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Tulles of the Trade
Both traditional materials and exotic ones- seashells and gears- adorn Stacie Tamaki's bridal veils.

by Mary Gottshalk

August 29, 1999

Ethereal in nature, a veil traditionally covers a bride's face as she walks down the aisle toward her future. At the end of the ceremony, it's lifted back for the wedding kiss and then the bride turns to take her first walk as a newlywed, allowing all to see her radiance.

For all that, it seldom gets the consideration a wedding gown does. It's an afterthought, says Stacie Tamaki, a bridal veil specialist. "[Brides] know they need to do it, but they push it aside and then they panic."

Tamaki should know. Owner of Happily Ever After, a bridal studio in San Jose, she has carved out a niche for herself as the only person in the Bay Area specializing in custom bridal veils.

Summers find her working in her studio on several commissions at once, surrounded by layers of tulle, jars of crystals and seed beads, reams of satin, boxes of bobby pins and spools of wire. She'll take a month to make a simple headpiece. Fancy veils take two to three. In a pinch, however, she has whipped one out in just days. Her personal record: She once turned out a headpiece overnight for a desperate bride.

Veil fashions come and go. Tiaras are and the vintage look are big this year. But some brides eschew fashion for a chance to make a personal statement. For a wedding in Hawaii, Tamaki decorated a headband with little seashells, starfish and Austrian crystals, twisted on wire to look like coral.

One bride, inspired by Fergie, who had anchors embroidered on her wedding gown in honor of Prince Andrew's Royal Navy career, wanted Tamaki to incorporate her fiancee's occupation into the wedding get-up. Problem was, her fiance was an engineer and she wanted tiny gears embroidered on her headpiece.

Tamaki didn't quaver. "I said, 'Let's find real gears and paint them white.'" It was the fiance, ever the engineer, who saved the day: He used a laser cutter to make little white plastic gears that Tamaki hand stitched to the veil.

But that was not Tamaki's most unusual project. Jill Bertaldo of Redwood City wanted a veil for her best friend Amber. Amber is a golden retriever. Feeling a bit dopey, Bertoldo put her request to the unflappable Tamaki. "She was sure she could figure something out. We measured the dimensions between Amber's ears and she made a tiny headpiece and a veil, kept in place with Velcro and elastic," Bertaldo says.

Amber was a model bridesmaid and managed to keep the veil on her head. Even so the minister refused to let her into the church. So she got a special spot in the reception line. "It was definitely a hit," said Bertaldo.

And when Tamaki was to wed, it was definitely not a case of the shoemakers children without shoes. She spent 11 months handbeading her gown.

When working with customers, Tamaki attends wedding gown fittings to ensure that colors and details match. She advises customers on practical considerations they may have never anticipated. Tamaki knows, for example, that a bride needs to move freely at the reception, so she'll often make a detachable longer section, or a headpiece that is attractive after the veil is removed.

She will tell you, if you'll listen, that a 90-inch veil simply won't work outdoors. One bride insisted anyway; later, her mother reported to Tamaki that wind caught the veil and blew it straight into the air at just the moment the bride's father kissed her on the cheek. She should have listened to Tamaki.Tamaki stocks finished headpieces priced from $90 to $1,200 in her studio. Most custom orders fall between $200 to $400, or they'll cost upward of $700. She works by appointment. Telephone (408) 559-4979.

Mary Gottshalk is style writer for the Mercury News.

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