Wedding-Guest Dress for a Bereaved Mother

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a picture of her daughter who died onto a floral design and then gets the photo printed onto fabric so whe can sew it up into a dress.Even though dead for seven years, there was no way my daughter would miss her friend’s wedding. So when my invitation arrived, I knew immediately that I would wear something of Marika’s to the event. I searched through closets and drawers for her black sequined shrug. It would be the perfect thing over my cocktail dress. Only, I couldn’t find the shrug. Anywhere. For two days I pulled apart the whole house, but it didn’t turn up. The only other clothes I still had of Marika’s were her soccer sweatshirts, winter scarves, and a tank-top. Totally inappropriate for a wedding.

I came up with the idea of photo-shopping an image of Marika as a young girl onto a flowery background, and then getting the picture printed on cloth so I could sew it up into a new dress. A Marika Dress. For days I sketched pictures, made a paper pattern, shopped for trimmings, and researched companies that would print photos on fabric. I immersed myself into the project with an energy and enthusiasm that had been absent in my life the past seven years.

“That’s totally inappropriate for a wedding,” a friend of mine said, when I told her my plans. Suddenly, I felt myself sinking into a dark abyss of grief and shame. I was wrong, weird. Out of place. I’d always been a little different, “You’re an artist so it’s okay that you’re kind of kooky,” someone told me long ago. Having my daughter die made me even more unlike most people. More self-conscious about who I was and how I fit in. Less likely to attend parties. I never wanted to call attention to myself or offend anyone. What I wear doesn’t really matter; just being a bereaved mother at an event like a wedding feels like standing naked in a crowd. Now, I was being inappropriate. And about to make people uncomfortable.

But working on the project had given me so much joy, I decided to make the dress anyway. I could wear it to The Compassionate FriendsRobin Botie of Ithaca, New York, has a photo printed on fabric and sews it into a dress. monthly meetings for bereaved parents, where they would understand my wanting to “take” my daughter to the wedding. For the ceremony I would put on the cocktail dress with Marika’s tank-top underneath.

Finishing the project, I scoured the house to find a satin sash to top it off. And during the search for the sash, I found Marika’s sequined shrug. It would be perfect over either dress. So now I have to decide. Or maybe I’ll leave that up to the bride and her mother.

 

Do you think the new Marika Dress would be inappropriate to wear to the wedding?

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20 thoughts on “Wedding-Guest Dress for a Bereaved Mother

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    If the wedding hasn’t happened, I vote for the dress–and truly I vote for letting the bride and her family decide ad you’ve chosen to do. I like bring Marika there–artistically wonderfully motherly subtly weird. You know how to create beauty in fabric and in photos. Either way, I hope you enjoy the wedding and know everyone will love having you there, no matter what you wear.

    I get the conflict because I was just part of a 50 year anniversary celebration of people who were Vic’s and my best friends. We were both in their wedding in 1968. This was a fancy celebration and resaying of vows. To bring in Vic and attention to him not being there or to leave him out of a celebration? I ended up telling a funny story about the four of us the first time we met in 1967. It felt good to everyone–as far as I could tell. It made me happy to have them there within me to share the joy.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yow, you really get it, Elaine. The wedding has not happened yet. I have no idea of who will be there, whether or not I know them or if they will know of Marika and our story. None of my friends were invited as far as I know. Kinda strange the way they all were telling me what to do and not do for this wedding. One of the friends told me to phone the mother of the bride and tell her I decided not to wear the dress. So I did. And the mother said, “Oh no, you have to wear that dress… I want to dance with you in that dress.” I gave her several opportunities to decide otherwise but she emailed me that her husband even liked the idea of the dress. So I’m wearing it. But unlike you, I’m not going to tell funny stories about Marika. I think I’ll lay low, quiet. If someone asks about the girl on the dress, maybe I’ll simply say, “It’s a long story, not to be told today, thanks.”

      Reply
  2. Margaret

    Wow, Robin, the dress is BEAUTIFUL! The design, the fabric design, and the clever way Marika is there safely inside a pleat. Love the way you look in it and how it swings when you dance. And it sounds like you have the perfect solution: 2 great options, and the willingness to wear either one, taking into consideration what the bride and her mother think. Either way, creating this dress brought such inspiration and joy to you and THAT is a great gift from Marika. I hope you have a wonderful time at the wedding in whatever you wear!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Margaret. You have stated all the most perfect things. You’ve made me smile. A great way to start off the day. Whenever I hear from you, I remember gratefulness. So much of my life is about gratefulness. Even now. Especially now. Thank you for recognizing so much of what dances in my head. All this, all the creating and dreaming, is about being ever aware of what I have and love and am grateful for.

      Reply
  3. Janet Hart

    I couldn’t love this idea more, my friend…or the pleasure that creating that wonderful dress gave you. A hug for you and one for Marika. Keep up the good work, as our teachers sometimes had occasion to say…;-)

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      OMG, look who’s here. Welcome Janet. Yow, if you were here we could take this wonderful dress out for a daytrip all over the countryside, looking for amazing eats and wine and grape pies. I miss you, my partner in adventure. Perhaps if you were on this side of the planet I wouldn’t be spending so much time in the house creating crazy projects that get people worked up enough to respond to my blog posts. Thank you for being out there. Keep up the adventuring.

      Reply
      1. Janet Hart

        oh day-tripping sister,, that you’re out there and using your creative gifts to inspire feelings in others, worth all the grape pie in tarnation! I hadn’t thought of it but you have named a key component of my identity: day-tripper. Day-trippers, we.

        Also: apparently I’m the only one who didn’t know what “shrug” means, apart from the gesture. But it’s ok now: a woman’s short jacket or close-fitting cardigan

        Hug across the seas to Mecklenburg Rd

        Reply
            1. Janet Hart

              I just meant by mentioning part of our address — hehe but I guess that didn’t put you in any grave danger! Actually, more and more I’m looking to let go of that whole dripping with the old self-consciousness notion (discretion) anyway…;-)

              Reply
        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Ex-day-tripper here, my friend. Not very often that I bother to roam the countryside all-by-my-lonesome. Much more fun to do it with a friend and my friends aren’t into it or they’re doing it with husbands and partners. But just thinking of those days, and the grape pies, makes me reconsider this. Should simply grab my inherited dog, throw an extra shrug in the car, turn on the GPS and go. Hugs back to you, all the way to Paris.

          Reply
          1. Janet Hart

            I just adore roaming around on my own–also. Mostly I prefer it, except in special cases like ours. Bigger trips too. Just spent the last couple of months tripping all over southern France, series of airbnbs and rental cars (partly because American landlord was back here for a month) — minus dog and with GPS going occasionally nutty, and singing. It was fantastic. By the way as of last October I’m renting a house in village in southern France near Montpellier–et je suis aux anges, as the FR say. No plans to return to Paris. I’ve kept it on FB for banking reasons, won’t go into here, but will commit and switch that soon too. (will email new address for virtual housemate purposes;-) )

            Bisous! Today I’m off to hang out in Montpellier and tomorrow, the famous annual photography festival in Arles. The adventuring I love so well.

            Reply
  4. Lucy Bergström

    Hey Robin,
    You showed me the dress when I visited, and it’s beautiful and totally unique. It’s Marika’s friend’s wedding and she expressly asked you to bring some kind of greeting from Marika, so her friend would feel like she was there. The dress does just that! I don’t think it’s in appropriate or takes the focus away from the bride. It brings her dear friend Marika to her wedding. And it makes YOU happy, not just the wearing of it but the whole process, of creating the fabric, the image of Marika, the sewing of the dress, etc. I think you have perhaps come further in your grieving process than some, who don’t think the dress appropriate. You are celebrating Marika’s friend’s wedding, as you would have celebrating Marika’s own wedding with her, with her bridegroom and with all their friends and families.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well, actually Lucy, it was another friend of the bride’s and Marika’s who requested the video so Marika could be included in the bachelorette party a couple of weeks before the wedding. I think it was to be a surprise for the bride. I am totally excited about attending the ceremony but will be pleased with whatever the family decides as to whether or not to wear Marika. I was so happy about the dress that I made up a matching purse out of the extra fabric. I’m ready to celebrate but, depending on what Julie decides, I may be celebrating in Marika’s yellow tanktop underneath my cocktail dress. And I’m good with that.

      Reply
  5. Leslie Ehrlich

    I am also a bereaved mother, and I understand your pain, but I think it would be inappropriate because it removes the focus from the bridal celebration. In no way does it actually bring her to the party, and it substitutes grief for joy. You are correct–you could more appropriately wear it to The Compassionate Friends. They will get it.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you for your honest opinion, Leslie. I very much appreciate your response and love having differing views expressed. Because I know that the focus should not be taken at all away from the bridal celebration, I constructed the dress so that my daughter’s image sits quietly in the folds of the skirt, and I used a subdued gray for the background. You are right in that it will not actually “bring her” to the wedding. Just having Marika in my heart brings her with me in whatever I do. And wherever I end up wearing the dress, I will wear it in joy, not grief. I emailed the bride and her mother this morning. Whatever they decide, I will be okay with. It is so good to hear from you. Thanks for caring enough to reply. Hugs!

      Reply
  6. Mary pare

    Love the dress Robin. Totally appropriate to wear to your daughters friends wedding.

    You are very creative my friend. Sending hugs 💙

    Reply
  7. Mary Kay LaLonde

    Wearing your specially designed/created dress. Would CERTAINLY be appropriate to wear to the wedding. Those who loved Marika would love to have her there in spirit…reinforced by her beautiful image on your dress. I vote “yes” for your special dress

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Mary Kay. I know you. Well, I used to, back in my old life subbing and teaching in special ed. Welcome to my online home. And thank you so much for “your vote.” I just emailed the bride and her mom as, getting closer to the event, I felt it was only right to let them have the final word. Thanks for being out there and responding. I love re-finding people from the past, from my days before everything in my world changed. Please keep in touch. Cheers!

      Reply

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