OPINION

Opinion: The Cecilia Abbott I saw behind the red gown, that hint of Hispanic pride

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with daughter Audrey and wife, Cecilia on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Austin, Texas.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with daughter Audrey and wife, Cecilia on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Austin, Texas.  (ap)

The incoming First Lady of Texas, Cecilia Abbott, visited Coutures by Laura on a rainy Friday afternoon for one of the final fittings for the ensembles she was to wear for the Inauguration ceremony and Inaugural Ball. Coming off the coattails of a hard-earned victory in the gubernatorial election in November, one might expect a – rightly – proud woman. The kind of woman whose demeanor implies power and importance.

Yet there is no air of superiority. To her fellow shoppers, she is simply one of the many influential Texan women that frequent the boutique. She speaks kindly with the seamstresses, and often consults with her assistant for advice in a manner that suggests a friend seeking the opinion of another friend. She makes sure to greet everybody with a handshake or a polite nod and smile. And, amid the busyness of a fitting, Mrs. Abbott converses with me as I look on while Laura Gonzalez, my grandmother, makes those final adjustments to ensure that just-right fit.

Her drive to design is much like Cecilia’s drive to better education within Texas, which has come from her parents, dedicated educators who were the children of immigrants.

- Arianna Gomez

The gown. Under the light of the crystal chandelier which hangs in the showroom, it is a deep, rich red, starkly contrasting with the rainy and grey weather outside the window. Like every aspect of the gown, the color was carefully chosen by Ms. Gonzalez and Mrs. Abbott. 

“(We chose) the color red to represent the Republican party,” the first lady-to-be says, turning in the mirror at Ms. Gonzalez’s request. They are attempting to decide upon the belt of the dress; there are two styles Ms. Gonzalez has crafted. Ultimately, Mrs. Abbott selects the band adorned with a unique flower, made of the same material as the dress, as she feels it truly ties together the classic yet simple style of the dress.

Indeed, the phrase "classic yet simple" truly sums up the new First Lady of Texas’ style. “I like the style because, to me, it doesn’t change with time. I like it simple,” she says. Ms. Gonzalez nods in agreement as she alters the gown ever so slightly. Style is not the only thing that the two women see eye to eye on, though — the handful of shared values between them is one of the many reasons why Cecilia Abbott chose Coutures by Laura to create her attire for the big day.

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Values of family, education, service, perseverance in the face of adversity, and faith were all cited by Mrs. Abbott as common principles between the two Hispanic women, along with their drive and determination. But it was the bond of their common heritage that influenced the decision of who was to design the attire for Mrs. Abbott’s appearances at the Inauguration and Inaugural Ball. And it was this common bond that gave Laura Gonzalez the desire to create the Inauguration attire, and reach out to Cecilia Abbott.

“I wanted to make the clothes she would wear on such an important day because I knew her and because she’s Hispanic. I knew her already from her previous visits to the boutique — so I wanted to help her be dressed the best way she could be, the way that best complimented her, and the best way I could serve her within my abilities and capacities. I really wanted to be of assistance to the woman that was going to become the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas,” she says.

Over the course of the weeks Ms. Gonzalez worked on this dress, I came to realize that it represented what Mrs. Abbott and Ms. Gonzalez stood for, in a way. This dress was created with hard work, with careful stitches, with meticulous attention to detail.

And this drive and determination came, in part, from my grandmother’s heritage and past. Ms. Gonzalez has been in the business for over 30 years — Coutures by Laura began as a small boutique in McAllen, Texas. Ms. Gonzalez says she was taught the art of designing, creating and sewing as a very young girl.

"I strongly believe that this passion for sewing, designing and creating is in my genes,” Ms. Gonzalez says.

Her drive to design is much like Cecilia’s drive to better education within Texas, which has come from her parents, dedicated educators who were the children of immigrants.

Hispanic people are hard workers — I saw this in the care and time my grandmother put into the dress and gown. Despite the long hours and considerable effort that went into the gown, not once did Ms. Gonzalez complain, or take off, or wish to be doing something else. She worked hard. She worked quietly, late into the night and early in the morning. She persevered. She did her best — a value instilled in her at a young age, from her own family as she grew up in Mexico.

“My Uncle Rafael always said to be the best at what you do. If you’re going to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper there is.  So if I'm going to make dresses, I’m going to be the best at making dresses,” she says.

And the dress certainly was the best. As Mrs. Abbott stood in the mirror at the final fitting, it was easy to see that it fit just right, moved smoothly, and complimented Cecilia well, but yet never commanded so much attention that the eyes were not focused on the wearer. 

The hard work that had gone into the gown was visible. After she had inspected it closely one last time, and guaranteed that it was truly perfect, there it was: that hint of quiet pride that the Hispanic people hold, reflected in Laura Gonzalez’s eyes.

It did not linger for long. She was already thinking about what was coming next.

Arianna Gomez, a 16-year-old from Austin , Texas, is Mrs. Laura Gonzalez's granddaughter. 

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