Anyone watch the women's final at Wimbledon? Big sister Venus Williams took the title in straight sets over little sis Serena, 7-5, 6-4. Prior to Wimbledon, 40 of the world's top players collaborated with the International Tennis Federation to put together a glossy coffee table book called Journey to Beijing: Tennis Celebrates the Olympics to celebrate the 20th anniversary of tennis being reinstated to the Olympics. But who wants to see tennis players in tennis wear? Granted, the Williams sisters and others have elevated tennis fashion (see Serena at right in warmup trenchcoat), but I want to see something different! And the book delivers --- the players are dressed up as athletes from other sports. Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal is a soccer player, Roger Federer is a fencer, Maria Sharapova is a rhythmic gymnast, and Serena Williams is a figure skater!
I contacted Carrie Jones, who made Serena's dress, to get the backstory (and what a backstory!) and this what she said:
It was a thrill, a blessing and a little luck to have been chosen to make Serena's dress. A very nice representative, Danny Kendall, from the Family Circle Cup (the women's only tennis tournament played here in Charleston, South Carolina each year) called me on a Thursday morning in May. We talked for a few minutes and naturally I was a bit confused, yet thrilled that Serena needed a dress. I had to ask a couple of times before I finally all got the details straight. I couldn't hear his voice over my heart pounding so loud -- my eyes glazed over. Her name just kind of hung in the air as what I had been offered really sunk in. I have to say I have no idea what Danny said for the next four minutes.
I was all ready to clean my house, get a sitter for my daughter, and to have a fitting with Serena when he said that she needed the dress by 5 o'clock the next day in Florida. I suddenly realized it was already 10 o'clock on Thursday morning. I knew she was tall (5'10") and I would have a hard time fitting her if I didn't make the dress specifically for her. There was nothing I could give her off the rack. Under normal circumstances, there would be a "fit check" process that took a week. I wouldn't take this kind of challenge on for anyone (okay maybe Michelle Kwan, but if you're reading this Michelle, please give me at least a week!). Danny promised that Serena's agent had every possible measurement for her and that this would be forwarded onto me via e-mail. So then with a suppressed primal scream I cheerfully told him I'd be happy to help. I explained, however, that we did not have time to go back and forth over design and colors, etc. as I would normally do with a customer. If she needed it by tomorrow everyone would just have to trust me.
I ran in the house (I was on my cell phone), I looked at my assistant/baby's God Momma Linda and explained to her that we are going to make a dress for Serena Williams. I didn't even have time tell her all the details but it needed to go out with all its rhinestones in less than seven hours. I got the measurements, I cut the dress and we worked. Linda left at 4 p.m. that day, what a trooper and a crack seamstress I might add. The dress was done except for the stones (see right). I knew that I would have to have it to the Fed Ex office by 7 p.m. with stones that were dry enough that they wouldn't shift on the dress when the box was handled.
When I handed over the package to the lady at the Fed Ex counter, she did a double take as her eyes went from me to the addressee, then back to me again and with one brow raised she asked, as only the most seasoned postal worker could, "Serena...Serena?" "Um... yep." I replied in stunned disbelief myself and with a huge grin. Have you ever smiled so much that your face hurts? Yeah...it was that kind of day. They don't come often, and when they are upon you, you never forget how sweet they are.
Danny and I watched the package online via the Fed Ex tracking system the next day. He said her shoot had been moved up to 3 p.m. I told him that was fine because I had marked to have it delivered by 10 a.m. As each hour passed we spoke for anxious brief moments on the phone about the package's status like it was a kidney on it's way for a transplant. By 5 o'clock it had been re-routed, almost misdelivered and was very late. FINALLY it was marked online as "delivered" and signed for and the phone stopped ringing. She had it. I let myself stop thinking about it.
For several weeks we worked and chased after my one-year-old. Linda asked about "the dress" a couple of times. "Did you hear anything?" she'd ask. I told her that I wasn't worried since it felt good when I shipped it and very meant to be. Besides, I had decided that if it went bad, I didn't want to know that I squandered the opportunity, and if it went well, I knew I'd hear about that news too.
Danny called about three weeks ago. He relayed that it went well...very well. Okay, now for that primal scream -- "IT WAS PERFECT AND SHE LOVED IT!" She even wore the dress after the shoot and met with fans at the rink for the public skating session that followed.
Danny was very gracious and offered to introduce me and get pictures with Serena the next time she was in town and while I would love to meet her, she did far more for me then I did for her. Famous people are very busy, mostly with people who benefit directly from their hard work and talent. Maybe someday she will let me take her to lunch. For now, I'm reassured that everything happens for a reason, even lost packages...Maybe those few hours that the package was misdirected was karma. Those stones must have needed to dry just a bit longer.
(photo below, from left to right, Carrie Jones, Sullivan and Linda)