The old trunk tucked back in a corner of the house held a lot of memories – along with the wedding dress her grandmother wore in 1947 and her mother wore in 1974, according to my nephew’s wife.
The satin gown, covered with lace and hand-sewn pearls at the yolk, designed and fitted for Grandmother’s young figure, came from Vancouver, Canada.
After her wedding Grandmother kept her wedding picture out, but tucked the gown away. Her daughter often admired the picture. She did not know that her mother still had the gown – not until she came home with her fiancé and her mother pulled it out of storage asking if she would like to wear it.
The years had been kind to the satin and lace. It only needed to be taken in a bit to fit her. In an era when many had thrown off the ways of their parents, my niece’s mother proudly wore the her mother’s wedding gown. Afterwards, she put it away in her husband’s heirloom trunk – along with other mementos. The trunk and its contents became her symbolic dowry. “It has held a lot of belongings that meant a lot to everybody,” according to my new niece’s mother. The trunk accompanied them during their many moves over the years carrying its precious momento of two brides.
When my nephew announced his engagement, his bride began shopping for the perfect dress. Nothing quite met the bride’s expectations. She wanted something more … more satin, more lace, more unique – more something.
After another fruitless shopping trip, her mother mused, “You know my mother had a dress with more satin and lace. We took it in and I wore it at my wedding. The alteration threads came out after my wedding and the dress went into the trunk along with other family memories. Would you like to see it?”
She looked. The dress had aged gracefully. The once white lace had mellowed into a soft ivory color over the antique satin. It was perfect. To make it fit her petite figure, an aunt, skilled with needle, thread and shears, took the dress apart, reshaped the straight skirt, updated the top and changed the lace, creating the perfect bridal gown for the third time.
As the music sounded for the third bride to walk down the aisle in the family gown, her grandmother and mother stood and looked back at their girl. “My mother was just in tears, it was one of the most joyous moments in her life to see her granddaughter wearing her dress,” the bride’s mother said. “Since we both stayed married, we felt it was a good omen, that they will stay married, too.”
Perhaps it is. Meanwhile the dress has gone into storage a third time awaiting its next wedding.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)