shore nearby. Federico swore to himself that one day, his own ideas and hands would make his grandfather proud.
As soon as Federico was old enough to hold a pencil, he started to draw pieces that he intended to create. Grandfather’s approving nods and sparkling eyes with half-suns at their corners were everything Federico needed for encouragement. With infinite patience, the old man taught his grandson the basics of his vocation. Sponge-like, the eager little mind would soak up the instructions and try them with excitement. Setbacks were smoothed out by grandfather’s light-hearted remarks that encouraged Federico to try harder.
One day, grandfather asked Federico what he wanted to create to let the world see his talent.
“A wedding dress that will make a lady feel regal like a swan”, was Federico’s response. The old tailor rose his eyebrows in astonishment. His grandson always had different ideas than other boys his age. “Interesting! Let me see!” he requested. Federico took pencil and paper to draw my outline. As if an invisible force had taken over, the pencil’s tip started an effortless dance on the paper. When Federico’s hand put the pencil down, his grandfather was lost for words. “For this beauty you will need silk”, he finally advised. “And we will ask your sister to model for you. You did a great job! Bravissimo! This gown will truly make a lady shine one day!”
From that day forward, I was in the making. After countless hours of practice, trial and error on swaths of fabric, Federico cut and treated my expensive material with utmost care in order to waste as little as possible. His entire focus went into every single stitch. He talked to me while sewing toward his intentions: “You, my beautiful swan, will guarantee my passing this master apprenticeship program - and without any doubt, you will turn heads while swaying gracefully above a dance floor.” Federico’s diligence paid off. He set the last stitch long before I had to be presented to the program’s panel of judges. My look made Federico’s grandfather steady himself at a nearby table. “Che magnifico!” was all he could utter while his eyes fought back tears of pride and awe.
Like a swan, I am white. My main body is shaped like a corsage without strings or hooks. Myriads of fabric ripples lead from one side seam to the other. At the height of the waistline, the silk ripples flow into an unassuming, yet stunning bouquet of flat white silk flowers, adorned with miniature pearls. From the hip down, three tiers of silk cascade to the floor. At their ends, soft integrated hoops ensure their always perfect drape. Puffed quarter-length sleeves are attached to both sides of the corsage. Leading to the shoulders, an extra row of miniature ripples keeps the puffiness of the sleeves in check. I do not have a train. A train might impede an effortless dance, so Federico informed me.
The day arrived when Federico had to reveal me to the judges. Needless to say, we passed. Moreover, one judge even offered Federico to add me to the collection in his bridal store. Federico’s and my chest swelled in unison.
There I hung waiting for someone to notice me. Opposite to my sisters on adjacent hangers, I did not need to draw attention to myself whenever a client entered the store. I knew who I was. I was unique, regal and so I behaved. I was confident that the right person would pick me.
One day, a young woman was led in my direction. I couldn’t see the usual chatty entourage with which most bride’s-to-be arrive. She had come alone. When she passed my row, I could catch an underlying melancholy in her eyes. She didn’t notice me at first and was presented to some of my sisters out of sight. After a while she strolled back in my direction. We made eye contact. I willed her to push my neighbors aside and get a closer look. She asked the clerk for assistance. When I slipped over her body, I just knew that she would take me home. We were the perfect fit for one another. The lady’s face lit up from the inside when the side zipper closed and she saw our image in the mirror. “This is it!” I heard her say to the clerk. Both her voice and body language showed unyielding confidence.
We both had to wait a while for the big day to arrive. Excitement was in the air when the young bride changed into me for our grand debut. Her body’s slight perspiration matched my thrill to experience dance for the first time. I couldn’t wait to show off my elegant lines and flow! When we walked down the staircase to meet her parents, and later when we stepped out of the car in front of the church, our breath-taking presence was greeted with applause. We knew how to shine together. Federico would be proud of us.
With ceremony, picture-taking, and meal behind us, I was ready to show off. There had been soft background music coming from hidden speakers, yet I was waiting for a live band to make an appearance. Just recently, I had overheard the bride tell her girlfriend how much she missed dancing. With the bride’s father being a musicologist and her husband a professional musician, I didn’t doubt for a second that I would soon get the opportunity to display my full magnificent self. Afternoon faded into evening. Dinner was served. Evening yielded to night. The first guests started to leave. My whole regal self slumped when the young couple rose to withdraw into their quarters. Maybe at least a dance in private? No such luck. The couple had nothing but each other in mind. Within minutes entering their suite, I was unzipped and thrown carelessly over an armchair. How much I missed Federico’s attention and careful hands!
After having been to a specialty cleaner, I was hung up under a protective cover. Time doesn’t exist in my world. I had fallen into deep slumber when someone grabbed and moved me to a different location with the rest of the lady’s belongings. Shortly after that, the lady took me out of hiding. Her face lit up from the inside when she pulled me out of the protective cover. With a sheepish smile on her lips, she slithered into me. What was going on? The lady straightened the creased tiers, rearranged corsage and sleeves. “You still fit me!” she marveled, closing the hidden side zipper. We then paraded downstairs to meet her parents and husband who wore casual attire. Was that a joke? A girl with luscious blonde hair burst into laughter when she saw us. Every head turned in our direction, their faces showing amusement. This was not the response a beauty like me craved and lived for! My humiliation continued with picture taking of the lady and me next to her husband - in shorts and flipflops! “This can be yours one day if you like!”, the lady turned serious for a moment, addressing her daughter. “No way!” The teenager’s words cut like a knife. Even the lady cringed slightly. “You might change your mind one day”, she responded while the two of us pivoted and withdrew upstairs. Both our feathers felt ruffled. With utmost gentleness, the lady placed me under my protective cover. “One day, my swan, you will dance!” she promised, closing the zipper. Two tears rolled down her cheek. Why, exactly, was unclear to me.
I had another long slumber before the lady took me out of the closet again. “We have to part, my loyal friend”, she told me. “I am sure that you will make someone very happy. With a little luck, you might even get to dance!” My swan neck straightened out. I grew back into my royal self, hearing about this new possibility. Off we went to a second-hand store whose manager appeared to be a friend of the lady. “Are you sure your daughter is really not interested in this beauty?”, the manager inquired while pulling me out of the cover. Firm but gentle hands straightened out my tiers, fluffed up my sleeves. The lady just nodded. “This gown will be gone in a flash, we hardly ever get something that special in the store”. With these words the manager placed me on a faceless puppet right in the middle of the display window. “I will let you know when it has found a new home”, she promised the lady. They hugged good-bye.
I loved my new spot. For the first time I could watch everything that was going on outside. Nothing covered me. I could be my voluptuous self with the promise of endless possibilities. I had just settled in when I saw a blue car pass the store. It suddenly stopped and backed up into the parking lot right in front of my window. The passenger door swung open and a middle-aged woman hurried to the window. Her eyes seemed oddly familiar. They caressed me through the window in the most loving way. She turned towards the driver who had joined her. Both entered the store and came straight to me. Her gentle hands barely touched my outline. I felt a jolt of remembrance. “But you said you would design your own gown, Federica! Why do you need this one?” The man on her side tried to understand. The lady turned to her fiancé. Solemnly, she took both of his hands in hers. Federica’s eyes looked straight into his while I heard her say: “Because I believe in second chances. Meet my first design, my love.” She made an introducing gesture towards me. “Finding my swan again, is like an omen. Dancing in my dream on our wedding day will complete my life’s journey and make me whole.”
About the author
Anja Kerstin Kuentzel,
Advanced Grief Recovery Method specialist, nature lover, photographer, and bilingual wordsmith combines her passions to offer a different perspective on life that might inspire, raise awareness or even heal.