The Wedding Dress Part 3

We last left the story on my wedding day, June 1979. I wore the wedding dress my grandmother sewed and my mother wore. Within ten weeks, my sister, Mary, married under the Truglio Dome in the backyard. Despite the rain the day before and in the morning, the sun came out and dried up the puddles and lawn. Mary and Gary had a lovely wedding.

A little backstory.

After my wedding, Aunt Lil fulfilled her promise and sewed Mary’s wedding dress. Since my mother’s mom traveled from California for my wedding, Mom, Mary and Grandma trekked to 34th Street looking for the lace man who sold Grandma the original bolt of alencon lace. They found him.

I haven’t had alencon lace in my store for twenty-five years,” explained the man, “A lady bought my last twelve yards.” 

“I am that lady!” said Grandma. “I made a beautiful gown for my daughter. My granddaughter wore it. I want the same for this granddaughter.”

The lace man showed his wares. His stock was impressive, but Grandma complained, haggled and threatened to take her business elsewhere. Finally, she settled on a bolt of white lace—beautifully detailed but not quite the same.  

Grandma and Aunt Lil cut a pattern. Grandma returned to California while Aunt Lil sewed. Mary’s dress fit better than the preverbal glove and looked absolutely gorgeous.

After the wedding, both dresses were sent to the cleaners and preserved in sealed boxes waiting for whatever may come.

Some thirty-one years later, my middle daughter, Hallie, announced her engagement. Hallie was living in South Carolina, so we planned a wedding over the phone. Hallie wanted to try the special dresses. We weren’t certain which dress Hallie could fit in but it was worth breaking the seal and trying them. When we opened the boxes, brown chemical stains splattered the front and sides of my dress. We found Mary’s dress terribly faded with deeper brown stains. The cleaners was no longer in business, so I took my gown to a local tailor, who enjoyed a five-star reputation. 

“The gown is ruined,” said the tailor “Best to cut up the clean spots and make a christening gown for the babies.”

The woman looked at me then back at the wedding dress.

“You wore this?” she asked.

“Yes, my grandmother sewed it, my mother wore it. I wore it, It is truly a family heirloom.”

The tailor tsked and shook her head. “What happened to you?

“Life,” I said as I snatched the dress off her rack and left insulted and disappointed.

We eventually found a perfect wedding gown for Hallie and had a wonderful celebration.

Fast forward eleven years to the present.

My youngest daughter, Robyn, and her Tommy are practicing minimalism. Currently they are adventuring, living in their tricked-out van, traveling and working remotely and as itinerant therapists. Although they live on the west coast, we are planning a New York wedding via the phone, email, and zoom. They don’t want bells, whistles, drama or extras, which makes this my job harder. We settled on a modest guest list (family only which adds up to eighty-five people). The backyard would be chilly in April, but the party tents do come with clear sides, heat and lighting. There won’t be a wedding party, bridal shower, or crazy bachelorette party with her sisters and cousins. Robyn stated a traditional wedding dress was optional. Well, I could accept the absent wedding party and bridal shower, but there are a few traditions that must be observed, namely wearing a wedding gown. 

Before Robyn came home for the Christmas holidays, I took out my wedding dress. Mom and I inspected the stain.

“Let’s try my grandmother’s remedy,” suggested Mom. My great grandmother’s forte was cleaning. She did not let dust rest or smudges appear on formica counters. There was never a faded stain on tablecloths, aprons, or white school shirts. She could have been the avatar for Mrs. Clean.

We experimented on Mary’s dress which looked damaged beyond hope. I cut a small swatch and brushed on Mom’s mixture of bleach and water. We let it soak for three minutes (like Great Grandma’s soft-boiled eggs) rinsed and put the swatch in a sunny window.  

Not only did the chemical stain disappear, the piece was back to its original bright white. The material was not weakened or burned from the bleach. 

Mom and I hung our wedding dress on a hanging basket hook, soaked a toothbrush in the diluted bleach and worked the stains. Once rinsed, we hung the dress in a sunny window. Within a few hours, the chemical stains disappeared. The ivory color remained intact. Now all we needed was for Robyn to fit in the dress and love it.

Robyn loved it at first sight. Yes, it is a beautiful dress, but the special-ness of wearing a wedding gown sewn by her great grandmother and worn by her grandmother and mother won her heart. She put it on. The A-Line style was perfect for her tall, lean body. But, her back was a smidge too wide. The zipper would not zip. There were no seams to let out this time. Mom thought we could sew an addition from Mary’s dress, or somehow change the bodice to a backless style. 

Aunt Lil and my grandma were no longer with us. We needed a tailor and fast. Robyn was home for only a week. Before Christmas Eve festivities, I made appointments. Some tailors quoted $500 to $800 just to consult. I figured if I could get a wedding dress for $1000, it would be worth the expense. 

The first tailor was the gift. Slubia appreciated the workmanship, the lace and the history. Robyn put the dress on. Slubia spoke directly to me and my mom.

“I take off zipper, Mommy. I make loops. Lace back like sneaker. Ok, Grandma?”

A simply brilliant solution! Slubia had a line item charge for zipper removal and loops—$200. 

“I call for fitting.”

I reminded her that Robyn was leaving after Christmas,  and would not be back until a few days before the wedding. 

“No problem,” said Slubia. 

We left the gown in Slubia’s capable hands. I canceled the other tailor appointments. 

Two days later, the dress was ready. Slubia took out the zipper, made loops and a ribbon for lacing, re-positioned the bustle buttons (Robyn is almost four inches taller than me), and mended a tear. Perfect.

The wedding dress is waiting for the special April day in my childhood bedroom closet, like it did some forty-four years ago. It is surrounded by family history and good omens—a great way for this adventurous couple to start a beautiful life together. 

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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19 thoughts

  1. Such a great story! Truly a special dress and yes- surrounded by good omens- over 100 combined years of happy marriage! Perfect!


  2. Let be this. She will be stunning.  We are only so sorry we won’t be there 

    Pamela H. Kurey610-368-1965


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    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this so much and I think your cleaning method was just perfect. I love to leave any of our whites in the sun. The perfect way to lift a stain.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is such a wonderful story! I’m sure your daughter will look beautiful in her dress and the history behind it makes it all the more special. Reading your three-part series made me think that it would make a wonderful short story, or even a novel… maybe written from the dress’s perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you were able to restore the dress with your great grandma’s cleaning remedy and Slubia’s brilliant suggestion. Thank you for sharing this lovely story with us at #weekendcoffeeshare.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great story Antoinette! I felt the heart break of finding your dresses stained and ruined. I now worry about my wife’s dress, cleaned and sealed and stored away for 40+ years now.
    Wonderful ending to this story and I hope you all have a wonderful wedding with this dress taking a new lap and making fresh memories tied to such a great legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. If ever anyone wants to wear your wife’s dress, open it early and let the sun shine its magic.


      1. Already noted & planned.
        Our one girl is the most likely next owner but her nose for now is deep into her studies. She’s in her first year of med school to become a doctor- something she’s wanted since she was old enough to understand what a doctor does.

        Liked by 1 person

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