Like many young girls who dream of wearing a one-of-a-kind dress on their wedding day, Naomi Pirrone knew exactly what she wanted for her big day. She also knew she would only be able to fulfil her vision if a seamstress made it for her – but not just any seamstress.
“My grandmother, Grace Camilleri, is a seamstress, and for many years she worked in the local film industry, designing costumes for numerous productions,” says Naomi. “She’s also been sewing my clothes for as long as I can remember, and being the only girl among many boys in our family, she’s been telling me she’ll sew my wedding dress since I was a young girl.”
Although Naomi shopped around for dresses, none of the dresses she tried on stood out, and none of them compared to what she had in mind. “It was a bit of a dilemma for me to decide because my fiancé, Mauro, often told me he didn’t like big dresses, whereas I knew I wanted a pretty big dress. I remember him telling me jokingly ‘don’t come to the church in a lampshade’,” she laughs.
In the end, Naomi went with her gut, and designed a splendid, couture-inspired dress that took months for her grandmother to complete together with the invaluable help of her mother. “I wanted the dress to have a lot of detail, but not in the modern sense with lots of embellishment. I didn’t want shiny or shimmery details, but rather a simple dress with lots of texture. As an interior designer, my work definitely played a part in the vision I had for this dress.”
With her grandmother having sewn for her many times before, Naomi knew what suited her, and opted for a corseted bodice inspired by a Dior design she had seen, to accentuate her waist. As for the skirt, it was a full skirt all around, but with a lot more volume at the back, partly intended to strike a balance between what she wanted and what her husband liked.
The most impressive part of this wedding dress, however, is the fabric, which was painstakingly created by her grandmother, and sewn largely by hand. “The feathered effect was created using strips of silk organza, cut five centimetres wide, of which two centimetres were frayed by hand. Each strip was then hand-sewn onto an underskirt that my grandmother also made.”
The underskirt, although hidden under all the fabric, was the backbone of Naomi’s wedding dress – but it had to be done twice. “For the first one, my grandmother used a canvas fabric, which turned out to be too heavy. Although I wanted the fabric and the dress to appear weighty, the skirt had to attach to the corset, so it couldn’t be too heavy,” says Naomi. “She re-did the underskirt using a sheer fabric, which I initially didn’t like as it was too transparent, so to solve that issue, she added feathers in between, which created a wonderfully quilted effect.”
Choosing the main fabric for the dress wasn’t straightforward either. “To achieve the feathered effect, the material needed to look light, but also had to fray properly. Many materials curve at the edges when frayed, and because we had many strips under each other, we needed the edges to remain straight,” Naomi explains. “The colour was also an issue – I didn’t want it to be brilliant white, but neither cream, which is why we opted for silk organza in the end, as the silk had just the right colour, and the perfect amount of shine to it.”
Being such an unusual and fashion-forward design, Naomi says that communicating her idea to her grandmother wasn’t easy at first, and there were plenty of disagreements along the way too. “My grandma is 77, but because she spent such a long time working in the film industry, she’s not a conservative person at all, and she’s used to making clothes that are out of the ordinary and a little more complicated than usual. However, her techniques are old-school – she may have taken more time to complete the dress, but that’s what makes it more authentic in my eyes.”
It took the seamstress around six months to make the dress from start to finish, working all week long, sometimes up to 10 hours a day, and she was still adding new panels to the back of the dress up to one month before the wedding. In addition to this dress, Grace made another two dresses for Naomi – one to change into during the reception and the other for going away – as well as the bridesmaids’ dresses, the mother of the bride’s dress, outfits for the page boys, and her own dress to wear to the wedding, which she started working on just two days before the big day.
Asked if they encountered any hiccups along the way, Naomi laughs – “Yes, me! We initially bought 20 metres of fabric, but as the dress developed, we saw that the closer the strips were to each other, the nicer the effect of the dress. So we ordered another 20 metres, but until it was ordered and arrived, it was a little stressful!” she asserts. “The corset was another complicated part – my grandmother designed it in great detail, but I didn’t want the frayed fabric to stick out too much on top, to keep the attention on the shape of the corset, so we changed the design in order for the strips to be extremely thin on top and get wider further down the dress.”
The process was a long and arduous one, but Naomi says she wouldn’t have been able to achieve what she envisioned with any other seamstress. “I felt comfortable telling her if things weren’t as I wanted them to be, and was able to go into a lot more detail, and be open with her to achieve exactly what I wanted,” says Naomi. “It wasn’t easy for her – she had a lot to do and it was challenging both physically and mentally. But on the day, she said all the hard work was worth it.”
On the day of the wedding, 16th June 2018, Naomi had her grandmother nearby to help her into the dress, and no one knew how to fasten it better than its creator! “My mother was fastening it up at first, but it wasn’t feeling right. Being a proper corset, my grandmother had to take over to lace up the back and then pull up the zip – she knew exactly what to do.” Did the bride envision that her dream dress would turn out as it did? “Yes, exactly as it did, with the colour and all!”