Nina, Angela, Carla and Carol

The Bellisio women, tradition and a white dress.


As told by Carla (with interjections by Nina and Angela)

Becoming involved with any woman’s wedding is a special event.

Through Fermata Designs I have been lucky enough to meet so many intelligent, creative, energetic women who have inspired me to create and to develop this business. I am also lucky enough to have three strong, bright, caring women in my family; my mother Carol and my two sisters Nina and Angela. As the youngest in the family it was a real honor when Nina and a few years later Angela, each asked me to design and create gowns for their weddings. For inspiration we looked to Mom, Carol, a woman who did everything, including making her own wedding gown. As you can probably guess, Mom was not only the inspiration for these designs, she is also the inspiration for my craft.

A Perfect Pattern

Carol and Jules were married in the summer of 1969, a backyard affair full of family and flowers. Mom made her dress from a McCall’s pattern, white taffeta with bows at the bust, white lace trim trailing to the hem, a simple A-line skirt. Hand covered fabric buttons ran up the back closure, a labor of love performed by my Opa. Opa also fashioned a small pill box hat which held a lace veil. It was a dress perfectly suited to my mother.

When Nina became engaged she didn't look to the sewing machine,

but to the local wedding gown salon. But her experience there left her disappointed. The gowns she tried didn’t fit her shape or her style. She had difficulty communicating with the sales women, who seemed to push the most popular styles, not the gown that would enhance her personality.

Each dress they brought out was bigger and lacier than the last and it scared me to death. None of them felt right, fit right or in any way reflected my taste.

Nina

Nina turned to me. I had been designing and sewing for a number of years, and had just begun my first forays into wedding gowns. I was excited about the opportunity, but nervous to design for my big sister, my arbiter of taste in music, art, and food. So I turned to what I knew. Mom.

Mom pulled her wedding gown out of the closet. Through the years the fabric had yellowed, but the dress was still in good condition. Mom’s veil fabric had yellowed as well, and the pill box hat my Opa had created was crushed beyond saving. This dress was perfectly suited to my mother in 1969. It was not perfect for Nina forty years later. Nina needed something new, with a nod to the past. I had Nina show me her favorite clothes, the dress that flattered her curves, the tank with the best neckline.   We looked through magazines, collecting images. And then I was ready to design.

Simple but Elegant

Together we decided on a simple but elegant shape, a tailored bodice with gentle tucks at the bust, a halter neckline, and a skirt that floated to the ankles all made from our luminous Ahimsa peace silk. From Mom we borrowed a bit of trim to accentuate the natural waistline, giving it a modern twist with a sunset orange ribbon beneath, color popping the pattern of the lace. And for the final detail, Opa’s hand covered buttons cascade down the side closure. Past and present, vintage and modern, a gown perfectly suited to Nina.

I walked down the aisle in a dress that looked beautiful and felt completely comfortable and unique.

Nina


Angela was equally inspired by Mom’s dress, but her style is all her own. Vibrant, ebullient, colorful, Angela’s dress needed an equal amount of life. She was charmed by gowns with full bouncing skirts and slim tailored bodices. To achieve that silhouette and keep the dress affordable, we turned to the wealth of used gowns available. We found a dress with a terrific skirt, but a lack luster bodice. It was perfect for our purposes. I was able to reuse the skirt and create a brand new tailored bodice using Ahimsa peace silk, organic cotton and a beautiful piece of white lace. Additionally we used a bright ribbon of purple satin and a sparkling vintage brooch to accentuate her slim waistline.

Same Inspiration, Different Style

When we started the process I didn’t really know what I wanted out of a wedding dress. It was great to have Carla as a guide! She was able to design a dress that matched my personality perfectly and added personal touches like buttons from my mother’s gown. In the end I couldn’t have been happier.

Angela


Buttons and Lace, From Gown to Gown

Pulling out Mom’s lace and buttons for Angela’s gown was bitter sweet for us. Just a couple months before Angela’s wedding, we lost Mom to pancreatic cancer, making Angela’s purple ribbon not only lovely, but a symbol of our loss.   The buttons we used to adorn the back closure of the gown, the lace used to embellish Angela’s cashmere cardigan, allowed a piece of Mom to be with us on Angela’s wedding day. Our tribute to Mom was to celebrate in her life, by continuing in our joy, and embracing new family.

Our tribute to Mom was to celebrate in her life, by continuing in our joy, and embracing new family.

When creating Nina’s gown, Angela was adamant that I only use one third of the lace and buttons from Mom’s gown, to be sure there was enough for all of us. At first I was amused that she was so firm, but through the years I have come to value those few buttons and inches of lace. Three generations of handy work were honored in my sisters’ gowns, the memory of hands creating stitched into the fabric. And someday I will get to use my one third.