John Mahdessian of Madame Paulette tackles some of the world’s most daunting wedding dress challenges, and he knows that repairing and restoring gowns is a delicate task that should only be left to the masters. Luckily, Mahdessian and his team are some of the world’s most valued experts and know just what to do with these ultra-precious garments.
What is the most expensive wedding gown you’ve worked on?
The John Galliano gown that Melania Trump wore when she married Donald Trump is easily one of the most expensive. It’s a really great story. Melania calls me out of the blue and says, “John, I have a situation. My wedding gown came in a giant crate from Paris, 6-feet long, 3-feet wide, and it won’t fit on Donald’s plane.” I said that’s easy… just tell Donald to get a bigger plane! She laughed, of course.
How did you care for it?
We wrapped it in unbleached muslin, covered all the em-bellishments so that they wouldn’t scratch the silk satin and essentially mummified the whole exterior to perfection. We were commissioned at that point to care for the gown until she was ready to put it on, so we traveled with the entire family to the event in Mr. Trump’s plane. My guy sat in the back of the church before the wedding hand-finishing the gown for eight hours. He also finished her sister’s and her mother’s dresses.
What did her gown look like?
Melania’s gown weighed about 60 pounds, with 50 feet of silk satin and more than 500 pleats. There was also a selection of exquisite diamond jewelry from Harry Winston and Graff for her to choose from.
Did you face any last-minute challenges?
Everything was going pretty well, but there was a situation with the veil. I pulled it out and it was a straight piece of tulle, not at all like the Vogue cover featuring the dress. Thankfully, she didn’t panic and we assembled it. We finally get her into the dress, which fit her perfectly, but she couldn’t actually see herself in it when all was said and done. The church didn’t have a full-length mirror. I literally removed the 100-year-old mirror from the wall so she could see herself in the gown. I was sweating in my tuxedo! The wedding was beautiful, Melania was lovely, and I was honored to be a part of it.
For Melania and other women looking to preserve their dress for future generations, how do you ensure that every gown lasts a lifetime?
Each and every gown is inspected using the unprecedented techniques we developed over the last 50 years, keeping them preserved in their original pristine condition for life. When they are free of stains, we box them in an acid-free archival chamber, pH-neutral—so your natural fiber garment doesn’t yellow over time. All of our customers get the celebrity treatment, no exceptions.