This is a review blog post written by Mary Grace’s sister
The list of the most important events of my life has been re-written. Before I might have mentioned certain accomplishments or moments of recognition for something I alone had achieved. Now, I would say that marriage has changed all of this. If I had to write that list today it would read: “Marrying Colin, bringing a child into the world, and having that child, Catherine, baptized.” My sister, Mary Grace, designed and made the dress I wore on my wedding day. She made the coat I wore in the hospital while in labor with Catherine. So, yes, I wanted her to make the child’s baptismal gown as well.
Originally, I had thought that it would be remarkable to use the same lace and silk that was used in my wedding skirt. It would be our new family heirloom textile. The marriage that stands at the very beginning of our family history would be represented in every major event to follow and connect all of us in our different stages of life. I love that my wedding dress was made for me with such precision and devotion, and I love knowing that my little girl is being treated in the same way on her special day.
But should she wear the same dress as her mother? Initially I thought this would be wonderful. But unfortunately it was simply impossible to use the silk panels that were used in the skirt. They were too small. Mary Grace understood that there was a way to make a gown that would reflect everything special, though practically speaking would be possible and actually the most beautiful option. This new baby is after all, Mary Grace reminded me, her own little person even though she features in our story as a family!
The gown is made of 100% silk, in its raw form that is no less stunning but has a different feel and seems a bit more durable in its matte-like finish. She used lace at the long hem, and again at the top of the gown across the chest and at the capped sleeves. The soft light had a wondrous effect as it passed through the silk layers. The color and material matched my wedding dress, and although utterly elegant was also characteristic of the simple dress worn in earlier times that showcased various forms of art, especially embroidery, as a sign of its high quality and value instead when access to costly materials and fabrics was not possible.
The style of elegance and simplicity also matched the place where the baptism was given. We were at the Venerable English College in Rome, a place of prayer and study for English priests and seminarians for almost 700 years. Many young men who have lived in this college returned home to England to be brutally martyred during the Reformation, including one dear to me, Robert Southwell. The dual nature of the gown Mary Grace made reflected the breathtaking style of the chapel as much as the style of the saints who died in their unornamented coats. My mother hand embroidered a cloth with a Ukrainian motif that connected our histories to hers, and the red and black colors paid homage to the notion that living a spiritual life is a gift, no matter the cost.
Looking at the pictures, the dress speaks of how important that day meant to us. She was dressed in a gown made for her, of the finest fabrics and in way that proclaimed her place in our family and in the larger Christian family, and indeed as a new character in the history of the entire world. I only wish I had a new Anagrassia dress of my own to wear that day! But being so close to birth, I felt more comfortable in a flowing, oversized wool Moroccan poncho.
Thanks Mary Grace for treating our special day with all the attention and care it deserved! I am already thinking of designs for Catherine’s first Communion dress!
See the baptismal gown my babcha made in these blog posts: