the time period, the maternal line that it touched from my Grandmother Alma seeing her oldest daughter being married, my Mom wearing it, my Aunt Katherine standing beside her as maid of honor, my sisters and I trying it on while growing up, and now to Catherine.

Our Catherine who with her “live simply, respect the earth, eco-friendly way of living”, chose to have her dress for her milestone of a day, be one with meaning.  Just as a painting tells a story with each underlying pencil mark,  brush strokes and layers of paint, I recognized Catherine’s dress, a work of art in its own, has a story to tell, too.  Each stitch, each bead, and yes, each unresolved stain (until it’s decided how to resolve it) creates part of the story.  In fact, it is those marks that help to alter , shape and form what the dress will be, just as our own marks and resolved stains that touch to our very fibers help each of us to shape and form who we Be.