When a woman typically states, “the Dress”, she refers to her wedding dress, but if you have followed the Labl blog and Labl studio Facebook page, you might guess the dress worn by Shania Twain. I met Shania Twain the weekend she was inaugurated into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, but it was not to be a simple task; this dress was quite the drama situation.
It all started the Friday night, a day and a half before the big event. The call came in at midnight. On the other end of the phone was a stylist panicking to the point of tears, it seemed, and in a desperate voice asked if I would come with her to fit a client the next morning. She explained that the client did not live in Canada, but had travelled to Toronto two days before, was receiving an award, and needed to be fitted to perfection. She said that she had tried pinning the dress, but with all the beading, she realized that this was a job for the professionals, and so was asking to put it my hands. She asked if I was up to the task: rush jobs, personalized fittings, hand beading, and any other complex tasks. I assured her that Labl studio had been doing this for over 10 years, “but one question”, I asked, ” who would I be working with?”, “Oh, Shania Twain”. The next day bright and early, I was at her hotel, with the stylist, as we waited to be called up to Shania’s room. I had come as prepared as one can be to an impromptu fitting. Not having seen the dress, I sat in the lobby, only to imagine every possible issue a dress can have and the possible solutions. After a 20 minute wait, we received a call from Shania’s manager, Shania’s sister, “We are ready for you.”
Arriving at the suite, I could not help noticing all the people present and the different clothes that had been brought for Shania, some dress options for her big event, others, wardrobe requests from the singer/songwriter for her next travel adventure down south immediately following her Toronto stay.
It was a calm experience being introduced to a personality that I had always seen in a 2 dimensional way. Shania was shorter than I expected, a mature woman in her forties, but very kind eyes and great smile. Once she had tried on her gown, I went to work. The dress was too big in the sequence encrusted bodice and so the alteration had to be equally distributed between the side seams and the centre back seam, where an invisible zipper was placed. Also, the hem was far too long, needless to say.
I made an appointment to return the gown later that afternoon for a 2nd fitting, excused myself, and was off to work. Arriving at my studio, I addressed the work required: in order to alter the dress. I first had to remove all the sequence beading around the side seams and cd (centre back) seam by hand, while also affixing the remaining beads. Because removing one sequence beads leads to all the surrounding beads falling out, this task required firstly that I take a picture, then, deciding which sequence stayed and which were to be removed and then stitching down all the sequences to remain at a 3″ perimeter, then I began the task to remove all the remaining beads, while safely keeping all the beads in a safe place.
This task was very painstaking, I can assure you as the fabrication was a soft netting, so avoiding the creation of holes with my seam ripper was very crucial. Hours later, I was ready to alter the dress, seams were altered and the zipper was removed and re sewn. With minutes to spare, I packed up the gown and made my way back the the lobby I had found myself only hours before. Once again with Shania’s stylist, the minute we got the call up, we were off.
For the second time, standing with Shania Twain in her gown, we both accessed the alteration and the look she wanted and made a few more changes. The dress fit like a glove, would be hemmed perfectly, for her 5 1/2″ heels and to everyone’s delight would be ready for 8am that Sunday morning. Everyone was happy, but I had a dress to hand bead: it was going to be a long night. Back at the studio I tweaked the final changes to “the Dress” , referred to the photo I had taken of the beading earlier and started my task that would last long into the night and into the wee hours of the morning.
At 7 :10am, I placed the last sequence bead in stitched the last stitch. This incredible journey was almost at its’ end. As I packed up the gown, I lamented the fact that I had no time for a shower, new outfit, or make-up. I had little time to make it for 8am and so off I went. On my third visit to the hotel, I knew the drill too well. I got comfortable in my seat, laid the dress on my lap, as to not to crease it, and put my smile on. When we were called up this time, I felt an excitement surge inside me and passing off the dress to Shania Twain was a thrill. I had shared my artistry with a wonderful artist and she was going to show case my work to all of Canada and the world.
Later that day I received a call from a woman congratulating me for my work. She represented the store where the gown was purchased in Cumberland Lanes. What a crazy ride, of turns and twists with a surprise ending.
I loved every minute of it.