It’s not every day you get to walk down 5th Avenue in a red gown but...I was lucky enough to walk in the Columbus Day Parade in a red gown designed by a Sicilian designer in October 2014 as part of a series of three “red, white, and green” dresses that make up the Italian flag. These dresses were designed by Francesca Paterno, a renowned Sicilian designer and dear friend of mine, based in Catania, Sicily. She had won multiple awards for the craftsmanship, symbolism, and beauty of this set of dresses. The Italian Consulate invited her to showcase her work in the iconic New York City Columbus Day Parade but the dresses couldn’t walk themselves. Fortunately, the red dress happened to be just my size so when Francesca asked me to walk the parade in this dress, I could not have been more honored!
Walking in the parade allows you to see the world from a new perspective. To see all the Italians and Italian-Americans lined up along the street cheering, dressed up and beaming with pride truly filled my heart with joy. A once in a lifetime experience that would have never been if it weren’t for meeting and connecting with my now friend Francesca Paternó. Francesca had designed my dream wedding dress a few months prior and we bonded throughout the process. I initially met her at New York Bridal Week in the fall of 2013 where she was exhibiting her work. A cousin of mine had sent me an article from a local newspaper that a Sicilian designer would be making an appearance at NYBW and suggested that I meet her. At first I thought the idea of having my wedding dress made in another country was never something I could never do being the control freak that I am. But when I met Francesca, her professionalism and attention to detail was unparalleled! Before she headed back to Sicily, she took my measurements, asked me all the details of what i wanted in the dress, she drew up a sketch, and got the ball rolling!
Francesca assured me that everything would go smoothly and that her seamstress would be there through every step of the process, including on my wedding day. I hadn’t realized how valuable it was to have her there the day of the wedding until that day came. And Fortunately, the seamstress was there on my wedding day because i kept shedding weight and she was taking in my dress up until thirty minutes prior to leaving for the church!
The most nerve wracking part of the process was not being able to see the dress throughout the process. I flew to Catania for a fitting inFebruary of 2014 and then didn’t see the dress until the week of the wedding!! But the dress was worth the wait. From the hand-beaded crystal straps to the French lace, every inch of my dress embodied me and the look I aspired to capture.
As a result of this, I was over the moon when Francesca reached out to me again asking me if I wanted to participate in the parade wearing her gown! It was an honor to be the “red” to the Italian flag and to be a part of such a meaningful tradition. Embracing my Italian heritage is definitely something that I like to do loudly and proudly!