The Story of the Dress
The plan came slowly. Neither the bride nor the mother-of-the-bride had been dreaming this dream. But when the idea of a multi-generation bridal gown was mentioned, Lyndsey began to speak words of confidence. She never wavered in her certainty that this wedding dress would be beautiful. And so this gown that began as three separate garments for three different women on three different days became the one gown that Beth presented to her daughter for her 2014 wedding day.Lyndsey’s maternal grandmother wore her wedding dress on August 5, 1950 in Ontario, Canada. It was all satin and even though it was never preserved professionally, it had aged beautifully in a box in her closet. The dress was made by hand and her grandmother remembers the material costing a total of 8 dollars. With a long train there was plenty of usable material.Her paternal grandmother got married in a lace and tulle gown on September 1, 1956. That dress was purchased and worn in Ohio and although the tulle did not age well, the lace preserved to the exact same shade of ivory as the satin gown.Beth’s gown was worn on July 31, 1982. Her organza, lace, and polyester gown had aged to multiple shades of white and ivory.An interesting fact is that both grandfathers died in their 53rd year of marriage and so the total years of marriage represented in the final combined gown was 138.After the engagement, all three old gowns had to be located and then “found.” Lyndsey remembers climbing to the back of a storage unit in Virginia Beach. After rearranging layers of moving boxes, one marked “Grandma Durksen’s Wedding Gown” was discovered.With the wedding only 3 1/2 months away, the time line was daunting for even the most experienced seamstress. Beth had done some sewing years ago, but at this point didn’t even own a sewing machine. After finding an old machine on Craig’s List and traveling to Florida to get Grandma Gangel’s dress out of her cedar chest, sewing began in earnest. Unfortunately a replacement needed to be found for the broken foot pedal that came with the newly purchased sewing machine. And it was discovered that each new bobbin had to be purchased fully loaded because the seller had neglected to tell the mother-of-the-bride that the machine’s bobbin loading mechanism was broken.Lyndsey and Beth spent a morning at a bridal salon trying on many different gowns. Lyndsey knew she wanted sleeves and fell in love with a gown with a dropped waist that extended even lower in the back. With that information, Beth visited with a friend who had design experience and came away with a drawing of Lyndsey’s dream gown. Armed with only a drawing and three old gowns Beth was quickly overwhelmed.Emotions were high during the cutting apart of the maternal grandmother’s dress. It was the only gown that was homemade and Beth felt a strong connection to the woman who, 64 years earlier in a different country, had spent hours putting the dress together. It was done with such precision and attention to detail that isolating each piece felt significant.Once the usable parts of each dress were detached the real confusion started. Beth only knew that the resulting gown would be mostly satin because the satin wedding dress had aged most beautifully and it had the largest available pieces.Early in the process Beth and Lyndsey giggled their way through the blundering attempt at making a duct tape dress form. Lyndsey lived 10 hours away and a wedding dress project would need many fittings. The resulting “Duct-tape Lyndsey” was only mildly usable.After a prototype gown was made, Beth traveled the 10 hours for the fitting and those pieces became the pattern. Much of the dress came together within the first 6 weeks. But the bodice was stubborn. It was only on her 9th mock-up did the lace overlay for the bodice fit correctly.One particularly exquisite length of lace proved to be the stumbling block for the completion of the dress. It was a long piece of delicate lace that had edged the maternal grandmother’s veil. Both Lyndsey and Beth wanted to include it but could not find a “place” for it on the new gown. For weeks it was pinned to the bodice but it just didn’t look right there. It took a fresh set of eyes just a week and a half before the wedding to gently suggest not using it but rather finding a different scrap of old lace in the pile of discarded pieces. A different section of lace was found and pinned to the bodice. That was the moment Beth remembers most. It changed the gown from, “Awww. What a nice dress. Did your mom make it?” to “That’s a beautiful gown.” It was a sigh of relief.And so, the entire gown is made of 64 year old satin representing a 53 year marriage. The bodice is overlaid with lace that is 32 years old. The inlaid piece of lace at the bottom front is taken from the bodice of a 58 year old dress belonging to a 53 year marriage.The veil was borrowed from her aunt who wore it 42 years earlier and was thrilled to be at the wedding to see it adorn another family bride. And that delicate lace that couldn’t seem to find a place on the dress? It became a lace flower. The veil was removed. The flower put in her hair and the 18-point Austrian bustle helped give the wedding ensemble a new look much more manageable for the reception.The bride felt radiant, and beautiful, and humbled. What a legacy given that pictured the hopes, expectations, and prayers of her grandmothers and mother.