How Rachel Rose Designed Her So-Stunning Wedding Dress
The grandmother of all gowns.
Secret recipes, killer stories, excellent hand-me-downs—all reasons to give it up for grandma. And badass designer Rachel Rose really hammers home that last point: “Before I was even engaged, my grandmother gave me a piece of lace. I kept it out and saw it every day—I always knew I wanted to use it for something,” recalls Rachel. That something turned into her wedding dress, which she designed all by herself. Here, Rachel takes us behind the design, from her first drawings to the day she said “I do.” —alisha prakash
“My grandmother found a few pieces of lace when she was going through some old things and instantly thought of me. She wasn’t even sure where the specific piece I used came from—she bought a lot of patterns for all her daughters growing up. The strips of lace she gave me were quite small—I knew I couldn’t use it for the entire dress—and I even had to bleach them because they were old—so the first step was finding all the materials. I went to a fabric stores for satins, chiffons, laces, and crepes de chine.”
“I knew I wanted to use the lace she gave me, so I started sketching ideas of ways I could incorporate it. The sketch evolved slightly after I started looking at the fabrics. For example, I wasn’t going to have the chiffon underneath the lace, but I thought it added more fullness to the skirt. I knew I wanted something strapless because I love the sweetheart shape—it’s very flattering. I also loved a sheer overlay because of how romantic it looked on the skin. Lastly, I knew I wanted buttons on the back.”
“The top row of lace on the dress is my grandmother’s lace. The bodice has satin boning. The chiffon top is very delicate, and the buttons are self-covered with the same chiffon. There are five different pieces of lace that alternate down the dress, as well as pieces of chiffon lining each piece of lace. And underneath, the skirt has a silk lining.”
“My husband and I got married last spring at the Metropolitan Building in Long Island City, Queens. The final design was very easy to move in, sit in, dance in. I wanted to surprise my husband with the design. I was nervous about it—I wanted him to love it. And he did, so that was great.”
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The Fortunatos’ Grandmothers
They’re involved—as in, they even help with production.
Lizzie Fortunato, with constant help and occasional prodding from her business-minded twin Kathryn, has been making and selling jewelry since she was a teenager. Two of the sisters’ earliest collaborators, teachers, and inspirations were their grandmothers, who love them always—even when they don’t approve of their color palettes.
Marian Fortunato a.k.a. “Granny”
Born: February 7, 1930, in Wilmington, Delaware (where Lizzie and Kathryn also grew up)
Pictured: With Kathryn (left) and Lizzie (right)
Lizzie: “She’s very much a maternal figure. She has three sons, and she’s the grandmother who, for every one of the grandchildren, embroidered the stocking at Christmastime and made a baby blanket—and these are not bootleg baby blankets. She’s an amazing knitter. I can remember being young and traveling with my grandparents, and she was trying to teach Kathryn and I to knit mittens or something. We failed spectacularly. Since then, she really has become integral as I’ve become more interested in, say, doing needlepoint, which we used a lot in our spring/summer 2010 collection—to the point where I was having production issues and literally sent her a pile of things to make. She was like, ‘I just received your package. Can I change colors?’ She has this kind of hilarious, tell-it-as-it-is attitude.”
Kathryn: “She said, ‘I don’t really care for the neon.’ Well, Bergdorf does! For her birthday last year—it was her 80th—we made her a press book of every story that included a piece with cross-stitch. It’s undeniable that she’s had a very big role in shaping the company—the inspiration, the design, and the production.”
Hope Fremont a.k.a. “Nama”
Born: April 19, 1931, in Queens, New York
Pictured: With Lizzie at her college graduation
Kathryn: “Our maternal grandmother is this beautiful, traveling, chic, classic woman. Her first job was in the Empire State Building. She didn’t have any money to her name growing up, but she did sew. She talks about spending so much money on, like, a cuff that she embroidered onto her jacket for dinner one night—she had this appreciation for high fashion even if it wasn’t that she was buying it.”
Lizzie: “When we went to her and my grandfather’s house as a kid, she always had her sewing machine and Vogue Patterns out. She would be cutting and sewing wool coats. Her style is really just incredible.”
Kathryn: “Lizzie’s made one-off pieces for her—like gigantic coral necklaces—and they’re some of our favorites. She just wears them so marvelously. I can’t imagine a better model for them.”