I felt like a princess on my wedding day.
My white, satin gown billowed around me. Its high collar and scoop neckline trimmed in lace, with a dozen satin-covered buttons down the back, and more along the sleeves. Yards of tulle swirled from the Juliet cap that anchored my veil.
It was perfect for a late March wedding, and even better I found the Jessica McClintock gown at Frederick & Nelson where I worked, so I got to use my employee discount.
If there’s one day in every woman’s life where she feels absolutely beautiful – it’s her wedding day. Alas, like Cinderella, midnight comes for all of us, and our beautiful gowns become memories.
Some women carefully pack away their dresses to save for future generations, some donate them to programs like Angel Gowns, and the more practical among us, sell them.
After I had my third son, I simply couldn’t imagine why that gown was still in my closet. We were always strapped for cash, so I took it to a consignment store and brought home $75 when it sold. The veil I kept. I reasoned that perhaps veils weren’t as trendy as dresses, and maybe I’d have a daughter-in-law who’d want to wear it.
In my previous column, I invited readers to share their wedding gown stories, and share they did.
“I still have my wedding dress from 1990,” said Lyn Mills. “I’m saving it in hopes that my daughter or one of my relatives will want to wear it as is or remake it for their wedding some day.”
Donna Scripture’s two daughters, Joan and Mary, wore the gown she purchased at the Bon Marche in 1956.
“Mary is short, but she wanted to wear it, so my neighbor, Pat, took the whole gown apart, made the alterations and put it back together,” Scripture said.
Beth Viren wrote, “I hand-sewed my wedding dress back in 1974. I was a senior at Whitworth College and was living in a dorm. The pattern was a very complicated Vogue pattern with full skirt and a train, made of crepe backed ivory satin, and had 36 tucks in the front and back of the bodice with fabric covered buttons, sheer fluffy sleeves with satin cuffs.”
When she made a mistake, her grandmother came to the rescue from Seattle and helped her finish the gown.
Viren and her husband recently downsized, and she came across her gown. She called Marcella Davis, owner of Marcella’s Bridal.
“She said that she actually takes old wedding dresses and hangs on to them,” Viren wrote. “She says that whenever she has a customer who comes in looking for their own special dress, and she knows ‘they may need a little extra attention,’ she goes to her stash of dresses. I loved that idea, and she assured me she would find the perfect person to be able to wear my dress again.”
Tamara Dees has a special plan for her gown.
“My wedding gown will be used to line my mother’s coffin. My mother is pleased, and I am honored,” she wrote.
Sandra Zikiye-Jones wore a lace dress that had been made in England.
“It had an attached train of ruffles, and the sleeves were long and pointed over my hands.”
When Eileen Mabee married in 1972, she wore the gown her mother wore in 1937.
“The dress was made by a friend, Julia Tobias, who was just beginning to design clothes in Omaha, Nebraska,” Mabee wrote. “Julia went on to become a sought-after couture designer in Denver and had her own boutique. Her dresses are in Denver fashion museums. I still have the dress, and I’m sure it will stay in the family.”
Barbara Stimers also had an original design.
In 1970, she went bridal shopping with her parents in Toronto.
“All the dresses were so fancy, and my dad thought they were too expensive,” she recalled.
Seeing she couldn’t find what she wanted, the two ladies who owned the shop stepped in. They ask her what she liked and quickly sketched up a design.
The result? An empire waist gown of white and off-white linen with knotted fabric buttons on the back and the sleeve cuffs.
“I borrowed my sister’s long veil and wore daisies in my hair,” Stimers said. “I still have my dress.”
Isabelle Green’s original wedding gown was lost before she could wear it.
“The Spokesman-Review reported a fire at Arthur’s Bridal Store in downtown Spokane in early 1956. I read the headline at my dorm in Pullman on the WSU campus,” she wrote.
Her wedding dress was in the shop and was lost in the fire.
“They allowed me to choose any gown I wanted to replace it, and since my wedding was not until July of 1956, I had plenty of time to recover. To my knowledge not one customer was without a gown on their special day. The store flew in gowns from all over and made sure every wedding went on without delay,” Green said.
Whether we’ve kept them, sold them, or donated them, memories of our wedding gowns don’t dull or fade like the fabric they were made of.
Instead, they remind us of that magical day when we felt like royalty, and happily ever after seemed guaranteed.
Angel Gown update
Peggy Mangiaracina and RoxAnn Walker are still accepting dresses for the Angel Gown program. They take donated wedding dresses and create gowns for stillborn infants or babies who die soon after birth.
If you’d like to donate your gown please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Grandparent tips for staying in touch with out-of-town grandchildren
I recently asked grandparents to share how they stayed connected with their grandchildren who lived out of the area. Here are some ideas from readers.
Caryn Alley has 35 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with another on the way.
“The majority of them live pretty far away and the older I get the more challenging travel is for me. My grands range from 30 to 6, and the greats are 3 and under,” she wrote. “I try to keep up with the far-away ones by calling on birthdays. We have a family traditional song we sing to them that my husband and I remembered from an old radio program we listened to as kids.”
Alley also said sending quick texts to her older grandkids almost always elicit a “catch-up text” from them.
Sharon Clark-Borland writes stories for her two grandchildren. The Kansas teens still enjoy reading stories that feature them as the main characters.
Peggy Mangiaracina also uses stories to stay connected to her grandson, Nicholas, 8, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In March 2020, Mangiaracina started mailing Nicholas books from the New York Times series “Who, What, Where.” But she does much more than just mail books.
“Either my husband or I read the book, then write a letter about the book, about something relevant in our lives, or a story Nicholas can relate to, or maybe plant an idea for something he and his parents can do in the future,” she wrote.
For example, when they read “Who was Betsy Ross?” Mangiaracina wrote to Nicholas, “On page 96, you’ll learn about the house Betsy might have lived in Philadelphia. I actually went to that house when I was in Philadelphia a long time ago.”
So, far Nicholas and his grandparents have read 63 books together.
Cindy Hval can be reached at email@example.com. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available locally at Auntie’s Bookstore, Barnes & Noble locations and on Amazon.