“Show us your shoes!” the crowd yells. As the Fiesta queen raises her bejeweled gown,
everyone cranes to see her sneakers, cowboy boots, or slippers. Then they cheer long and
loud. From their perspective along the crowded downtown streets, several feet below the
colorful Battle of Flowers floats, the queen, the ride, and the shoes seem quite the
spectacle. But they may only get a fleeting glimpse of the real pageantry.
Dressmakers like Javier Castillo have a deeply intimate connection to that scene. He is
one of seven designers who create the extravagantly ornate gowns worn by Fiesta royalty
each year. Castillo and a staff of about 14 workers are busy bees for several months
leading up to the moment the royal court is revealed.
“It runs in the family,” says Castillo. He says his grandmother used to make costumes for
the circuses. “Barnum & Bailey – It was Barnum back then only, it wasn’t Bailey. We just
grew up around all that atmosphere. I thought I would do the same thing.”
So, while Castillo received his informal training from his grandma, he got his formal
training in England at Esmond, reportedly one of the first and oldest fashion schools in
the world. After returning home and traveling about, Castillo says he got the bug to do
more beading and embroidery after admiring work being done in Laredo.

by Martha Cerna / KENS 5
April 11, 2012

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