lace & let go

My Mom isn’t a person who easily lets go of things---so when she handed me her wedding dress to be cut, sewn and integrated into a chuppa for my wedding, I was shocked.

I should back up a bit. Seven months ago, I married a really awesome human being, a.k.a. Will. Twelve months ago, I was attempting to DIY every bit of our wedding in a realistic, reasonable, and meaningful way (I know: what a joke). Something that was important to both of us was honoring our families. It was one of the first things we connected on during our first date: being close with our family members. Will and I are fortunate that we have four resilient Grandmothers and one incredibly wonderful step Grandmother, all alive and well. We wanted something to cherish such a strong matriarchy in a special way. So, we asked each of our Mothers and Grandmothers for a piece of white(ish) cloth: a table cloth, a handkerchief, a napkin. Our plan was then to have a dear friend stitch those cloths together to lay atop the frame our chuppa. And that’s when my Mom gave me her wedding dress.

Mom’s wedding dress hanging in my bedroom at home.

Mom’s wedding dress hanging in my bedroom at home.

Of course I did what my six-year-old self always dreamed of doing: I tried it on. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it fit. The thought of cutting it up for our chuppa felt a bit strange…but that’s part of letting go, right?

Besides, at this point, I was already in fittings for my own wedding dress my Mom had generously purchased for me months prior, so wearing her dress on our actual wedding day wasn’t an option.

My parents on their wedding day | June 7, 1981

My parents on their wedding day | June 7, 1981

I was determined to figure out a way to cut parts of the dress for the chuppa, and wear the rest of it the night before our wedding since we were having a rehearsal dinner + welcome gathering for our families and out-of-town guests.

 I didn’t have a clear vision for how to make this happen. So I did what most girls do: I asked my girlfriends their thoughts on how I could upcycle my Mom’s wedding dress. I schlepped the dress down to Santa Fe with me for my bachelorette weekend (or what I prefer to call: emidobzapalooza) and asked my besties for their advice.

Santa Fe, July 2018 | Photo: Elizabeth Birnbaum /// @thecuratedfeast

Santa Fe, July 2018 | Photo: Elizabeth Birnbaum /// @thecuratedfeast

…Which naturally led to a photoshoot because when else was I going to wear this dress in it’s original state among Georgia O’Keeffe land? Also, Santa Fe is one of my Mom’s absolute favorite places, so I had to.

 My gal pals gave me some good ideas, but I still wasn’t sure who I could ask to take on such a task. It clicked the first Friday in August as I was running an art activity at ReCreative Denver: Jessica Polzin would be my transform-my-mom’s-wedding-dress-into-my-own-plus-leave-some-fabric-for-the-chuppa fairy godmother.

 Jessica is what I like to call “a Jess of all trades”: she paints, she illustrates, she sews, she dyes; she creates murals, she styles for films, she does fashion design.  She does it all. So when we crossed paths that balmy night, it struck me to ask if she would be interested in doing something (I still wasn’t sure what exactly) with my Mom’s wedding dress. When she said “yes” to redesigning the dress, I was downright elated.

 Jessica and I both had pretty insane schedules leading up to the wedding day (still do). Looking back I don’t know how we managed to squeeze the time into her studio on a Sunday afternoon here, a Thursday night there…but Jessica carved that time out, and I’m so grateful she did.

The process was fun, creative and organic. When Jessica and I initially met, we knew the first part would entail taking out a good chunk of the length so that material could be used for the chuppa.

The next time we met, we stared long and hard at the sleeves. They were hot and uncomfortable. I truly have no idea how my Mom wore this on a warm June day back in 1981. I felt the sleeves and neckline were what made this dress so iconically my Mom’s wedding dress, and felt strange cutting them off …but that’s part of letting go, right?

DIY wedding dress

Jessica suggested we cut just one of the sleeves to see what it could look like. I still remember the smile emerging on my face after just that one sleeve came off. I felt more comfortable. I felt more me.   

boho+wedding+dress

When I tried the dress on the next time, it felt better than the dress I really couldn’t even envision a month prior.

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boho wedding dress

I was nervous and excited (more excited) to show my Mom the transformation of the dress. I mean…I might have been more excited to do a “first look” with her in this dress than with Will in my own wedding dress? (sorry bae)

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Her reaction was priceless, and her words were “oh my gosh, how did she do that?!”

I still don’t know how Jessica worked this magic considering I had absolutely no vision for the design, but she truly is a fashion fairy godmother.

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Fabric is one of those things that memories just seep their way into: picnic blankets, window curtains, denim jackets…wedding dresses. With every stain holds a story, with every tear holds nostalgia. I don’t personally know the memories that were interwoven in the lace of my Mom’s dress, but I sure know they were significant, and I’m sure still poignant in my Mother’s mind.

 I started this by sharing that my Mom isn’t a person who easily lets go of things. Which isn’t really fair, because she’s done the #1 thing that terrifies me of becoming a mother: she let her children go. She let me go. She let my brothers go. She let us go and grow up. She’s let me go the furthest: to travel across the world, to live across the country; to take a more unknown, unsecure creative path.

 It’s genuinely hard for me to fathom carrying a child, raising that child, and then just letting them go into the wild world. Like…it pains my heart. So I guess I’m not good at letting things go either. Except big lacy sleeves on old wedding dresses.

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This post is dedicated to my Mom on her 35th Mother’s Day.

Big thanks and appreciations to Jessica Polzin for her time, creative energy, patience, artistry and thoughtfulness in this process. For more on Jessica’s work visit: http://www.jessicapolzin.com/