Yesterday, I foolishly tried on my 43 year old wedding dress. I say foolishly, because forty-three years ago this coming September, I was a totally different shape. Four children and the fact that I eat what I cook took their toll. I managed to get the dress as high as my waist (empire still is fairly forgiving) but that was it. The reason I was trying my dress on was because of all the 1812 re-enactment events going on in the area. I had hoped that some day my daughter would be able to wear my gown, but she tried it on when she was a teen and as she is much broader across the shoulders it was a no-go. Besides, her taste in clothing is very different than mine. I like the odd frill; she prefers tailored clothes. I wonder really how many young women now would wear their mother’s wedding gown. Not many, I imagine.
During and after WW ll brides were restricted because of material shortages to what they could wear for their weddings. Two of my aunts and my husband’s mother, opted for a smart suit with a stylish veiled hat. My mom, on the other hand, being very sentimental, decided to wear her mother’s 1910 wedding gown. Luckily, my grandmother was an accomplished seamstress who re-designed the bodice of the dress to make it more in step with the times. I
I think they both made beautiful brides.
I decided to make my wedding dress because I thought spending several hundred dollars for a dress I would only wear once was just too wasteful. I thought perhaps that all those years in Home Economics should may be put to good use (I’d think twice now). My material plus the trims, thread and zipper came to about $90. I bought cotton eyelet and lined it with satin. I’d forgotten until yesterday, just how heavy that was. I made my sister’s gown too as she was going to be my maid of honour and my friend’s mom made hers. The girls wore flocked turquoise organdy (same pattern as my gown) with white velvet ribbon belts.
All of our flowers cost more than the dresses. It was over $300 for my bouquet, their baskets, flowers for the lapels and corsages. That would be a real bargain now. I never even considered centrepieces for the tables. I was just happy to have the tables nicely set. Now I would probably re-think that.
My biggest concern about sewing the dress was keeping it clean. I put a large white sheet under my sewing table and bundled up my dress in that when I wasn’t working on it. We also had a lovely tortoiseshell persian cat who delighted in pouncing on my material whenever the opportunity came along. Poor Bibby got unceremoniously shut out.
I had my mom’s old White-Elna sewing machine to use and I spent many a frustrating time untangling threads and replacing numerous bent or broken needles. I even pricked my fingers when I was hemming the gown by hand. I expect my great grandmother used a treadle machine and my grandmother no doubt learned to sew on it, but by the forties she would have had an electric machine. I know that my sister and I received many a dress from her sewing room when we were little. When I think of the gowns made in 1812, all by hand, I feel very humble indeed. Those amazing mothers and sisters made all the family clothes, from overalls to wedding gowns. Some of them probably even made the material on their looms. We really do have it so much easier than they did.
Well, I won’t be wearing my wedding gown for a costume. Perhaps someone smaller will. In the meantime, guess I’d better find myself a pattern and some material. Friends of mine are using cotton sheets to make theirs. That sounds like a great idea. I can make a “mob” cap easily enough but the straw hat to top it might take some thinking. I have a few ideas….