Dressmaker Eftihia (Effie) Kasimatis has dedicated most of her life to doing exactly what her first name dictates; spreading happiness to the thousands of brides who choose to entrust her with creating their ultimate wedding gown.
“I think I have sewn approximately 8,000 wedding and bridesmaid dresses. But to be honest, I stopped counting years ago,” the 72-year-old tells Neos Kosmos.
Born and raised on the picturesque Greek island of Karpathos, the Greek Australian says her passion for all things fashion – fabrics and dressmaking – was present within her from a very young age.
While she acknowledges that most little girls enjoy dresses, her love and talent goes beyond that, and is something that runs deep in Effie’s family.
“I remember when I was around 10 years of age, I would leave school and go running to my auntie’s house who, at that time, was a famous and very well-respected dressmaker in Karpathos,” she recalls.
“I would simply sit with her for hours and immerse myself into her little kingdom of fashion whilst watching her sew dresses and suits for her customers.
“She was kind enough to let me play around with left over scraps of fabric and material with which I would make my own little dresses for my dolls and my younger sister Frankie.”
Once she was old enough, Effie decided to enrol in a small fashion academy located in a nearby village where she attended training courses in dressmaking, run by a young knowledgeable woman from Athens.
“She was a great teacher that taught me how to draft and cut patterns onto fabric and how to do a proper fitting and tailor to individual customer needs,” she says.
“Back then there was no room for mistakes or second chances; students were expected to get it right the first time.”
But that is where Effie’s pursuit of fashion in Greece would end.
With Greece going through a crisis, in 1964, the then 16-year-old Effie bid farewell to her beloved island together with her mother Maria Hazilias and three younger siblings to be reunited with their father John. He had ventured out to Australia ahead of the family three years earlier to test the waters.
“My father had already settled in Canberra seeking a better life for our family, in what was then considered as the land of opportunity,” she explains.
“So as soon as he gave the go ahead, we packed up and boarded the Ellinis.”
It didn’t take long for Effie to pick up where she left off in Greece. Soon after she arrived in Australia, she started working as a tailor’s assistant doing alterations.
Soon enough her natural talent shone through, and the young modiste started making custom dresses for the tailor’s regular customers.
“I gained a lot of experience doing that type of work and then gradually, after I got married to my husband Vrettos and had my three children, I started sewing at home after hours, making wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses for family and friends,” Effie says.
“Within a short period of time, the word was out, and I ended up having beautiful young ladies knock on my door from Canberra and Sydney asking me to custom make their wedding gowns and formal dresses.”
Effie soon became one of the best dressmakers in the Australian capital, and the now grandmother of five, says she hasn’t looked back since.
“I still really enjoy what I do, and admittedly things are much easier nowadays because gowns tend to be simpler with a nod to the past using elegant materials, lace and high-quality fabrics,” she observes.
“Most brides go for a classic timeless and elegant look, unlike the 80’s and 90’s, when fashion was much different, and more was more.”
But Effie’s love for what she does doesn’t stop at creating a beautiful dress. She says it is the people she has met along the way that have made her experiences over the years truly memorable.
“I feel blessed that my work is my passion,” she says.
“Dressmaking gave me the opportunity to do what I love whilst meeting the most wonderful people from all walks of life. I have built very strong relationships and life-long friendships, particularly with brides of European background who come into my little studio accompanied by their immediate family and friends that come to support, encourage, attend the fitting and of course give their tick of approval on the wedding gown.
“These moments for me are priceless and definitely worthy of all my sleepless nights.
“I give my all just to see my beautiful brides glowing, happy and ready to shine on their special day.”