The idea behind this creative venture formed when I saw the flower crown trend. I was talking with a friend and venting about how I was so ready to see flower crowns go and she said, "oh, I love boho." I thought, I love boho too, but that is a style, flower crowns are a trend. That one thought brought about a week-long thought train on the difference between trends and styles. Timeless and trendy, could you have both? Yes, I think you can, if you find the timeless elements inside of the trends. Which at their core, we call style. What's more important is finding the style that fits you? Often times people adopt a trend that may not match their lifestyle at all, but for the sake of being on trend, they go with.
As a wedding gown designer, I think the sweetest weddings are the weddings that encompass who the bride and groom are, because that core style rarely changes. That way in ten years, the bride does not look back and cringe over the giant shoulder pads in her wedding dress or the obnoxious amount of burlap and babies breath in the wedding décor. Instead, ideally, a bride should be able to look back on her wedding pictures in ten years and say, "look at us, what a great day that was."
     So, my next question was, "how do I make that more than just an idea? How can I show that this concept is possible?" The idea hit me! I could take gown inspiration from three different eras and design one wedding that would fit all three gowns, complete with paper suite and custom drinks tailored to each era. I chose the 1850s, 1920s, and 2010s as my inspiration periods. I created a gown that is close to period correct for the 1850s but has some modern touches thrown in. I created a 1920s inspired wedding gown from repurposed materials. The only new materials used in the dress are the zipper and thread. A major part of my designs are reclaimed elements that help reduce fashion waste. My modern day design is a gorgeous candle light silk dupioni gown with a tulle overlay and train. This dress is also about 80% recycled elements. After I had the dress designs, then came the hard part, assembling a team.
     I knew that I wanted to use local small businesses owned by other creative-minded women. Because more than just this shoot, I really wanted to start a movement. A movement for people to live timeless, not trendy. To be proud of what makes up who they are and to carry that through to their wedding. What better way to start a strong, female empowered movement than strong empowered females? As this was my first shoot, I needed a stylist and photoshoot director that would guide me and keep me on track. In steps Sarah Levey, stylist and owner of The Southern Atelier in Fairhope, Alabama. We clicked immediately and she really bought into my vision. She brought in with her Leslie Bradley, an interior designer,  as a co-stylist focusing on set design. Then came Caitlen Babb, photographer and owner of Caitlen Babb Photography. She brought her sweet, but concise structure to the project. Her eye for capturing the details led to the beautiful pictures we produced. After that came floral and props provided by Jubilee Events and Design, owned by Maranda Sigler-Godwin. She has the eye for flowers and expertly provided the small touches we needed to tie everything together. I believe I gave Diane Holdsambeck, owner of My Lady Dye, the biggest challenge in creating a paper suite that would compliment all three time periods. She certainly delivered with her elegant hand lettered, hand torn paper suite. She went above and beyond with custom gold wax seals and vintage postage stamps. Her attention to detail really shines through in her work. After that came Shannon Munday, an extremely talented baker. She created a beautiful three tiered naked cake that tasted just as amazing as it looked. Usually cakes either look good or taste good, but rarely do you find a cake that does both. This cake though, was the best cake I have ever had. I was amazed. Lauren Elizabeth, owner of Mobile Mixology, created seven amazing drinks for the shoot. The drinks were beautiful, coordinated with the overall theme and color scheme, and were the extra touch to put any event over the top. She tailored the drink menu to each era.   
               For 1850s:
               1. Le Fizz- it's a vodka drink that's clear and fizzy (sparkly).
               2. English Garden- gin drink with herbs and citrus

               For 1920s:
               1. Jaded Lady- absinthe drink
               2. Sidecar- bourbon drink
               3. Manhattan- bourbon drink

               For 2010s:
               1. Green machine- gin drink
               2. Coolers- cathead vodka base with floral ice cubes and garnishes
Vodka provided by Cathead Vodka, a Mississippi based Vodka company. They provided a bottle of their honeysuckle vodka as well as their pecan vodka, true southern taste.
Bliss Bridal boutique, owned by Katie Ward and located in Fairhope, Alabama supplied us with beautiful hair jewelry while the rest of the jewelry worn was from private collections. Finding hair and makeup took some time but at last Sarah found the perfect women to round out our team. Chaney Smith worked her magic with hair, while Ashley West used her airbrush makeup skills to transform our models. Our models were Katy Harrington, Sarah Levey, and myself. It was magical watching these women work. I felt so honored to be able to bring such incredible talent together to create what is hopefully the start of a movement. They showed up and were masters of their respective art.
     We set out to show how one can take any time period and make the look timeless. Each look is easily recognized for its era but could also be worn today. Taking the trends of the past and extracting the timeless style, carrying it through with each look. The goal of the shoot was to show that it is possible to be timeless and trendy, one just has to be true to one's own style. Because trends come and go, but style lasts forever.

I would like to thank all of the vendors for contributing to this shoot! I could not have done it without yall!


Designer/Coordinator- Wisteria Way Designs, www.wisteriawaydesigns.com

Styist-The Southern Atelier, www.thesouthernatelier.com

Co-Stylist-Leslie Bradley

Photographer- Caitlen Babb Photography, www.caitlenbabbphotos.com

Floral- Jubilee Events and Design, www.jubileeeventsanddesign.com

Stationer-My Lady Dye, www.myladydye.com

Makeup Artist-Ashley West, www.ashleywestmua.com

Hairstylist-Chaney Smith

Mixology- Mobile Mixology

Baker-Shannon Munday

Alcohol-Cathead Vodka, www.catheadodka.com

Hair Jewelry-Bliss Bridal, www.beablissbride.com

Models- Katy Harrington (@katylaraeofficial)

              Sarah Levey (@thesouthernatelier)

              Lacie Lindy Phillips (@wisteriawaydesigns)

When life hands you nothing

     Hey there. You. My friend. Lets be real for a minute. No, this is not going to be an upbeat happy post about how when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. This is about when life hands you NOTHING. Life is just sitting over there watching you and eating popcorn with resting b**** face waiting to see what happens next. Everyone either has been there, is there, or is going to be there at some point in their lives and its real. Real, messy, real messy, real hard, real scary, real sad, just plain real. Your emotions are fileted, your nerves are shot, your soul is so tired you don't know how much longer you can be strong. Let me tell you a little story....

     My husband was a coal miner in 2016 making great money. We had just built a house on beautiful land and moved in the night before Thanksgiving. We had finally accomplished all the goals we had set out when we first got married. We were happyish. He was never home, he was always tired, but we were comfortable. Sure, I missed him but life is life right? December 28, 2016 I am sitting at Chic-fil-et (a moms best friend) with my two girls when I got the call from my husband telling me that he had been laid off. This was right after Christmas, the day after my birthday. So I packed up the kids, drove home with a brave face, and greeted my husband with all the love I had to give. I knew we were both sad and more than a little scared. Our faith makes us strong but we are still human, we still look for that next step. We decided that we would look at it as a vacation. We had our savings and the company had assured us that it would most likely be only a month before they would call him back. And seeing as it was hunting season, my husband looked on the bright side.

     Two weeks later found me sitting in my children's bathroom while everyone was napping with a pregnancy test. Those two little blue lines have never scared me so much. OK, now we were out of a job and expecting the unexpected. Still, we felt that though God obviously had a sense of humor, he would take care of us. Our insurance was still good, one of the perks of being a coal miner, laid off or not. So everything went along fine. January turned into February, February into March, March into April (still no sign of going back to work). April rolls around and we get a letter that our insurance is going to be cut off because the company is filing for bankruptcy and the money for insurance has run out. Well, great. What do we do? We pray. We contemplate all of the possible avenues of getting insurance that are available to us. Then my husband gets a call from a company with a job offer. We are ecstatic! It is not the same money we were making but it is a job and with so many people out there looking, we were happy with the offer. The only downside was that he would have to work there 60 days before he would be eligible for insurance. 

     We are still living off of savings and now I have to pay for private insurance for two months because we cant be without insurance with two kids and one on the way. When you are pregnant, the doctor wants to see you all of the time. So here we go, $850 a month for insurance that was ultimately never even filed on. He starts the job, we tell our family that we are expecting (at five months, no one even guessed I was pregnant), and life seemed to be settling out. Now we are going along into around August. Almost nothing in savings, but making it.  My son was born the end of September and my husband got a week off. No one tells you how crazy it is going from two kids to three kids. I figured nothing could be harder than going from one to two, but that was relatively easy compared to going from two to three. It didn't help that I had post partum depression and would cry at the drop of the hat. But everything leveled out after about two months. We are into November now and celebrating one year in the house! Yay!

     An explosion happens at my husbands work. Thankfully no one is hurt, but a very important piece of equipment is damaged. My husband comes home with the news, there is another lay off. Last hired and all, he was laid off with a severance package and a notice that our insurance would end shortly after. REALLY life, these are not lemons! We hit our knees in prayer again. This time we have no savings. Its December 6th and our kids having nothing under the tree. We are tired, weary, sad, raw. Again? What did we not learn the first time? We need to catch our breath! We need a break! We need to know that there is an end to this seemingly endless up hill battle! In the middle of the storm, it is hard to remember that there are blue skies just above the grey. We held on to each other and our family and we didn't let go. Some days he would be down and I would lift him up. Some days I would be down and he would be my rock. We did as much as we could to keep life the same for our children.

     News reached us that they were calling people back to the mines. I hated for him to even think of going back. It is dangerous, stressful work. It is the kind of work that makes you hold on a little longer than normal when you see them out the door to work. The kind that makes you wait up for them to get home at night. And it is the kind of job that my husband went back to on December 19th with full insurance and benefits starting that day. A sacrifice for his family. One that I both admire and hate all at the same time. And this is where we stand. Holding onto one another, taking life day by day, and waiting for the clouds to part so that we can catch the rays of sunshine when they come through. Following my passion is one of those rays. Chasing the light is a term used by natural light photographers that really stuck with me. They use light for capturing beautiful pictures and preserving happiness. Chasing the light in life means finding those rays of hope, even in the storm. Those little moments that refresh you enough to help you keep on going. The balm that doesn't heal the soul, but soothes it enough to get you to another day.

     Sometimes life hands you lemons, sometimes it pummels you with lemons, and sometimes it doesn't bother picking lemons and throws the whole tree. Use those times to grow and learn, adapt and breath. Those are life lessons that help you along. And then sometimes, life doesn't hand you a damn thing. It sits back and watches you crash and burn over and over. It lets you drift on the ocean with no goal or purpose in sight. There is no cliff hanger to get through, climax or antagonist. Most of the time these moments sneak up on you. You go through the motions and go through the motions and suddenly one day become aware of the fact that you haven't had a break in months. You keep trying your hardest and nothing seems to change. Your nerves are shot, you feel like you have lost control and you just want everything to stop. Just let you breath. Let you see the light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel. Give you a chance to analyze how to adjust course and get back to calmer seas.

     That is the time when you have to stop trying to find a stopping point, but make one. Stop and breath. Stop and say a prayer. Stop and look for the good, the light. Because once you look for it you will find it. It is there, even in my story. Yes we were laid off and it was hard. But I got to spend time with my husband and he got to spend time with his family. Yes we had an unexpected child, but I love my son more than anything and he has been the happiest blessing. Yes, we barely got by for a long time and it was truly scary, but we leaned on each other and our faith was strengthened. There truly is light, even in the dark, even when life hands you nothing. Even when life hands you nothing....chase the light.


Whisper in the hurricane

     I have found myself lately comparing what I do, my business, to big businesses. I went down the avenue of thinking that maybe custom design was not a sustainable business, even though it is what I love to do. I tossed around the idea of making a few designs that I could mass produce in various colors to sell because that is what the more established businesses do. That is what makes fast money.  But then I had this thought, that being a small business is like being a whisper in the middle of a hurricane. A whisper that reaches out and pulls you in, in the commercial den of today's society. You will never find me on TV shouting about how wonderful my designs are and how you should buy them today! You will never see me in a pop up add on your computer screen. But you will still find me. I will be in the conversation you have with a friend, who just couldn't find what they were looking for in stores. I will grab your attention when you attend the wedding of a coworker and ask, "where did you get your dress?" and she says, "oh let me introduce you, she is right over here!" I will be the person sitting next to you at the coffee shop, sketching out designs and striking up a conversation with you about Alabama football.

    That is the beauty of a small business. We are so unlike our big business counter parts. I am my business, my business is me. When you buy from me, you are getting not only a product, you are getting a friend. If you walk into a department store, you may find someone to point you to what you are looking for, but it certainly wont be the designer of the clothing or the owner of the company. Chances are, the designer nor the owner, have even laid eyes on what they are selling you. But when you buy from a small business, like myself, you are buying a labor of love. You are buying the product of someone's passion. Most times, you are speaking personally to the owner and creator of the product you are buying. Most times, you are more than a client to them, you are a friend. When you buy from a small business, especially a creative business, you are saying "I see you, and I get it!" You are saying, "I connect with what you make and I find value in your passion." You are not just buying a product, you are validating someone's journey in life.

     When all of these thoughts came to me, I knew I was on the right path. I am not out to get rich quick. I am not out to mass produce a line of clothing. That is not what I want. Honestly, I just want to make art you live your life in. I want to see your face light up when I get it right. I want to listen to your stories and understand your journey in life. I want to know your passion and I want to help you show your authentic self on your special day. I am invested in your journey, not just your pocket book. And buying from me means you are invested in me and my journey. There is more than just money involved in our transaction. 

      I love finding old pieces of fabric, that used to be beautiful, but are now in the bottom of the thrift store bin, and creating something beautiful with them. I feel fulfilled when I look at an old table cloth and the pieces in my brain just slide together to form a beautiful dress that someone will want. The process I go through when designing for someone is similar to finding that piece at the bottom of the bin. I listen the your stories, get to know your passions, taking all of you into account when I go to make something for you. I get to know you on a personal level, not just your measurements or your preferences. I design to fit the soul, not just the body.

     Me, I design. I create. I sew. I touch every piece of fabric and stitch every seam myself. When I release a garment to someone, I release a little bit of myself out into the world. To be judged, to be found worthy or wanting. It is just as personal for me as it is for you. I may never get rich. I may never have a big factory of people producing my designs. I may not create things that can be mass produced, and I am ok with that. I am ok with finding the things that set me apart and relishing in them. Because that it what real beauty is! It is our differences that make us beautiful. Humans are not mass produced in the same shapes and sizes and styles and backgrounds. We are all different and beautiful. My designs are meant to reflect the soul, and no two souls are alike. So I concluded that, though the hurricane may get more attention, it is just more noise in an already noisy world. It is the whisper that draws people in. It is the whisper that makes people stop, be still and really take notice to what is being said. I choose to be the whisper, the intimate calm in a noisy world.

Following your passion

Shouldn't we, on those special days, get to wear a reflection of who we are? Are you ready? Inspire me

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Wisteria Way Designs Tuscaloosa, Alabama {205-861-0280} Wisteriawaydesigns@gmail.com