A loving mom and couture dressmaker has helped realize her daughter's dream wedding dress, and the result is a timeless, classic gown that wowed guests and groom alike.
Mom of two and dressmaker Louise Wardlaw, 59, was born in Surrey, England, and moved to California at the age of 30. Today, she lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Her youngest daughter, 26-year-old Arabella Fumia, is a special education teacher in Nashville.
'It Would Be So Special'
"Growing up, I think it was one of those things I almost took for granted," Ms. Fumia told The Epoch Times. "She would make our prom dresses, our friends' prom dresses, our debutante dresses, then later in life we started having friends getting married, so she would make guest dresses."
However, only after moving away and noticing that others didn't grow up with their moms making their dresses, did Ms. Fumia realize how unique her dresses were.
"When the time came of me picking out a wedding dress, I told her, 'Obviously, Mom, I want you to make my dress. ... it would be so special,'" she said.
While Ms. Wardlaw was humbled by the opportunity, she also knew that she and her daughter worked very differently. The mom of two described Ms. Fumia as a perfectionist.
"I am an artist, so we do work very differently together, but it was incredible," Ms. Wardlaw said. "The main problem for me was that she would not make up her mind what she wanted until eight weeks before the wedding!"
Ms. Fumia and her mom had tried on dresses when the bride-to-be and her now-husband, Chris Fumia, got engaged. Eventually, they settled on an elegant A-line design with delicate lace trim at the bodice. Ms. Wardlaw sourced some Chantilly lace from Los Angeles, which her daughter, luckily, loved.
To enhance the look, Ms. Wardlaw created a long overskirt that was hooked on the dress at the waistline, and for the veil, she combined leftover samples of the lace fabric.
In addition to being tasked with the bridal gown, Ms. Wardlaw also made Ms. Fumia's rehearsal dinner dress, dresses for the flower girl, the ring bearer, herself, and her daughter's 10 bridesmaids.
"I wanted all the styles to be very cohesive," said Ms. Fumia, who did much of the wedding planning herself. "A lot of my bridesmaids were the girls that [my mom] made prom dresses for, that I grew up with, that have kind of been with us along this whole journey."
A ProcessWith a huge task ahead of her, Ms. Wardlaw turned a room at her house in Nashville into "the perfect sewing room." Yet without her team of seamstresses–she previously owned and ran the dressmaking company Louise Tryphena in California–she "cranked out" all the dresses by herself, sewing for up to six hours a day.
"I really enjoyed the weird therapy of being in my sewing room, listening to my podcasts, and just carrying on," she said. "It was a process, but it was a really fun process because I'd retired, and I wasn't making 50 wedding dresses, like I used to, a year."
Each bridesmaid's dress took about six hours to complete. Fittings were challenging since the bridesmaids were spread out between California, New York, and Nashville.
Meanwhile, Ms. Fumia's dress took 24 cumulative hours to complete, and the bride was a part of every step.
A Very Surreal MomentMs. Fumia had her final fitting a week before the wedding. As is typical for brides, Ms. Wardlaw said, she'd lost weight; the entire bodice of the dress was removed, altered, and refitted.
Wearing the dress for the first time, Ms. Fumia said: "It kind of felt like that typical process of a fitting, then alterations, and then a dress. It felt like that process that I've done with her my whole life. But then when I put the veil on, it was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is my wedding dress!'"
On the day of the wedding, the ensemble was completed with a beautiful brooch that every woman in her family got married with—which was added to her wedding dress at the top of the buttons on her lower back.
"It felt like it all came together, and it was just kind of a very surreal moment," Ms. Fumia said.
Ms. Fumia tied the knot with Mr. Fumia in front of 250 guests at The Ranch in Laguna Beach, California, on June 3.
Ms. Fumia's elegant dress, and Ms. Wardlaw's handiwork, made a huge impression on all the wedding guests and, not least of all, on the groom. Ms. Fumia credited her mom's work on the back of the wedding order of service, and Mr. Fumia made sure to mention his mother-in-law during his wedding speech.
"He said, 'If you've ever had a dress or a clothing garment either made or altered by Louise, can you please stand up?'" Ms. Fumia said. "I think it was basically ninety percent of the audience all stood up, everyone's just clapping, and the photographer got this really cool picture of her, smiling and listening."
As for the dress itself, Ms. Fumia said she got comments from the guests saying they couldn't believe how detailed the dress was.
"A lot of people said it was timeless, and that all of us really were amazed by the dress," she said.
The couple honeymooned in Italy before holding a second ceremony in London, England, on June 23 for the sake of the bride's 93-year-old grandmother. Ms. Wardlaw altered all dresses in the wedding party to make them suitable for a more casual event.
"It was afternoon tea in England, we didn't all need to be in long dresses," she said. "There were just 50 people, and it was my little girl in the church that my husband had grown up in."
A Lifelong PassionMs. Wardlaw was severely dyslexic growing up, a condition that was ignored by her school. Her mother enrolled her at the London College of Fashion, which she attended in 1983, working two jobs concurrently to keep up with tuition. Having learned to sew from her grandmother, she specialized in fashion design and pattern making.
Her first company, named Weasel Inc., was based in London. After moving to California, Ms. Wardlaw became a stay-at-home mom but soon returned to her passion by making drapes for a friend, working in interior design, and, eventually, forming Louise Tryphena. She retired in 2018.
Her daughter's wedding was a reminder of her immense skill and lifelong passion.
"It was ridiculously emotional," she told The Epoch Times. "I'm still quite elated by the whole thing. ... it's actually a very liberating feeling to know that it's done, and it worked, and she liked it."