Like many households, my parents wedding picture was on the mantlepiece as I grew up. They got married the same weekend as Charles and Diana although my mum fortunately escaped the voluminous taffeta trend.
This was because her dress was made out of spun silver silk which her Grandmother had been given in India in the 1920’s, and truthfully, there just wasn’t enough of it to do anything too enormous with. My mum remembers the dressmaker pulling her hair out over trying to cut the full length skirt out of the narrow pieces of handwoven jacquard silk. The seams are barely 1/8”!
2 years into my tailoring degree at London College of Fashion, my mum must have thought I was making progress because she presented me with a roll of black cloth wrapped in tissue paper. Unwrapping it like a pass-the-parcel, I discovered to my delight that swaddled in these protective layers was a second piece of cloth from Nonna (my mum’s grandmother). This one was much tougher than the floaty chiffon used in 1981. And instead of silver it was spun gold damask, meaning one side was a subtle cream with a delicate gold pattern. Whilst the other side was bright yellow gold, the likes of which would have made Liberace cower.
She said her mother had kept it safe and passed it down to her, and she’d been waiting to give it to me to make sure I didn’t waste it on something rubbish!
So I was to be the 4th instalment in the tale of this cloth.
For most of my career I have worked with grooms. For many it is the first time they have had a bespoke suit made for them, for some it will be the only one they ever own. So a consistent theme is wanting something they can wear again.
It always struck me that it was so unfair that boys get to do that, whilst a wedding dress may well be the most expensive garment a woman ever buys and she can only wear it once! (For most brides anyway).
So my absolute number one priority was making something which could be worn again.
My uniform consists mostly of high-waisted trousers and jackets.
Given how beautiful the sleeves on my mums dress are, my first thought was to chop them off and put them on a jacket, using the gold cloth for the bodice.
A suit seemed appropriate given my line of work but there wasn’t enough of the gold cloth to make a pair of trousers as well as a jacket plus the style of cloth is wholly inappropriate for trousers anyway.
Wool seemed too warm and formal. Crepe felt like the right weight and drape. In a rich off-white to complement the gold. A strip of the gold cloth was added to the outside leg seam to a) make them more interesting, and b) tie them into the jacket.
The thing is, when I got my hands on the actual dress and tried it on, although it wasn’t terribly flattering on me, I’m not ashamed to say I really liked swishing about in the full skirt. An aisle demands a bit of drama. But as I said, the dress cut me in the wrong way and just didn’t look quite right.
Out come the scissors again.
I chopped off the bodice and opened the seam down the centre front to give extra swish, and to show off the trousers a little.
Finally I needed something to go underneath the jacket. It would need to be sleeveless so as not to look strange underneath the sheer sleeves. I had recently made a silk camisole for a customer which seemed perfect, so I recreated it in ivory.
The whole look was finished off with a 30's style halo hat and veil handmade from the gold silk by one of my very best friends.
And there you have it. My 4 piece wedding outfit, made out of 4th generation silk. I’ve already worn the trousers twice since the big day and I think the jacket will make an appearance on Christmas day. The skirt has been re-swaddled in black paper to preserve it for the next person who wants it. Perhaps one of my nieces will continue the tradition?