By: Daniel Sarafian, Fashion Merchandising and Management Student
Not every bride can say that their brother designed and created their wedding gown, however, my sister Rachel can. In May of 2016, Rachel announced her engagement and everyone was ecstatic that she was going to marry her now husband, Joe. The wedding planning began and we talked about what she imagined for her wedding. She told me that she wanted me to design and create her wedding gown since I have designed several custom gowns in the past. I was overjoyed that she had asked me and I accepted the privilege to be part of this special day in her life!
We looked at different dresses on Pinterest to narrow down which styles were best for her. She found that the dresses she loved the most were ones that were off the shoulder. However, she also loved the dresses that were laced up with a corset back. There were not too many gowns on the market that featured both the off the shoulder and corset construction, but using the knowledge I have in pattern making gowns, corset backs, and other details, I knew there had to be a way to make both details go together. Once the final sketch was created, it came time for the fittings.
When the first fitting was complete, there was an anticipation to see how the dress would look. Although it did fit, there were adjustments that needed to be made. This process continued several times with trying on a sample garment, taking in any excess fabric, adjusting the pattern, and creating another sample. Once I saw the shape of the samples fitting her contour, we traveled to the Garment District in New York City. We ended up on 39th street between 7th and 8th Avenue traveling in and out of stores to find the perfect satin and lace. Rather than saying ‘yes’ to the dress, the objective was to say ‘yes’ to the fabric. With over an hour of shopping and no fabric purchased, we decided to walk into Fabric Garden. The store was styled beautifully with rows of fabrics that reached the ceiling. Mannequins were wearing gowns that featured large crinoline skirts draped with embellished laces and soft faux furs. It was there that a lady named Maria Marzilli helped us find the perfect satin and lace that featured clear sequins. And luckily, Maria proved to be more helpful than merely guiding us with fabric.
When she asked me what college I go to, I explained that I currently attend Berkeley College to study the business side of fashion, but I design outside of school as well. It turns out that she went to Berkeley during the 1980’s when they first opened the fashion certificate program in East Orange, NJ. After Berkeley, Maria worked in the Bridal industry, then in costume design, and eventually went on to be recognized as an Academy Nominated Costume Designer. She was pleased to hear that I was creating my sister’s bridal gown and gave me advice for getting the desired look I wanted using certain construction techniques. We spent over a half an hour talking about the construction where she gave me a mini lesson on crinoline. This discussion prepared me for creating the final gown.
Just about every day, I would either cut or sew fabric together. This pattern took place over the course of a few months because I was determined to finish the gown that my sister had dreamt of. When the satin and lace layers were complete, it was time to add lace appliques all along the neckline, sleeves, bodice, and skirt. With the gown placed on a mannequin, each applique was hand stitched so that it would lay perfectly. With close to two-hundred hours’ worth of labor put into the gown, it was finally complete. On her wedding day, I laced up each loop getting her ready to walk down the aisle. In that moment, everything had become real; my sister was getting married. When she walked down the aisle, the sequins shimmered from the sunlight and the neckline framing the face of the most beautiful bride; she looked stunning. On April 29th of 2017, my sister married the love of her life and it was an honor to see her walk down the aisle in a custom Sarafian gown.