The Story of the Dress Part I

Catherine and GrandMary with GrandMary's wedding dress

Shortly after their engagement, Catherine and John started to think about their wedding plans.  They considered what kind of wedding they wanted, Catherine considered what kind of dress she wanted that would make sense with the type of wedding they wanted.  She wondered if GrandMary would mind her 1951 wedding dress being remade to fit Catherine.  I called my 79-year-old mother and asked for permission.  My mom stated, “Well sure!  I won’t be using it anymore!”

This past summer we visited Mom and sisters, and at that point, my mother’s dress officially changed ownership.  In the evening, we pulled the dress out and assessed its condition.  The yellowed, heavy duchess satin from the 1951 wedding bore old stains of celebratory wedding cake and punch.  Even some of the delicate beads had lost their coating.  Catherine took it to an eco-friendly cleaner and we were thrilled with the results!  Many of the old stains were removed, others lightened and the yellow was gone!

In August, I began deconstructing the dress to determine how much fabric was usable.  I cut and sewed a demo bodice out of another fabric to be certain Catherine would have a dress that fit.  After the fit was established, I ripped the demo to use use as a pattern and I cut her new dress from my mother’s old one.

Catherine and I discussed alternatives if the pattern pieces would not fit around some of the minor stains that remained.  We decided, being the creative folks that we are, we could come up with a solution!  We also discussed the story of the dress; who it belonged to, the time period, the maternal line that it touched from my Grandmother Alma seeing her oldest daughter being married, my Mom wearing it, my Aunt Katherine standing beside her as maid of honor, my sisters and I trying it on while growing up, and now to Catherine.

Our Catherine who with her “live simply, respect the earth, eco-friendly way of living”, chose to have her dress for her milestone of a day, be one with meaning.  Just as a painting tells a story with each underlying pencil mark,  brush strokes and layers of paint, I recognized Catherine’s dress, a work of art in its own, has a story to tell, too.  Each stitch, each bead, and yes, each unresolved stain (until it’s decided how to resolve it) creates part of the story.  In fact, it is those marks that help to alter , shape and form what the dress will be, just as our own marks and resolved stains that touch to our very fibers help each of us to shape and form who we Be.

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