30 years ago, I had my wedding dress professionally preserved. I was told that a lot of women make this investment for two reasons: 1) you paid a shitload for the dress, so why not? And 2) if you have a daughter, she may wear it one day. At the time, I think it cost me a hefty $250.00 for this service.
It took about 6 weeks to preserve the dress and it arrived at my doorstep in a sealed, archival bridal box that immediately went into my spare closet of no return.
I have a good friend who wore her mothers wedding dress to her own wedding. When she speaks of it, you can tell that she cherished it. The possibility of that never even crossed my mind when I got married and I could have had a choice of three dresses from my mom—need I say more.
When my only daughter got engaged this year, I realized that my archival-ly preserved dress didn’t have a shot at being re-worn. Not only is my daughter much taller than me, she has a specific style gene that definitely does not scream 80’s.
“Maybe we can re-purpose some of it, Mom”, she diplomatically offered.
Well, maybe, but where was that box now?
After some digging in the closet of no return, I found it. I remembered that another friend, who was downsizing after her kids flew the coop, said that she photographed everything memorable before she gave it away or threw it out. I call it the digital preservation of clutter. Because I knew that I wanted to donate this dress, I decided to film the opening of the archival box with my daughter at my side.
A flood of memories hit me when we broke the seal.
On my wedding day, as I was getting dressed for the big event, I carefully stepped into my gown. As I was pulling it up, the elastic on the left sleeve ripped. Since it was an off-the-shoulder number, this elastic was critical to keeping the dress up.
If ever there was a need for a wardrobe supervisor, this was it. I wasn’t smart enough to travel with an emergency sewing kit…the only emergency thing I ever carried with me were tampons. Good luck with that.
I went a little ape-shit in the bathroom, because I had spent a fortune on the dress at the infamous, formally-Brooklyn-based, Kleinfelds. And now, here I was in Pittsburgh, on a Sunday morning with a teeny tiny safety pin that my sister found underneath the vanity in the bathroom at the synagogue. P.S. Major shout out to that pin.
When we opened the archival box, you could see the snapped elastic but the teeny tiny safety pin was gone…it was probably removed during the preservation process.
The dress was clean, but it had yellowed. A lot.
“OMG, Mom, it’s pretty ugly”, my no-filter daughter observed.
“It looks like you were an extra in “WESTWORLD”, my husband chimed in from afar.
I have to admit; it was kind of thrilling to see that dress again. It looked so tiny…but WTF, I was 20 pounds lighter when I got married. Nonetheless, it brought a huge smile to my face and some honest to goodness belly laughter.
We gently pulled the gown out of the box and a small silk flower that was attached to the elastic of the shoulder floated to the ground.
My daughter picked it up and with the straightest face ever said, “I can use this”.
I’ve left the dress hanging in the closet for now. Maybe some fresh air will bring it back to life before I pack it up for donation. If the air doesn’t do it, perhaps a fresh, tiny, body will.
And here is the short film: