My grandparents, Florence and John Samson, wed in Crete, Nebraska on August 17, 1946. When I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to incorporate my grandmother’s beautiful wedding dress into my own wedding some day. Little did I know that 70 years later, when my husband, Kevin, and I tied the knot, I would have the opportunity to wear the very same gown she wore down the aisle.
Kevin and I decided to have two ceremonies for our wedding: a Catholic Church ceremony for our immediate family and a larger outdoor garden ceremony for friends and extended family. I knew the intimate Catholic ceremony was the perfect time to wear my grandmother’s wedding dress. For our larger ceremony the following day, I wore a strapless silk Monique Lhuillier gown. I loved that I didn’t have to use a small element of my grandmother’s dress in the large ceremony—I could give it its own moment.
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When I pulled the dress out of the bag, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t need much cleaning or maintenance. My grandmother had taken great care of it, so my only concern at that point was how to update the dress to make it feel more current, while still keeping the heart and soul of it intact.
At the recommendation of a few friends, I found Delilah at Le Petit Atelier in Beverly Hills to take on the challenge. Not only is she a master at what she does, she loved that I was wearing my grandmother’s dress and really put her heart into the project. Although I trusted her, I can’t say I didn’t cringe when she took scissors to the dress!
My grandmother designed the gown in 1946 using white slipper satin material. It was fashioned with a sheer net yoke and lace inset, sprinkled with tiny transparent glass beads. The long fitted bodice had a scalloped puff at the hip line, accentuated with a satin cord around the waist. The sleeves were long and came to a point over the hands, with beautiful hand sewn buttons on the inside.
The first order of business in the redesign process was to move the zipper from the side of the dress to the back. How my grandmother got into this dress, I’ll never know! We also decided to take the dress off the shoulder and eliminated the netting around the neck, while keeping the lace and beading intact.
The hardest part of refashioning the gown was adding more lace and beading so that it continued all the way around to the back zipper. Since the materials were 70 years old, it was impossible to find an exact match. My seamstress headed to the fashion district in downtown Los Angeles, searching for the perfect fabrics to make the design look cohesive.
Next, we decided to take in the sleeves and bodice so that it was more formfitting. We also gave the skirt of the dress a high-low hem, making it higher in the front so my Stuart Weitzman Nudist heels could peek through.
In the end, it came out exactly how I envisioned. Getting the chance to wear my grandmother’s dress 70 years after her wedding day is something I’ll never forget and always cherish. If you have the opportunity to add a personal touch to your own wedding day, I say do it!