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South Texas Living

Sewing Lia’s wedding dress, other wedding day woes

Sewing Lia’s wedding dress, other wedding day woes
Lia poses in “the wedding dress” for her portrait .

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
June 26, 2013

The years are going by so fast! I’m always saying, “I can’t believe etc. etc.” This time I’m saying, “I can’t believe that our “baby,” Lia, has been married 20 years!

She was in her third year of school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and working part time when she and Gilbert got engaged. She decided to take a break from school and have some time to plan their wedding. We had never had a big wedding in our family, so it was all new to us.

They set the date for June 26, 1993. I believe it was November 1992 when we began to look at wedding gowns in San Antonio. We went to several shops and she tried on some gowns, but they were all too big on her. She couldn’t tell how they would really look on her. After another unsuccessful trip like that I opened my mouth and said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to make you one.” That was enough for Lia.

Because Gilbert’s parents knew Pat and Hilary Reile from working at the school, they learned that the Reiles designed gowns for special occasions. Lia made an appointment with them and one evening Lia and I went to their home. Lia started describing the kind of dress she wanted and they started sketching. She wanted a mermaid-style dress. I want to say that they finished the sketch that same night. I don’t remember going back. They are very talented. We have always been so grateful for their help and generosity.

By now it was January 1993. I had to get busy and find a pattern that most resembled the sketch. Neither Simplicity nor McCall’s had one that had all the features that Lia wanted. I ended up buying one McCall’s and two Simplicity patterns. I set about trying to piece together the pieces that would get us the look that we wanted. It was tedious work and time-consuming. And it had to be done after putting in a full day’s work at Head Start and doing the work that goes with being a homemaker.

I worked on that dress every spare moment I had. Luckily I had a room that I could use solely for that purpose. I could leave things lying around and no one would mess with it. I proceeded to make a dummy dress out of white percale, just the main body of the dress. Lia says that the first time she tried it on it was held together with straight pins (I can’t believe I did that), and that they started popping off when she tried to sit down. Next I sewed two lines of basting stitches with generous seam allowances. Well, Lia tried it on again and again she couldn’t sit down. She was so intent on having it fit skin-tight. I let out the innermost seam and now she could sit down.

In the meantime we had been shopping for materials. She had chosen white satin for the main part of the dress and white taffeta topped by a layer of white glitter organza for the bottom part that flared out. Now I could take apart the dummy dress and use it as a pattern and know that it would fit. Little by little the dress began to take shape.

By early May the dress was finished, even with Lia deciding to add another detail -- the two interlocking cut-out hearts underlined with nylon net near the bottom of the train. Now all that was needed was the detail work, which included sewing beaded appliques by hand as well as seed pearls. I had help from Lia’s late Aunt Alice and family friend, Liz Lopez.

It rained a lot that spring. The photographer, Ignacio, had set a date in late May for taking the pre-wedding pictures. The Lord blessed us with good weather that day. It continued to rain for most of June. On the day of the wedding we awoke to the sound of rain, not a drizzle, but pouring rain. It would let up a bit every once in a while. We managed to make it to the Wilson County Show Barn to finish setting up for the reception. After we left there we heard that the road had been closed on this side of Chuca’s Ice House because of flooding.

Ignacio had wanted to take our family pictures at our house, but our carport was flooded. All of Lia’s siblings, except Larry, were in the wedding party. We couldn’t ask them to wade through the water. We proceeded to get dressed, worrying that no one would show up for the wedding. Then, like a miracle, the rain stopped, the clouds broke up, and the sun came out!

Lia’s cousin, Albert, had volunteered to drive us to the church and to the reception. There was still some water in the carport so Albert drove the car right up to the curb. We did have to walk on the wet grass, but that was okay. I don’t remember this but Lia said that Sara carried her to the car and that she was wearing navy blue shoes and carrying her white shoes in her hand. She says that sometime during the ceremony she suddenly remembered about the shoes and was so relieved when she looked down and saw that she did have her white shoes on!

And the church was full of family and friends when we arrived. And the father of the bride, who had said, “No way I’m wearing a monkey suit,” did wear a tuxedo. And as for the rain, it went away completely. According to Steve Browne, it did not rain again for 63 days!

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is

Your Opinions and Comments

James & Kristen Weaver  
Floresville, TX  
June 26, 2013 1:20pm
Happy Anniversary to Lia and Gilbert!

Elaine K.  
June 26, 2013 1:02pm
Kudos to Lia -- and her mom! :)

Lia C Flores  
Floresville, TX  
June 26, 2013 11:39am
What a day to remember! I can't believe it's been 20 years! Thanks, Mom, for doing such a wonderful job on my wedding dress. The fact that you made my dress and Dad walked me down the aisle made my day all the more special.

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