"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases..."
Keats would have been very happy at my sister's wedding. At a time when nothing seemed certain and everything around us suddenly became disposable, my sister was determined to celebrate the most meaningful moment of her life. She had planned to get married and decided her life was not going to be postponed any longer. So, she eliminated the things that she could do without––big guest list, dinner reception, bachelorette party––but decided there was one thing that was non-negotiable. Her Covid wedding was going to be beautiful. No other element of marriage reflects the truth and goodness of spousal love so clearly as the devotion to making and using the best and most aesthetically perfect items. Just like she did when choosing a spouse!
If getting married during a pandemic is not enough of a challenge, designing a dress for a post-partum Maid of Honor (technically a Matron) certainly is. Then there was the issue of time. She had to design and construct the Mother-of-the-Bride and flower girl dresses, bowties for the nephews, and embroidered masks for the honored guests. This is all in addition to the dress of a lifetime she was making for herself!
I understood the list of things to do was long and daunting, and I decided to find a back-up gown just in case her plans to make it were clearly going to end up killing her. The Ralph Lauren dress I ordered was quite lovely, but the materials were not the best and it made my baby body look like I was still very much pregnant. Mary Grace issued an instant veto and knew that the only way to deal with a post-partum body is to give it special treatment and fit the dress to me, not vice versa. Additionally, as an artist at heart, Mary Grace balked at a designer label still using polyester in its gowns.
The process of being fitted for a dress with a baby body requires patience. The time spent standing in front of the mirror in a tight muslin mock-up is painful. And it is humbling to hear someone say that the kind of dress I like best and have always worn no longer works. Wearing the mock-up in Mary Grace's atelier made all the problem areas visible, but Mary Grace tweaked the tailoring to accommodate these trouble spots, particularly around the arms, neckline and chest.
But change ushers in new perspectives of beauty. Mary Grace created a column-structured long gown, that instead of feeling like sausage casing (a term all too often used when talking about dresses in wedding fashion) it was like a perfect cast. It held me together like a frame would, and the lean line gave way nicely to the movements of a breast-feeding mother of four (all 6 or younger). Part of the fittings included me squatting, sitting, lifting, running––all the things a mom does, no matter the venue!
Earlier in the fall Mary Grace was browsing in New York's garment district and found luxurious dark green silk jacquard at B & J Fabrics. I never would have chosen this fabric for myself, but such is the magic of the designer! She not only made a post-partum midsection disappear, but she brought me into a new vision of what looks good on me.
Of course, there was a bit of an ulterior motive for the fabric she chose. Its color, pattern and sheen complemented both her own hand-embroidered gown, but the MOB custom-made blush floral silk dress jacket as well. The result was an ensemble of couture in a throw-back sense: We were three women dressed better than any fashion house could have done because the bride was both master seamstress and source of vision. For Mary Grace, making dresses for a timeless occasion was part of her vow: "What I do will last forever!" That they are beautiful means the idea of eternity makes her happy, just like the idea of "until death do us part" with Nik makes her happy.
The process of making a handmade couture gown was in the end the most painless part of the wedding for me. The real challenges turned out to be the Maid of Honor speech and shepherding the three kids who were in the wedding. Putting a six-year-old in a tutu and two troublemakers in suits that scream "too cute to scold," turned my kids into performers. After a long drive to New York and a wonderful (but long) ceremony, the glass of prosecco in my hand was tempting me to sleep as I waited for my turn to speak. The Father of the Bride speech was memorable to say the very least, and my follow-up could only be as heart-felt to match. I fondly looked at my three-year-old who had smashed his head on the bedside table twenty minutes before departing for the wedding. His silk bowtie survived and the cuteness was overwhelming. Looking around me as I stumbled through my speech, I felt the joy that beauty brings.
The challenges of Covid and being Matron with four kids was tough, but the memory of it will continue to make us all glow. We create with purpose, and what we make is evidence that we are happy and grateful to be alive! Keats is right, beauty brings joy, causes joy, is joy.
Much happiness to the newlywed seamstress and designer, Mary Grace!
~Katie, Mary Grace's sister and Matron of Honor
See more photos on Mary Grace's blog: Dark Green Bridesmaid Dress
Shop this dress here: Dark Green Bridesmaid Dress