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One day at a time in the life of Eileen Pappas: knitwear designer, Trekkie, and closeted rock star.

Olympic Costume

I hadn't realized it until now, but the Olympic Games seem to have a recurring significance in my life.

It all started in 2004, with the Athens Olympic Games.  I had just completed my junior year at Brown University, and had stayed in Providence, RI over the summer to take an MCAT preparation course and following that the MCAT itself.  My 21st birthday took place the day before the opening ceremony for the games - the games that after so many years were once again returning to my birthplace, with the entire world watching.

I'm not going to lie - I, too, was nervous about whether Athens could pull it off.  But I soon found myself watching the opening ceremony on a tiny TV set with tears in my eyes, astounded at the beauty, the simplicity, and the millennia of history that was presented with such clarity and grace and... poetry.  It was a celebration of my country, but also of humanity.  I was filled with pride and joy but also heartbroken that I was thousands of miles away from it.

The following morning, I went to take the MCAT.  Later that evening, my parents and I were out celebrating when my mom said, "I have a confession.  I had been given tickets to the opening ceremony of the games, but I didn't want to tell you because I knew you'd be upset you couldn't be there."

I did not say anything.  Instead I broke down in tears.

 

I took my longing and disappointment and turned it into inspiration.  My senior thesis was about the city of Athens and its transformation in preparation for the games.  (I majored in Architectural Studies.  Some of the things I wrote, now almost a decade later, have turned out eerily prophetic.)  That December, I got to go back home and even visited the Olympic sports complex, which was already becoming a ghost of its former glory.  I snuck into Calatrava's stadium (there were padlocks and chains on the gates, but they were unlocked), walked around, and took pictures to my heart's content in complete solitude.  Four months ago, this giant steel rib cage had enclosed the heart of the entire world.

 

I did not know then that my thesis was actually a 50-something page love letter, a love letter to the place that I had called home for 17 years, that I hated living in and did not in a million years imagine I could miss until I no longer lived there, to the place that I did not know I loved as much as I did until it broke my heart. 

Fast forward to the spring of 2012 - another Olympic year, and my junior year at Parsons.  The CFDA scholarship project was upon me, during the most difficult time that I have ever faced in my entire life (my grandfather's passing, and inability to be there, in Athens, to pay my respects).  There was nothing to do except look back to the most touching, moving, and inspiring experience I could muster: watching that 2004 opening ceremony:

And so I came up with a collection inspired by the rhythm of the zeibekiko, the rhythm of the heartbeat, and what being Greek meant to me.

 

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Then, last week, in a conversation about running the marathon (helloooo Olympic Games), I also mentioned to a friend my guilty pleasure love of professional wrestling.  (Yes, it's 100% true.  I came out of my senior thesis photoshoot just in time to take a bus to New Jersey with my dad for Wrestlemania 29.)   And she astutely observed that wrestling, long before it became "soap opera in spandex", was an Olympic sport.

I let this sit with me.  I let it all sit with me this week.

Until this morning, when I had another thought - a thought that I later realized was a dream: I want to design the Olympic uniforms for Team Greece one day.  It should have been obvious to me sooner, but I did not see it until now.  (Sophia Kokosalaki had the honor of designing the costumes for the opening ceremony in 2004.)

I have already put the wheels into motion.