The Story of the Dress – Part II

Original Vintage Beading from Mom's Wedding Dress

On Wednesday, I put the first stage of beading on Catherine’s wedding dress bodice.  Her dress is being created from her grandmother’s wedding gown.  My Mom, married in March of 1951, wore a dress made from cream duchess satin, with a beautiful long train, long sleeves with a v shape coming over the top of the hand, fitted bodice and stitched beading on tulle that accented the upper shoulder portions, connecting across the back of the neck and throughout the Peter Pan collar.  Tiny satin covered beads fastened into loops went up the front of the dress and at the wrists of the sleeves.

This first stage of beading began by duplicating the beaded pattern.  By laying the existing beaded section on top of the current bodice and pushing pins up through both layers from the back inside portion of the bodice I marked the design.  Next, I pulled away the old beading and used large basting stitches near the pins to have a temporary stable pattern to follow.  I removed the straight pins and then carefully removed the beads form the old section.  I marveled as I discovered some type of machine was originally used to sew each bead in place with a chain stitch.  Chain stitches can be a potential problem if the wrong thread is pulled !  I thought of all the times my sisters and I had pulled out Mom’s old dress from her cedar chest, to try it on to see how it would look on us!  It was a miracle it was still together!

As I pulled the thread and watched the beads fall into the container, I noticed how some of the bronze colored beads had lost their finish.  “Oh, it must have happened at the dry cleaner”, I thought.  Suddenly the image of my sisters and I pressing the dress (numerous times) came to mind!  Perhaps the cleaner, or more likely, perhaps a very hot iron by young girls, altered their tone.

I began stitching each bead just above the large basting lines, referring back to the original pattern.  About 2-3 hours later, the first stage of the first part of the beading was completed!  I snapped a photo and sent it to Catherine. “It’s the perfect design for the dress!” she replied.

Working on her dress brings such enrichment to my life.  First, it marks time, time before I existed, time in my childhood, time now and looking at how much time there is before her wedding.  Second, it helps me to touch to my maternal lines, and the lines of women and the roles they played as partners in marriages.

Marriages have taken place for all kinds of reasons:  from love, to societal expectations, to making a secure future, to joining family resources and many more.  My husband and I base our marriage on love and respect, and I see Catherine and John are doing the same.  It’s what I know; it’s a wonderful way to begin building lives together!

Threads from old beading on left, new placement on right!