When my husband, Eric proposed to me back in 1992, the first thing I did was go out and buy a couple of those big, fat bridal magazines. I pored over the perfection of the gowns that promised to fulfill every blushing bride’s dream. *sigh*
The styles back then were both the poufy ballgown type and the closer fitting “mermaid” look. Fitted through the torso and flaring out at the bottom. With a butt bow. Of course, because 1992.
Every gown had a beaded detail along the front created with little tiny pearls. One gown after the other was heartbreakingly beautiful and, sadly, just out of my reach financially. *heavy sigh* Ever resourceful, I marched myself over to the local fabric store. Vogue Bridal Patterns to the rescue.
I have to give mad props right here to my mom for raising me to be such a well-rounded Cuban wife. We can cook, we can clean, we can sew. We know how to “resolver.” I have been sewing since I was 8 years old. I was not intimidated by a complicated sewing pattern.
I found a wonderful Vogue pattern – mermaid style, with puffy sleeves and the ubiquitous butt bow. Of course. I found affordable (read “cheap”) white satin for the lining and underskirt and a pretty enough lace that I used as an overlay. My plan was to then do some hand beading over the top of the entire thing and along the neckline and the sleeves to bring it closer to my bridal magazine vision.
I was working full-time back then and working on my dress in my down time. It took me a couple of weeks to make the dress and a few more weeks to finish sewing the tiny, white, pearl beads to the dress. I also added sequins to catch the light just so. I was very pleased with the final product. With all the intricate and detailed hand-beading, I had gotten pretty close to creating my dream dress.
In fact – full disclosure – when I had finished the dress, I tried it on and found my Girl Group CD, popped in the song, “Going to the Chapel” by the Shirelles and danced around the room in celebration. Guys, I made my wedding dress!
I didn’t carefully preserve the dress in its own environmentally perfect enclosure like many people do. In fact, it was in the bottom of a drawer with the rest of our costume collection. It never occurred to me that either one of my daughters would ever want to wear a home-made wedding dress, hand-beading notwithstanding.
THEY ARE ENGAGED!
Last year, Lucy and Marc got engaged and we were quickly propelled into Wedding Planning and all that that entails. This was something I hadn’t done in 25 years. The first thing we did? We went out and bought a few of those big, fat, bridal magazines. Ah, there was a nice familiar rhythm to this wedding business.
The Wedding Dress Hunt of 2017 could now commence.
SO IT BEGINS…
Lucy was still in Austin and the first thing she and her girls did was go on The Dress Hunt. She included me (by text photos) as she tried on the big poufy gowns as well as the slimmer styles and clued me in on their prices(!) – apparently a second mortgage might be necessary just to get a dress. *clutches heart in shock*
Lucy is a pretty level-headed human and she knows what she likes and understands the reality of money, so I trusted her to find something flattering that came under budget. I also know what it’s like to be a soon-to-be-bride trying on beautiful you-should-be-a-princess gowns and the ensuing temptation to just spend whatever you had to for that perfect dress. She found that she also preferred a mermaid style. Like mother, like daughter?
Buckle in everyone. It’s probably going to be a bumpy ride.
THE DRESS HUNT – SO CAL
She moved back home in July – I should probably write about our absolutely EPIC Road Trip, but I’ll leave that for another day, because today I’m talking dresses. (A.D.D. is real, people.)
Amy, being the maid-of-honor, organized a visit to a local bridal salon. I quickly went to work on the important stuff – you know, like cute signs to hold up as she tried on dresses. I know. Shut up.
Can I just make an observation here? As the parent of an adult person with her own wonderful taste and opinions, there’s that weird tension between giving my very opinionated Cuban mom thoughts on every little thing and just trying to be supportive and along for the ride. It’s a weird and raggedy edge to dance on.
At some point you have to hope you’ve given them enough tools to make good choices and hope for the best. And pray. A lot.
So she tried on a ton of dresses. And we voted yay or nay on each one.
Wedding dress shopping is exhausting! Everything starts looking the same. Also, I thought she could pretty much wear anything and look great, but that’s not important right now. But at least now she had a really good idea of the style she liked best.
Once we got dress shopping out of the way, she asked, “Would it be possible for me to try on your dress?”
I felt like that came out of the blue, but she had apparently been giving this a lot of thought. I felt flattered that she would want to wear my dress, and I really did not care either way. I couldn’t quite see how it would work for her, but, yes, try my dress on, please and we’ll see what happens. “You know it’s got a butt bow, right?”
THE DRESS WITH THE BUTT BOW
We found my original wedding dress, looking much much worse for wear after having spent 25 years in a drawer somewhere. It was stained and looking a little tired. I called in my good friend, Rosabelle. We had homeschooled our kids together and were costume moms together when the kids were in drama. I knew I would not have time to do the alterations required, but she was super willing to step up and make it happen.
So Lucy tried on my dress. And she was surprised (as was I) that she actually liked it. Everyone proclaimed that the dress had good bones. But could we 1) Get the stains out? 2) Make it fit Lucy’s vision? 3) Keep it a secret from everyone?
THANK YOU, OXICLEAN
Amy began with the Google research on how to get the stains out. Dry cleaning was prohibitive and so YouTube turned out to have the best answers for “how to clean an old wedding dress.”
First, Rosabelle de-constructed the dress. Goodbye, Butt Bow and Puffy Sleeves. We also removed the bottom which would need to be replaced anyway. (When I say, “we,” I mean Rosabelle. She did all the heavy lifting on this project and deserves all the praise.)
Then we followed the directions and soaked it for hours in the tub.
We figured we really had nothing to lose. And it might actually work.
It worked beautifully and there was much rejoicing. (Thanks, Oxiclean!) Now it was time to do the actual fitting. The neckline had to be narrowed and the back and sides taken in.
We took a trip to the fabric store to find a suitable replacement for the bottom of the dress. Lucy wanted lace, much like the dress she tried on in Austin. And a train, like the dress she tried on here.
We spent a few hours making the decision on the type of lace. I actually found one that echoed the original lace on the dress but had sequins and beads already sewn in. It would make the dress heavy, but it would make quite a stunning statement.
The neckline had to be reworked a little, but the star of the show was the original beading. It looked amazing. The underskirt would remain satin with some tule to give it more body. Rosabelle used the old skirt as a pattern and created an entirely new skirt made from tule and lace with a longer train. It all came together beautifully. I really could not have done this myself this time around. It’s one thing making your own dress. It’s another when it’s for your daughter’s wedding day. I was way too emotional to be of much use here. I’m so grateful for my generous and talented friend.
And then, before we knew it, it was December 30th and time to get dressed for The Wedding.
We were finally able to tell the Dress Story. “Yeah. This is my mom’s wedding dress,” she said proudly, “she made it back in 1992.” I had my original photo on my phone and we laughed at how cool this was.
And when I stopped and looked at my daughter, the bride, it all hit me. How lovely was she? I looked at her. REALLY looked at her. Here was Lucy in my dress.
No. Here was Lucy in her dress. Because that’s exactly what it was. I had made the original, but this design was completely improved upon. That lace train made it spectacular.
And just like the first time, it took Eric’s breath away when he got that first look.
Much to my surprise, he recognized the dress as the 1992 original. And he couldn’t hold back tears mingled with laughter.
We stood proudly next to our daughter, the bride. With much more than lace and beads between us, but also with a very deep awareness of the rich history we were passing on.
You could still see the beading and detail I had so painstakingly added to this dress 25 years before.
Maybe there was more to this story than just my girl wanting to wear my wedding dress. Maybe she was more than a little bit proud to carry on a legacy.
They honeymooned in Rome and packed up all their wedding finery. And had beautiful photos done there by a professional photographer they’d hired before they left.
That day, back in 1992, that I danced around in my just-finished wedding dress I couldn’t have imagined the emotions I would be feeling 25 years later seeing my girl taking that original homemade dress and proudly making it her own.
The beauty of her very personal choice, in this vast world where her choices were completely unlimited, was not lost on me. She could have had any one of thousands of dresses.
But she chose the one where Mom’s original hand-beading had held up pretty well through the years. She was saying yes to so much more than a dress.
Although I was happy to give away my dress, I did sentimentally keep a souvenir from the original.