Mother’s, their dresses and refashioning memories.

On September 1, 1962, my Mother and father were married in Long Island, New York
My Mom is the oldest of five kids and the first daughter. In 1962 she was 18 years old, a good Catholic girl, obedient and honest.
My maternal grandmother, very fashionable and a proficient seamstress was very much in charge. Who’s getting married?
I don’t know that I have ever heard much about the planning or the dress shopping, other than my Mothers dress was made of Peau de soie.
Peau de soie, a fancy French name for a silk or rayon dress fabric with a smooth, satiny texture and a subtle ribbed or grained surface. In French, it literally means “skin of silk.” The only story I had ever heard was that my grandmothers dress for my Mother’s wedding, cost more than my Mother’s wedding dress. Hmmm, I’m thinking I’m giving a little side eye to this factoid, but I’ll continue.
My grandmothers “Mother of the bride” dress was a beautiful Ecru sheath dress, made entirely out of Alencon lace and lined in silk crepe de chine. After closer inspection, I think she made this dress. My grandmother always loved this dress, even swore she would be buried in it one day and I will say she looked stunning in it. Both my grandmothers always carried themselves with confidence and both exemplified the belief that as a woman you “keep” yourself up. You give a dam. Aging is inevitable, self-loathing is a choice.

Great Grand Father and grandmother Gilmore, Grand Father Eugene Gilmore, Grandmother Mildred Gilmore, and my Great Grand Father Higgins
My Grandmother and my Father, a young officer in the Air Force.

So when I got married in 1987, the 1st time, yes life ain’t perfect, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear. I was 20 years old and had been sewing since I was 8 years old. You would have thought I would want to make my own dress. The truth is, it had never crossed my mind. My Mothers wedding to my Father was so beautiful. I had studied their black and white wedding album for years, and I do mean study! I imagined my day to look just like my Mothers.

So I wore my Mother’s dress. My grandmother has had it hermetically sealed after my Mom’s wedding day. The first time I opened the beautiful gold box with the window underneath the front flap, it was the first time the dress had seen sunlight and been touched since 1962.

To give you perspective, I’m 5’6,” and on the day I weighed 128 lbs, 36″ x 27″ x 36″, I told you I’ve sewn a long time I knew every stat, even back then.

I pulled the dress out, stepped into it, my Mother buttoned up all 72 covered buttons up the back. Like a Cinderella glass slipper, it fits perfect, no alteration.

My brother Pat, me,my brother Tom and my brother Jack
My siblings and I. I’m the 2nd oldest. (left to right) Top #3 Pat, #1 Jack, and #4 Tom. Bottom #5 Tara, #2 Me and #6 Maureen

So now the refashioning, the day my Mom got married she left her wedding with an outfit change. A sheath dress suit, the jacket was cropped and 3/4 sleeved. From what I could tell it is shantung silk. I said to you I studied.

So I wanted to have a leaving outfit too. I decided to ask my grandmother for her dress. Reluctantly, she gave it to me. “I want that back, I’m being buried in that dress!”

So it being the 80’s and all, out of a champagne colored satin, I made some puffy sleeves that got narrower to the wrist and came to a point at the center of the top of my hand, just like my Mothers wedding dress sleeve. I hand sewed them into the arms eye to be able to remove them after the wedding so I could return it the way I received it, sleeveless. My grandmother said “Or else!”

My leaving dress. Nanny’s refashioned Mother of the brides dress.

Today, I still have both these dresses. Cleaned bagged and stored. I love them both so much. They make me think of my young Mother and my young fancy grandmother. My grandmothers dress is my personal gauge, when it fits, I’m in check. Come on guys you all know you have a pair of jeans like this.

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