Foundations

"I'm always doing things I can't do, that is how I get to do them."  

- Pablo Picasso

Most days I wake up thinking about the schedule I have micro managed myself into and feel the looming cloud of uncertainty of not knowing how to do 90% of the tasks on my list. I’m not a master corsetiere, my baby hems are less than perfect, I lose my patience far too quickly hand stitching, measuring makes my brain hurt, and I won’t even start to explain how challenged I feel working on “business” tasks.  I bet you’re asking yourself why I do what I do if all these things are true, and to be honest, I don’t have a solid answer for you. All I can say is that I’ve chosen to pursue the one thing that makes my soul happy. It doesn’t get much cornier than that. The amount of joy I get from a dress fitting that goes well is up there with how a 5-year-old child feels at Disneyland. I won’t go on saying that I enjoy every stage and process of “the making of a gown”, but there’s something about it that always brings me back and makes the pain of the process worth it.

Over the past week, I have been thinking about all of this and the concept of what foundation means, and I don’t entirely mean in just designing a wedding gown. I got to thinking about this while creating a custom bustier for my spring bride. Webster’s Dictionary defines foundation as the act of founding; a basis upon which something stands or is supported; a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid; a woman’s supporting garment. 

I'm aware that I think and feel everything very deeply as these are things I ponder while cutting and sewing mesh together for a bustier, but it really got me. This brand is about creating a personal, one-of-a-kind experience just as much as creating the perfect undergarments to enhance and make sure each bride's body looks bangin' on her wedding day. That's what these images show; the groundwork and infrastructure of a hand-made Gretchen Dawley wedding gown. It's detailed, tedious, and can take many fittings to get it just right. However, once that foundation is laid out right, the rest of the process begins to take shape and make sense. 

I hope this post finds you well and doing something you love today. For more snaps and stories about the progress of our gowns, follow us on Instagram --> @gretchendawleybridal

Here's to mesh, bra cups, and bustiers.

 

xoxo, G

* black and white photo above via clover-vintage

Dear Diary

The great Meryl Streep put it so well and so honestly when she said, "I want to feel my life while I'm in it." I once read that somewhere a few years back, and it has always stuck in my brain. Feeling your life; what a concept. Life is complex. That may seem like such a broad and understated statement, but it's a simple fact. Throughout this life, we experience moments of bliss, sadness, heart break, joy, dreams coming true, expectations crushed...all of it. The thought of feeling all of those things within this lifetime seems daunting, but there is also such a beauty in it. The thing is, I don't just want to feel my life, but I want to remember it.

There's something about sewing two pieces of gorgeous French lace together, hand-stitching scallops along a neckline or hem, and the way it feels to take a pencil to paper with a new vision or idea. All of those things evoke a certain 'feeling' for me that may mean nothing to the next person, but means the world to me. Whether it be the sketching phase or the final fitting phase of a wedding gown's creation, to me it's never been just about making a pretty dress. It's about telling a story, awakening an emotion, or showcasing a woman in a way that shows exactly who she is and what she's trying to say with what she's wearing down the aisle. 

I recently started a design diary simply to remember my creations with sketches, swatches, and photos. Being my nostalgia-loving self, I wanted to keep a record that would bring me back to that 'feeling' by looking at the strokes of the pencil, the feel of the fabric, and images of the bride in the gown that was meant for her. I'd like to invite you along on this journey with me, and share tidbits of my diary with you from time to time. 

This first entry going into my diary has a major soft spot in my heart. It's the memory of the first Gretchen Dawley custom gown. It belongs to the beautiful Kayla Gilbert. Kayla actually came to me at 12-years-old asking me to make her gown and kept her word 10+ years later. This beauty is my cousin and lifelong best friend. It's so special that of all people, she would be my first bride. The dress-making process, especially for my first one, was challenging and time consuming, but the end product was worth all the sleepless nights; not to mention, the extra time we got to spend together through the process. The dress fit her like a glove and embodied her romantic, lovely demeanor. It featured a built-in bustier to accentuate her hourglass figure, blush silk satin topped with ivory French alencon lace, French scallops along every neckline and hem, and 85 covered buttons down the back of the gown. Every detail made this gown completely one-of-a-kind and unique for Kayla. Going back down memory lane looking through these photos, makes my heart flutter just thinking about how perfect she looked and how lucky I was to get to dress her on one of her favorite days to date. 

This one's for you, Kay.

 

xoxo, G

LOLA - LOST IN HAVANA

I guess you could say I was an interesting 13-year-old girl being obsessed with learning about the Cold War. While girls my age were checking out the newest Nicholas Sparks novels from the library, I was checking out anything that had to do with world history from the 1930s to 1989 with my biggest obsession being Cuba. There was something I couldn't shake about a Caribbean country with so much flavor, culture, and life becoming one of America's hardest relationships-putting it as nicely as possible. The fact that it was a country literally stuck in a time capsule and nearly impossible for Americans to even travel to for over 50 years was enticing in itself. 

When I decided to let myself even dream about starting my own line of wedding gowns, I knew that I wanted my aesthetic for Gretchen Dawley bridal to be vintage-inspired since I have lived in nostalgia land since I was a little girl. After having a dream one night of me walking through the streets of Havana draped in silk chiffon, I took it as a sign that Cuba would be the inspiration and driving force behind my first collection. I chose to focus in on 1950s Havana because that was a very crucial time in Cuba's history. The country was on the brink of a revolution and political change, but it was also a time of high society and nightlife where you could see the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole performing on any given night. 

After years of dreaming and romanticsizing, I recently got to live my dream of traveling to Havana. It far exceeded my high expectations, becoming one of my most favorite experiences to date. Before I left, I wanted to create a piece to play with conceptually while I was there. My purpose was for it to give the feel of what I want this collection to embody: high society, the salsa culture, and the beautiful decay of the architecture. I found a 1950s knee-length negligee at a thrift store and transformed it into a slip dress. The Lola slip dress gives a sexy, high society feel, but plays with the mixing of fabrication to show distress. It was incredible finally getting to run through the streets of Havana literally draped in silk chiffon. Some dreams really do come true.

All photos were taken in Habana Vieja by the talented Sharlene Durfey. She is a Los Angeles-based photographer who specializes in fashion editorial making iconic imagery with whoever she comes into contact with. I had the privilege of traveling with her, gathering inspiration, and exploring the magical land of Cuba. For photo inquiries, you can contact her at sharlene.durfey@gmail.com. 

Happy Monday!

 

xoxo, G