My Mom…Sew Awesome

Use these on paper and you will FEEL Roxana's wrath!

I saw a meme today about the consequences of using fabric scissors to cut paper. I laughed.

I laughed because it reminds me of my mother, Roxana. She’s a remarkable seamstress and, though my brothers and I were a rowdy bunch, we knew to stay the f*ck away from the fabric scissors.

Build a fire in the backyard and you will be scolded. Use the pinking shears on your construction paper and you will be so passionately shamed that the mere memory of the incident will bring you to tears decades later, when you finally have the strength to face it.

Roxana never played with dolls as a child. Instead, she designed and sewed little outfits for them.

In her childhood photo album (an absolute treasure not only because all the photography, layout, and captions were compiled by a 12-year-old, but because we lost the majority of our family photo albums earlier this year in a tragic fire), there are a series of photographs of young Roxana in half a dozen outfits. A play jumper, a formal dress, skirts, blouses…these were my mother’s summer vacation projects.

Once in high school and already an expert in clothing construction, Roxana asked the school counselor if she could register for the Introduction to Architecture class.

“Oh, I don’t think you want to do that,” the counselor said. “You’ll be the only girl there.”

It was back to the sewing machine for Roxana. A few years later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics from UC Davis.

Then, many years later, she had a little girl.

She taught me the basics but I never really took to it. Not like her.

Instead, I would sketch designs for the clothes that I wanted (mostly my Halloween costumes) and she’d make the pattern and sew it. Decisions for color, fabric, and closures were a collaborative effort.

She made my punk-rock-inspired prom dress out of pleather. She made my beautiful satin gown when I was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding.

And, of course, she made my wedding dress.

We both knew this was the project we had trained for. We found a Vogue design that was perfect…simple and elegant. The dress had no need for beading or boning and my mother was thrilled.

“If you wanted all that sparkly stuff, I would’ve done it for you…but I would not have been happy,” she said.

What we thought was simple turned into something more complicated.

“Stop losing weight!” my mother told me as she had to take in the dress for the twelfth time.

We didn’t finish the hem until the day before the rehearsal dinner.

I was hunched over in the sewing room, sobbing with my face buried in my hands. To add to this humiliating scene, I was only wearing my nude-colored Spanx and bustier as my mom spread my dress on the floor.

“Oh, Lilia,” she said. “I’m so sorry…I didn’t want it to be like this.”

I reassured her. I wasn’t mad. I was just overwhelmed and probably suffering from malnourishment.

Today, we laugh together about the whole thing.

“I’ll never sew another wedding dress again,” she always says.


I want this one to be just for us…

Photo by Ryan & Denise Photography.

"Phew! We made it!"

Photo by Ryan & Denise Photography.

My mother's brilliant work.

All wedding photos taken by ryan & denise photography. Hire them because they are totally the best ever in the world, I promise.