Playwright Deborah Nash tells the story behind her unusual wedding dress
Green is rarely chosen for a wedding dress. It is said to be the ‘unluckiest of colours’; one that we associate with jealousy or envy, poison, algae, slime, sickness, decay and death.
For the ancient Egyptians, eerie green-skinned Osiris was the god of vegetation but also the underworld. This makes green an ambivalent hue, because we long for it in our gardens when the sun has scorched the grass biscuit brown; we seek it out in the dappled coolness of our forests, and we wait for it to appear after the barren greyness of winter. Green is the colour of life and restfulness, and it is the colour I chose to get married in.
This was not an arbitrary decision, and I stuck to it even when a housemate said I’d look like a swamp monster (perhaps she was jealous? Then again, her colour is pink). My surname derives from the ash tree and my brief to the Walthamstow knitwear designer Craig Lawrence, who created the dress, was to transform me into something sylvan. Having researched the secret life of plants in the borough, it seemed fitting that my dress should be foliate.
We began with visual references of how such a dress might look. Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli’s painting Primavera was a favourite. In the foreground, Flora wears a garland of flowers in loose hair and a floaty muslin shift scattered with posies and distinctive dark green leaves.
The designer did a rough sketch and began to crochet. Oak, ash and horse chestnut leaves from a palette of green wools and silk piled up on his studio floor. “You will look like a beautiful elf,” someone observed. The commentary was beginning to shift in a positive direction, I supposed.
Knitting machine punch cards were tried out to find the pattern for the fabric base and soft moss-green yarn with deep gold were twisted together while spring-green shoulder pads with knobbly bits were added, giving the dress a mermaid touch. Long and lean, with two fan-shaped side sections at the bottom, the dress slowly unfurled.
But even in its half-finished state I was unable to visualise how exactly it would look. My husband-to-be called up images on his laptop of the Incredible Hulk. “Will you be like that?” he asked. I hoped not, but I wasn’t entirely sure.
A week before the wedding, the dress arrived. There was a veil, there were leaves brushed with gold foil, and the dress fell with weight. It fitted and it felt good on. Shoes were out; I decided to walk the walk bare-footed with purple toe nails. Flowers were in and I carried a purple and cream bouquet.
On the day of the wedding the compliments flowed. Someone said I looked like a young willow. But even if I had resembled a swamp monster, the Incredible Hulk, or an elf, I would still have been perfectly contented in my unapologetically green dream.
Deborah’s wedding dress was designed and made by Craig Lawrence. See more of his work:
Deborah’s upcoming play The Mysteries in a Box will be performed on 26th, 27th, 28th November and 3rd and 4th December 2016.