Tag Archives: Dresses

Formal in the Field

By: Mary

This is the story of an arsenal of a closet stocked with a vast array of bridesmaids dresses that was made into a useful costume collection to bring forth a highly impractical (but may I add hilarious) photo shoot.

This collection of dresses started about 30 years ago when my mother wore the blue silk number Kate sported as a maid-of-honor in her sister’s wedding. The pink dress came from our sister-in-law, Nicole during a phase in which she was a consultant at a bridal store and was able to bring many a bridesmaid dress home for free with price tags that were still in tact. She also donated the aqua dress that Colleen wore after it sat in storage for many years following a high school prom. Colleen begrudged Clare the high honor of wearing a dress that she pulled out of the play clothes last summer and has since intended to wear next month during her first stint as a bridesmaid.

It just so happened that the talented Tara Schwab was visiting and graciously agreed to document us with her camera. Tara is a former roommate of Kate’s and has moved to Wisconsin for a flute professor position at a university in the northern part of the state.

Free spirited and happy in the cool evening light, we took to the field by foot.

running sisters

The asparagus field seemed an ideal place to stop from striding for a moment.

happy sisters

And then… an apple tree seemed to be beckoning. So just like that, I scrambled up. This turned out to be a problematic decision. I know, I know- it does seem like such a sweetly quaint scene. However, nobody else wanted to climb up and none of the sisters realized why I was laughing. This was because the pungent smell that was drifting up was coming from the composting hide of Silly Spots (remember Blizzards and Beef?).  At this very moment in time, Silly Spots’ hide from lasts winter’s butchering is resting, or I could say, composting in a less than aromatic way under one of our many apple trees. 

After choosing a new tree without the remains of a cow underneath, Clare was game to scurry its low branches. All was well until the jump down.

in the tree

And then all was really not well…this was the point in time in which a literal falling out took place.




Lesson to be learned: no apple tree climbing in bridesmaids-to-be dresses.

Colleen is typically pretty sweet, BUT when she’s not she’s not, and the girl really can get into a catfight. Her reaction to this tear was a quick yank on Clare’s red tresses. While Clare stood her 16 year ground, during this sister spat, she watched with pleasure as Colleen then clumsily tripped on her flowing aqua train and tumbled down to meet her end with the emerald grass of the field.

At this point my reaction was to suggest we link arms as then I could take custody of each of their arms to separate them from throwing fists at each other.


Aren’t we happy?

*Please do not look too closely at Colleen’s unhappy face*


By this time, Colleen and I were totally over being stalked by the paparazzi…okay, that might be a slightly embellished truth. Colleen needed some condolence from our mom, and I needed to get ready for an old church lady meeting at St. Peter’s Church (more about that later). Anyhow, our last photo turned out to be a pretty special one, because it includes our mother who was at a corner of her garden babysitting Kate’s youngest.

all of us

I’m glad the dresses got some extra use, and I hope you enjoyed the folly of our dramatic dress up segment. I’d advise that if you are going to do one yourself steer clear of composting dead calves, bridalwear, and fist fights.

A Saturday Away

By Clare

Yesterday I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to head down to Iowa for a relative’s wedding. I figured it would be more interesting than staying at home all day with only three other people wandering around the house, helpless without Mom to make food. Plus, I’d have to do the cooking with her gone, and when is that ever good? So I threw on some dressy clothing, made myself presentable for a special occasion, and we were off. That is, after everyone was found, all the vegetables to be delivered along the way were shoved into the van along with Grandma’s heavy suitcases (we were dropping her off at her aunt’s on the way back), and we were all uncomfortable enough for it to qualify as a Slattery roadtrip. After dropping off the vegetables, we all settled in a little better, and braced ourselves for three more hours in the car. We eventually made it to the 1 o’clock wedding (on time too!) and were escorted into the small church.

We arrived at the reception hall with some time to kill before the dinner, so Mary and I wandered off to stretch our legs. Mary had a lot of leg showing to stretch, wearing a dress that Mom deemed immodest (it’s really not that bad, just a horrible choice for a traveling outfit).

Still, she tromped across the grass in her heels, while I ran ahead in my smart footwear choice of gold sandals, courtesy of Colleen’s “clothes left behind before moving to Dallas for college”. Upon seeing a pond in the near distance I immediately ran ahead. I’m naturally attracted to water, while Mary thinks its something like the devil’s spit. Crazy woman. Squatting down by the water, a frog jumped and caught me by surprise.

Mary, remembering fairy stories where the princess kisses the frog and the frog turns into a prince out of the blue (woohoo), decided if she kissed it the same would happen to her.

Don’t worry, she didn’t end up kissing it. She’s too squeamish. We did have a little impromptu photoshoot though. It gave some entertainment to the golfers watching nearby. I took a picture of them, just to get back at them, but it’s not that interesting. Golfers, generally aren’t that interesting, are they? With the exception of Tiger Woods’ scandal of course. Again, this is just another one of my opinions.

We headed back to the reception hall where I stayed for several more hours surrounded in a moody cloud. There was no one my age there.  I realized that the building was perfectly equipped for six-year-old me to run around with James, Colleen, and Raph and make all kinds of mischief. But instead, I was left all by myself, grown up, bored out of my mind, when, if I had been younger, I would have been in heaven. I had to drink the free pop all by  myself, without the entertainment of seeing James and Raph down 10 cans or so until they felt like throwing up. Dad did provide momentary entertainment (and embarrassment) when he started doling out our homegrown garlic on the tables as decorations and for people to take home.

I did do a lot of people-watching, and found that Iowans like country music even more than Wisconsinites. We eventually left. After a long, long, long time. The ride home was long too, but thanks to Cale’s phone, I was able to text the dearly missed sister of mine, Colleen.

Until next time, when I stare deeply into more people’s souls, give them cold, moody looks, and form critical words in my head,


Blushing Brides and a Bitter Bagpiper


This weekend I played the harp for a thousand frenzied brides.

More accurately, I attempted to play with the baby on my lap, stood near the harp with my arm draped over it in an ornamental manner, and wandered around the floor of the convention center exploring the bizarre world of Bridal Shows, including a booty shaking boy band dancing to the Black Eyed Peas, one member of whom slipped and fell down on his aforementioned booty. This particular bridal show was held at the David L. Lawrence Convention center, named after the first (Irish!) Catholic governer of Pennsylvania. I am utterly ignorant regarding architecture, particularly modern, but I love the way the convention center swoops out over the Allegheny River, the huge glass vistas overlooking the water and bridges, and the way the convention center floor is illuminated by great shafts of light. So often indoor expositions are painful in part because you are walking around under eye busting flourescents all day in a clatter of painful ear piercing noises. Here, the glass rises up and lets in the sky.

All right, so my brief research into the history of the building does indicate that there was a fatal truss collapse just before it opened, followed by a section of the loading dock giving way under the weight of a semi and falling into the “water feature” below, all of which supports my distrust of fancy modern architecture.

Still, the sunlight did a nice job of illuminating a thousand frenzied brides let loose in a whirl of tulle, chiffon, rhinestones, pearls, slate coasters, and thousand dollar china.

The light created some particularly beautiful shadows.

Here is my favorite moment of calm in the midst of the storm.

Make no mistake, however, it was a storm. A storm of women of all shapes and sizes wearing convenient labels- bride, bridesmaid, mother of the bride- many of whom were tottering about in sky high heels. There is something about a bridal show that drives women to dress as though they are starring in their own personal romantic comedy. This meant lots of interesting fashions, and heels heels heels.

These red heels may have been the simplest and classiest pair there. By the end of the day there were multiple limping, barefoot women staggering around the floor, staring with glazed eyes at the confections, both pastry and dress varieties thereof. Last year I wore stilletos to this event. I was also eight months pregnant. I identify completely with the suffering of the staggerers. This year I was able to periodically set the baby down, which was preferable. I also enlisted the services of the Utter Romantic Christina, who was thrilled to help wrangle the baby and explore the convention center while dreaming about misty veils and place settings. She had roughly eight hundred thousand times more fun than my long suffering husband would have had being dragged to this event.

Christina was enthralled by the place settings

The various princess-like accoutrements

The peacock cake

And the flower arrangements dripping with crystals

Wait, what is that booth featured above called? Flowers in the Attic? Flowers in the Attic!? I am pretty sure that is a young adult novel featuring a very, very unhealthy interfamilial relationship between children locked in an attic. This is madness. Then again, the theme of the Wagnerian opera that Here Comes the Bride is lifted from is also about a horribly failed fiasco of a marriage between siblings. It is at this point that we hit upon the inescapable fact that American brides are pretty much insane, and I introduce my favorite part of the day: the Bitter Bagpiper.

When I arrived at my booth at the beginning of the Expo, the bagpiper who had been assigned to share it was already there, looking gloomy and glum and full of a deep Scottish malaise. He was dressed for the occasion from head to toe but looked deeply apprehensive and understandably tortured at the thought of sharing the next five long hours of his life with a roomfull of crazed brides in an explosion of chocolate and tulle. He expressed a deep desire to run full tilt to the nearest bar and take a couple of steadying shots, but instead, to my delight, he took comfort in a quart of Wisconsin Whisky. I think the milk did help him through, somehow.

There was something strangely comforting about having a bitter bagpiper to accompany the overpowering saccharine sweetness of a bridal show. All in all it was a great adventure, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I look forward to playing the expo again next year, and to never having to get married ever again.