Continuing my earlier diatribe on all things fabulous – this week I wanted to take a moment to speak about clothing. Yes, there have been spells when I have, myself, been a bit of a fashion car crash. There was that time in grammar school when I believed that oversized acid-washed overalls were super cute (but only when one shoulder strap hung down). And then there were four years during my musical theater training when I wanted to dress like a character from A Chorus Line: cue leotards, loose hippie skirts, ripped tights and ballet-wrap sweaters. Oh what a vision I was – but I was FAR from fabulous.
While my sense of style has certainly evolved from younger days, and my day to day uniform has finally shifted away from legwarmers, I learned an important style lesson this year: sometimes fabulous cannot be purchased at your local department store (no matter how high-end it is). The problem was complex: more frequently I was being invited to black-tie affairs as the date of one Mr. David Beahm and I had to hold my own next to this dashing man. While I had many a cocktail dress that I was able to dress up with a set of huge pearls from Mikimoto – those pearls a black-tie dress did not make. I searched high and low in every store for a formal gown that could fit and flatter this body of mine. No dice. More often than not I was spilling out of every gown I gave a whirl or was swimming in a dress that was clearly made for one of those 5’10” sidewalk stunners, clumsily kicking fabric out from under my feet.
I was ready to give up until I met the wonderful owner of The Stylish Bride: Ms. Julie Sabatino. Julie is a stylist to some of the most elegant brides that walk down the aisle – New York and the world round. This woman looked like me; dressed how I dreamed I could; and she totally “got it”. While complaining about my black-tie troubles she said, “Well, my dear, I do believe it’s time you had a dress made – and I know just the men to do it!”
The next week Julie was holding my sweaty palm as we made our way up the elevator in a fashion district building and into the marshmallow-hued office of the brothers Nato, the owners of Fancy NYC. It was like I died and went to fashion heaven – as I wandered around the intimate studio I kept wondering when the cast of Mad Men was going to pop out from amongst the vintage-inspired designs. Except there were no moth-eaten holes and brittle fabric that you find on dresses in vintage shops – everything here was brand new and gorgeous! Ivory kid leather gloves, glittering paste jewels, and bird-cage veils filled glistening glass cabinets. Satin-faced silk organza fluttered all around me. And then I met my boys: Gregory and Stephen – two dashing Italians from New York who, as children, spent their winters playing in their mother’s McCall’s patterns instead of the snow. It was a match made in mid-century heaven.
So what does this all have to do with weddings? It’s simple. While I wasn’t in the market for a bridal gown, the act of being measured; having fabrics thrown across me; and generally fawned-over is something every woman deserves. The process that transpired over the coming months was one that was both enthralling and gratifying. My dress started to become an extension of my personality and my history (as your wedding gown should become an extension of you). The boys added a delicious horsehair crinoline that made my waist look deceptively wasp thin (and spoke to my flirtatious personality). And in a stroke of genius that brought tears to my eyes, Stephen and Gregory incorporated French cuffs on the sleeves so that I could wear my late father’s tuxedo cufflinks with the gown. Every time I’d go in for a fitting and slip in the white muslin croquis, my excitement grew and I felt a little more beautiful.
Finally the day arrived where my beautiful sapphire gown emerged like an indigo butterfly from the chrysalis of its white garment bag – and I was about to make my own transformation into a black-tie beauty. I completed the look with a pair of Kate Spade shoes, my mother’s beaded vintage clutch and a diamante necklace and the make-over was complete. I think you’ll agree – end product is to-die-for.
Photo by Joanna Wilson Photography