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With A Wedding Dress Comes A New Beginning For A Syrian Tailor


Here's a very different story about fashion, although it has to be said for many people a wedding dress is much more than a piece of clothing. It's a powerful symbol of culture, of family, new beginnings. And for one Syrian refugee newly resettled, a wedding dress also represents his family's future in America, one that began with a sewing machine. Carmel Delshad of WAMU shares this story.

CARMEL DELSHAD, BYLINE: If there's one thing most brides are picky about, it's a wedding dress.

OMAMA ALTALEB: I wanted a kind of classic vintage style dress with all lace.

DELSHAD: That's Omama Altaleb, a 23-year-old journalist and bride-to-be. She searched high and low for a dress that was fashionable and modest and didn't break the bank.

ALTALEB: It was very difficult to find something that would fit my body and at the same time cover it.

DELSHAD: Then she met Nader Briman. Briman is a master dressmaker. He and his family are refugees from Syria. They arrived in January after living in Egypt for five years.


NADER BRIMAN: (Through interpreter) I had 75 machines like this in my factory in Syria.

DELSHAD: Briman doesn't speak English, but he tells me he ran a lingerie factory in Homs, Syria. After the war broke out, he and his family fled to Egypt, where he began sewing wedding dresses.

BRIMAN: (Through interpreter) It runs in my blood. If I took a blood test you'd find lingerie and wedding dresses.

DELSHAD: A northern Virginia-based nonprofit called Mosaic helped the Briman family settle in. The group collected donations to buy Briman a 250-pound industrial sewing machine and then uploaded the photos of his work on Facebook. And that's where Altaleb saw them. After that, she says she knew exactly where to go to get her dream wedding dress.

ALTALEB: He has an understanding of what Muslim girls, hijabi girls are going for because he has that expertise from Syria, from Egypt.

DELSHAD: Briman convinced Altaleb to go for a more modern off-white gown instead of a traditional stark white one.

BRIMAN: (Through interpreter) Off-white has its own beauty and uniqueness. White has become a little dated. Like, my grandmother's generation wore it.

DELSHAD: It's taken Briman about a month to make this dress. But for him and his family, it could be more than just a wedding gown. It could be the key to a sustainable future.

BRIMAN: (Through interpreter) This is my first dress in America, of course, and God willing there will be more dresses in the future. I have an idea for a venture and hopefully it'll work out.

DELSHAD: And now, after weeks of back and forth, he finally gets to show the finished gown to Altaleb.

ALTALEB: Oh, wow. Wow. This is so nice.

DELSHAD: Are you having a moment?

ALTALEB: (Laughter).

DELSHAD: Altaleb's gown is illuminated by sequins and tiny pearls. A scalloped lace neckline leads to more clusters of lace. She can't wipe the smile off her face.

ALTALEB: (Laughter) I just - I love the dress. And when I try it on I get that, like, tingly feeling, like oh, my God, I'm getting married and this is my dress.

DELSHAD: She gently touches the lace on her gown.

ALTALEB: Can I wear it (laughter)?

DELSHAD: Lifting the train and taking it all in, Briman looks on with pride.

BRIMAN: (Through interpreter) I hope I can achieve what I achieved in Syria - that I have my own business, that my children have a good future and they achieve their dreams. And I believe in America they will get their chance.

DELSHAD: And if there's anything that's a good omen for a new beginning, it's a wedding dress.

ALTALEB: I love it.

DELSHAD: For NPR News, I'm Carmel Delshad in Hyattsville, Md. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carmel Delshad
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