The Wedding Dress Part 2

We last left off the story in June 1956 when my mom walked down the church aisle wearing the wedding dress made by her mother. For twenty-two years the gown lay in a sealed box, preserved for whatever may come.

In August 1978, my high school prom date, college boyfriend, Matt, proposed. It was so exciting just to know we were getting married—like grownups. There was no time to savor or entertain the thought of a long engagement. Once announced, a domino effect of wedding prep actions ensued. I had no clue there was so much to settle before Matt and I headed back to college to finish our senior year. Mom pulled me around stores to decide on china and crystal patterns, and whatever else was deemed important. Aunts called to congratulate and ask about color schemes, wedding party participants, and wedding gown details. Many girls grow up dreaming about their one-day wedding, but this girl lacked the sparkly vision and expectations.  

A pause for a little back story.

I am the eldest – the firstborn of five children, and eighteen cousins. I grew up surrounded by my loving aunts, uncles, and cousins. The matriarch interprets the traditions and hold a lot of clout. We are a large loud Italian-American tribe.

Although the placement has its privileges, being first does not mean you have first choice. Frequently, the first-born are the first guinea-pigs, made to endure first attempts and set the tone for future expectations.

My parents lived in Sayville, Long Island, and the vast backyard overlooked the Great South Bay. My mom somehow kept colorful gardens growing despite the steady onslaught of salty breezes. It’s a gorgeous spot. Dad, always ready to volunteer the house for a party, wanted to have the wedding in the backyard.  

My preferred style was “natural” on the hippy- dippy side. I was never much for bling or showy accessories. The simpler the better. China and crystal did not jazz me. Matt and I didn’t have real jobs or a place to live, yet. What were we supposed to do with china and crystal? But the idea of a backyard wedding suited us. There was plenty of party room for Everyone. 

Two weeks later, I left for college. We had a wedding date, June 16, 1979 (three weeks after graduation), Mom and my dad’s mother planned the menu, and Dad had drawn sketches of a rope frame for the tent that went from the roof of the house to the dock—about   100 feet long and 80  feet wide. That’s right, the family was cooking, and the tent, soon dubbed the Truglio dome, became a story by itself. Oh, and my sister, Mary, a year my junior, announced her engagement. She and Gary would marry in August, ten weeks after my wedding. 

Back to the Wedding Dress story. 

I came home for the Thanksgiving recess armed with bridal magazines dog-eared with wedding dress possibilities. Although I was not sure what I wanted to wear, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want the puffs, ruffles and tight waistlines, making it hard to move and sit. I expected spending most of the vacation dragging through shops and trying on dresses I knew I would not like.

Mom and Aunt Lil were on a side mission. Aunt Lil, my mother’s aunt, offeredto sew the bridesmaids’ dresses. Like her older sister (my grandmother), Aunt Lil was a talented seamstress. Unlike my grandmother, Aunt Lil, enjoyed sewing for my mom, sisters and I. She was also a good teacher, showing those who were interested tricks on how to hide seams, match stripes and plaids, and sew pleats. My grandmother was living in California near her son. She wasn’t expected until a few days before the wedding day. We were spared her drama. 

The bridal party included my three sisters, my dear friend who should have been born my sister, two sister-in-laws, and a little cousin as the flower girl.  I decided on a rainbow wedding party—nodding to my mother’s preference to dress her daughters in the same outfit but in assigned colors when we were children. 

We didn’t need to go to 34th Street. We bought Butterick patterns and light and breezy fabric from the local shop, and helped Aunt Lil cut the pieces. Aunt Lil had Mom decide on a different pattern and material type for the mother-of-the-bride dress. 

Aunt Lil was a talented and experienced seamstress, but she could not make or adapt a pattern on sight for each body, like Grandma. This was fine. Everyone was happy to help. 

Finally, I asked. “What about me?”

“You will wear my dress,” replied Mom. She dug through the attic and pulled out the box containing her wedding dress made from alencon lace. Mom popped the seal and open the lid. There it was, perfectly preserved. Aunt Lil and Mom shook out the dress and inspected the edges and seams. I had never seen the dress so close before. My parents’ wedding pictures did not do it justice. It was simple elegance, my kind of style.

“Put it on, Antoinette. It will fit you.” 

It was a Cinderella moment. I stepped in, shimmied it over my hips, slipped my arms through. Uh-oh. The zipper would not close. Aunt Lil released the pleats and tucked seams Grandma sewed in before Mom’s wedding. The zipper zipped!  

Mom and Aunt Lil gasped. 

I could walk, turn and sit. No puff, no strangle hold form to fit in. I looked and felt beautiful in it. Perfect.

Mary, who had a stronger, more athletic body build, could not get the dress past her hips. Aunt Lil promised to make her gown after my wedding. 

On June 16th, 1979, I married my sweetheart wearing the wedding dress my mom wore and sewn by my grandmother. My bridal party was a rainbow of color. It was a beautiful, crazy day. We celebrated in the backyard under the blue of boat tarps hanging over a web of ropes—the Truglio Dome. It was the first family backyard wedding. 

Each of my sisters married under a type of Truglio dome. My niece and cousin followed. This year my daughter and Mary’s daughter will marry in the backyard, totaling eight weddings.

The Wedding Dress Story does not end yet. Check in next week for The Wedding Dress Part 3.

Great BIG Thanks and appreciation go out to Natalie the Explorer who keeps the Weekend Coffee Share percolating.

Enjoy ❤️.   Like 👍.  Share 😊. 

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12 thoughts

  1. I love this story! I miss that my folks moved away from the family when they got married. Salvatore told my mother, Josephine, “Get as far away as you can from this place.” After traveling the country for Navy service, and my father going to school, they settled here. Your family sounds wonderful! And your story was beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Antoinette!! The story of your wedding dress is mesmerizing. So special. It reminds me of hearing my husband’s aunt talk about her wedding dress. She was a seamstress herself and made her own dress. She was the eldest of six with four sisters and this dress was altered to fit all of them except Geoff’s mum and I don’t think she wore a wedding dress as such. We’re not really sure. I am one of two with a brother so mothing like that for me. I’ll head back and read part 1.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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