Here Come the Bridesmaids

It was like being caught in an undertow of taffeta, sequins, and snarky sales-woman infested waters. Every ill-fitting strapless dress my mother, grandmother, and even mother of the groom threw at me, pushed me further and further under, as I held my breath, nodding and smiling at each shiny and overpriced gown suggested. Shopping for bridesmaid dresses is an inherently flawed process—not to mention shopping for bridesmaid dresses with a matrilineal train following your every step. The idea behind squeezing several (or in our case, fortunately, two) women into the same dress has always baffled me, and I feel it has remained an unspoken—and, in some cases, blatant—joke on the entire bridal industry. With upwards of 14 sizes between myself and the other bridesmaid, I figured the most difficult part would be finding a silhouette that we both felt confident in—the thought of pleasing the entire bridal party at the same time never really crossed my mind.

My sister selected her wedding gown with minimal objection. Years of guilty Say Yes to the Dress and Wedding SOS pleasures under my rhinestoned belt, I knew how important it was to take the back seat when it came to dress selection, Ohhhing and Awwing at every ruffle and lace-up bodice and puckered skirt. When she finally found one that she loved, my family followed suit, telling her what a beautiful choice she had made.

Grandmother and Grandfather of the author and their bridesmaids, 1959

Weeks later, it was my turn. With the help of my fellow bridesmaid, I zipped up the back of the boat-neck cocktail dress. The sample I tried was clearly too big for me, a fact that I wished to exaggerate by putting on a pair of satin pumps that on my 7.5 feet, looked like they belonged to RuPaul circa 1992. As my sister (who had no strong opinion on what dress we wore) opened the door, I was hit with a wall of silent indifference, bordering on dissatisfaction; standing on a foot-tall pedestal, I never felt smaller. As the door closed, my mother’s question, “that’s the one she likes?” echoed in my sartorial lobe.

If hours of pillaging my closet before simply running down the street to get hot chocolate from that handsomely bearded barista had convinced me that it wasn’t myself who I dressed for, this experience taught me the contrary. Though my mother’s comment and the general lackluster response to the dress hurt, in the end, it didn’t alter my decision. If this was the dress I felt best in, this was the dress I would wear.

A friend once noted a defense mechanism I unknowingly reverted to when showing him a new garment I had purchased. Before giving him—or anyone, for that matter—the chance to state an opinion on whatever splendid trappings lay before them, I would blurt out, “Well, I like it”— simultaneously affirming my confidence in the garment’s beauty and shutting out potential naysayers. Though I didn’t verbalize this in the moment, the sentiment stands firmer than any starched crinoline or organza swatch. Like the old saying goes, “No one puts Baby in a corner.” And no one—not mothers, grandmothers, or saleswomen—puts Casie in a bridesmaid dress she doesn’t like.

text by Casie Brown

The Ties (And Sweaters) That Bind

My dad is not a modern, clothing-coveting man. He doesn’t see the point in spending money on such frivolous things and hasn’t worn a tie in almost a decade. He avoids buying new garments with the stubbornness of a child, and when he does purchase them, he always insists they remain pressed, clean, and pristine, ultimately helping him avoid shopping for longer periods of time. His classic look is a black or navy crew-neck sweater, and dark-washed jeans or corduroys. My stylish mother often totes home fashionable new things for him to don, which he stashes deep in his closet and refuses to wear.

Ever the money-saver, he always tries his hardest to return the things my mother buys for him, but he isn’t always able to do so in time. The outfits he hasn’t managed to get a full refund for have slowly accumulated in my parents’ closet, hanging there mournfully, practically shining underneath the thin layer of dust that has settled on them.

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Fereiro Family Fashion, Part 3: Mom and Dad

Parents as a species have always had a bad rap for the way they dress, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve seen my mom and dad as quite the sartorially savvy couple. One always seems to compliment the other, and no matter what they’re wearing, they fit perfectly together. When I was home a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an album of photos from early in my parents’ marriage. I can safely say one thing: my parents are cooler than yours.

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Crushing on Anja Wakeham

Anja Wakeham is a designer, tailor, and all around sewing machine. She is also my mother’s cousin. On a family trip to Germany in June, I saw (for the first time since I was 14) just how hard Anja works. Though she and her husband, Dave, took some time out of their busy work days to make us breakfast and show us around Hamburg, where they live, Anja was constantly working. From restaurant uniforms to wedding gowns to her own line of organic clothing, Anja sews it all. Luckily, I had time to hang out in Anja’s home studio and hear a little about what she does.

How did you dress as a teenager, and how has your style changed since then?

As a teenager I was a punk. When I was 15 I went to London to learn more English. When I came back after three weeks I wore my new black and white checked trousers that I bought on Carnaby Street and my hair was red. My mother’s first question was: “Does that wash out?” My style is still a bit rock ‘n’ roll, but more stylish. When I started to study fashion design, the biker style was very trendy and I made a lot of stuff out of black leather and studs for myself. That was in 1989.

How old were you when you first started sewing? Why did you start?

I was 18 when I first started sewing. I still went to school and I made trousers without a zipper, because I couldn’t do difficult things like that. I just sewed loops on them for a belt and the belt would hold them up. Some people even asked me where I got the trousers from. I always knew exacty what I wanted and so I thought it was better to be able to make it myself. It happens to me all the time with other things, like shoes, that I want something that I can’t find in a shop. Sometimes it’s in the shops a year later!
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