I received an email the other day from my Auntie M. Her attic was being reinsulated and the workers discovered her wedding dress from 1969. She had completely forgotten about it. Amazingly, it had not been eaten by moths or disintegrated, only yellowed. The reason she emailed me, she said, was because she knew I’d appreciate the story behind the dress.
“Nana & I had gone shopping for wedding gowns and the beaded ones were so expensive, so we bought this one and Nana proceeded to hand bead the dress and the train with hundreds of tiny pearls and seed pearls. It truly was a labor of love, but just one more that she did lovingly,” wrote Auntie M.
My aunt was right. I did appreciate the Nana story and once again being reminded of her dogged determination. Nana may not have had the money for the dress her daughter wanted, but she had the resolve to make her something damn close.
The second reason my aunt emailed was to ask if I (the organizer) had any ideas about what to do with the dress. My customary answer to anyone who asks what to do with a used wedding dress is “sell or donate.” Why keep something you only wear once that takes up so much room?
So, with the same determination as her mother had had sewing the beads, my aunt attempted to get the dress into fighting shape. Having been boxed up for 45 years, Auntie M spent eight hours on Sunday soaking and rinsing the dress. The result? White. Wedding white.
But after Auntie M sent me the before and after pictures, something happened. Suddenly this was no longer just some wedding dress (I should point out my aunt divorced her first husband, so no need to cue sentimental memories), it was now a testament to hours and hours of my grandmother’s handiwork. Just like the multicolored, hand-knitted afghans she made that most everyone in our family has that doesn’t match any room in our homes, but does make us think of her as we’re cuddled beneath it.
So while I’m still gung ho for getting rid of used wedding dresses, I will admit that sometimes when it comes to sentimental stuff, sometimes you’ve got no choice, but to keep it.