When my dear departed mother-in-law was a college undergrad double-majoring in English and French, she was voted Rose Queen by her classmates at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY. She was a beautiful, talented, and vivacious coed who held other titles as well, but this one was very important--because she had to purchase a bridal-style dress to wear as St. Rose royalty, and that same dress would become her wedding dress not too many years later.
The dress Mom chose is utterly magnificent. It is made of champagne-colored satin, with a layer of soft tulle over it to soften the sheen. It is actually very simple and unfussy, except for the illusion bodice bordered with cutwork, intricate beading, and tiny seed pearl embellishments. The epic train on this gown is cathedral-length.
For her role as Rose Queen in the early 50's, Mom wore a crown with her glorious satin stunner, and she carried a bouquet of white roses.
The next generation of Pearl girls first used Mom's dress when one of her granddaughters (a daughter of the oldest Pearl sister) was married in it in 2010. However, it was determined that in order to preserve the aging gown for any of Mom's other granddaughters who might also want to wear it in the future, the bride would change after the ceremony (and subsequent photo shoot) into a second bridal gown of her own choosing for the reception. Although the satin on Mom's old beauty has held up very well, the seams are a bit fragile and a night of dancing would be a little rough on it.
A little over a week ago, Mom's dress--now more than 60 years old--was used again, by another daughter of my husband's older sister. What amazes me about this dress fashioned way back in the 1950's is that not only it is so classically styled and tailored that it never looks tired or out-of-date, but so many different Pearls--with different coloring, heights, and body types--have worn it, and each one has looked stunningly beautiful in it. It is a dress in which a bride truly does glow and shine. A dress fit for a princess (or a Rose Queen).
Before my niece's recent wedding, I was tasked with closing up a pair of inch-or-so-long rips that had formed on the armhole seams of Mom's dress, one on each side, due to the disintegration of the old thread. I did them by hand, worried that if I dragged the heavy dress over to my sewing machine and tried to maneuver it that way, I might damage it somehow. So I hand-stitched very carefully, and when I was done, I ever-so-gently pulled on one of the newly-sewn seams to make sure it would hold...and rrriiiippp! Ohhhhhh noooooo! The repair job I'd just finished was fine; but suddenly there was a brand new six-inch gaping hole, where the seam had broken apart from just above the armpit down the side of the dress.
At that point, I began to shake. This dress was more than a mere dress; it was a piece of Pearl history--a piece of Mom. "Mom, help me out here!" I whispered desperately. She always liked to sew--it's something we had in common--and talking to her really did make me feel confident that with her heavenly help, I wouldn't end up destroying that precious dress. Well, thanks be to God (and to Mom, too!), I was able to repair the seam, using my machine this time to ensure that it would hold strong throughout the ceremony.
So! Crisis averted! But I think perhaps it's time to take Mom's dress to a professional seamstress (who wouldn't be me!) to have all the fragile seams reinforced.
Okay then, let's have some fun. Do you have an heirloom wedding dress in your family? Did you wear your Mom's or your grandmother's bridal gown when you got married? I love these sorts of stories, so do share if you have one!