My Wedding Dress
My engagement/marriage to Leroy was a relatively simple process. We didn't want to wait long to be married. Since there was no big wedding or reception, the plans were simple, but I did need a wedding dress. I had several issues of the latest bridal magazines showing the styles, but there were none that had all of the features that I loved. I liked the skirt on one dress, but the sleeve and neckline on another. It didn't take long to realize that it would be best to have the dress custom made and there was no one better suited for the task than my Aunt Fern. The only problem was that she lived more than 800 miles away in Bloomington, Idaho.
My parents had recently bought property in Bear Lake County and were planning on moving back to the area after my marriage. All through the Spring and Summer of 1987, my parents made several trips back and forth between Idaho and California. On one of those trips, I packed my magazines and big ideas in hopes that I could convince my Aunt Fern to make the dress. She (hesitantly) agreed. She was humble and kind, but she was intimidated by my request. She certainly did not lack the skills required. I think she was afraid of my expectations and didn't want to disappoint me. Once I convinced her that she had my full confidence, we got busy.
We visited every single fabric store in Cache Valley, Utah, and Bear Lake County, Idaho. (Not an exaggeration.) Aunt Fern knew them all. I didn't know a think about fabric, notions, appliques (and still don't) but Aunt Fern knew precisely what she needed. She maneuvered us (me and my mom) through every store with focus and determination. She explained the difference between satin and taffeta and showed us the variance in quality. Always thrifty and trying to avoid unnecessary expense, she measured me down to the millimeter to purchase only as much as necessary as not to waste. I had no idea what she was planning or how she'd get it done, but I knew she would. Aunt Fern even acted as a calm moderator between my mother and me as we argued over the cut out back I wanted on the dress. Mom was opposed to skin showing, and Aunt Fern suggested we cover the area with sheer fabric to give the illusion of backless, yet keeping the style modest. We (Mom and I) were both convinced.
I went back to California and only made one more trip to Idaho before the wedding (in November) for a final fitting. On that last visit, the dress was still in parts and not yet covered with the lace, and it was difficult (for me) to envision the final product. But Aunt Fern was confident. She assured me that getting the fit was first and adding the extra stuff would come later.
My Aunt Fern and her husband (my much loved) Uncle Harold drove from Idaho to California for our wedding in November 1987 and brought the dress to me. Needless to say (at least to anyone who knew her) it fit like a glove and was just what I wanted.
I have many fond memories of my Aunt Fern and Uncle Harold, but our time together working on that dress is at the top of the list. Sadly, they both passed away in a car accident in 1994, but I will never forget their kindness, love, and gentle spirits.
Fast-Forward to 2019 -- What do you do with an old wedding dress?
Immediately after the wedding, we took the dress to the dry-cleaners to be cleaned, preserved and boxed for safe keeping. For 20+ years it sat in a box at the top of my closet. In 2010 the dress box was put in a storage unit and had remained there, unappreciated.
In January of 2019, Leroy and I decided to re-evaluate our stuff in storage and to consolidate and downsize. When I saw the box with the dress, I immediately thought of my cousins and knew I needed to offer it to them. There is a lot of my Aunt Fern's love in that dress, and for 30+ years it has been hidden away and not appreciated as it deserves. It is a piece of art and should be seen and enjoyed by those who knew her well and loved her most.
That's the thing about stuff (even if you want to call them keepsakes.) The value does not lie in the object; it's the memories that we cherish. If we're going to honor someone by keeping a souvenir, we need to respect the item and give it the space it deserves.
I called my cousin (the oldest in the family) and offered to ship the dress to her. I explained that it's not that I don't love the dress, but I have the marriage and the memories. I wanted them to have the dress to share with their grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) who may not have had the privilege of knowing their grandparents. I told my cousin, Tanya, that she had my blessing to do with the dress as she wished. She could keep it in the box, pull it out to admire or pull pieces of the dress to add to blessing, baptismal or wedding gowns for the younger generations in the family.
Tanya gratefully accepted my gift, and we shipped the dress to her a few days later. I don't know (yet) what she has planned, but I know the dress will continue to bring joy-filled memories of a wonderful woman who was loved by all who knew her.