From an InStyle Editor: I Reworked My Mother's Wedding Gown and Wore It to My Rehearsal Dinner
With Bridal Fashion Week coming up soon, we asked our resident newlywed, Senior Editor Sharon Clott Kanter, to share one of her most memorable bridal fashion moments.
The first time I saw my mother’s wedding gown, it looked dreadful—the lace had turned yellow, it smelled foul from being stashed in a cedar chest since 1981, and the style was '80s overload with its high neckline, long sleeves, and a train that looked like a superhero cape. But it was my mom’s and I was absolutely in love with it.
She, however, was not. “I wanted you to see it since you just got engaged,” she told me when I was visiting my parents' house in Havertown, Pa., during the first of many wedding planning trips back home. “Now that you have, I’m going to throw it away.” I shrieked. “That’s not happening!” I replied, as calmly as I could. I had no plan and no vision, but I couldn’t part with it yet.
My mom let me take the gown back to my New York City apartment. I immediately started to brainstorm ways I could use it for my own wedding. Maybe I could take some of the fabric and sew it into my gown for my “something old”? Maybe I could use the fabric to wrap my bouquet? Maybe I could cut it up and wear it to my rehearsal dinner? Yes, that was it. I thought wearing her dress on my wedding weekend would be a meaningful way to thank my mother for making all my own wedding dreams come true.
The project had officially begun.
First, the yellow had to go. I visited three different dye specialists in N.Y.C., but not one would agree to fixing it. Because the gown was 33 years old, the risk of the fabric deteriorating was too high for anyone to take on. The outlook was bleak, so with a little Googling, I found out OxyClean could work. After several soakings in cold water, the gown was white again. (An added bonus? This process also took the smell out.)
Then I had to de-’80s it. With the restored white gown in hand, I went to my regular spot, Ban’s Tailor in the Upper East Side, for the finishing touches. I knew exactly what I wanted—to give the dress a modern update while keeping the original details in tact—and he said it would take him two fittings to complete. The first time, I asked him to cut the sleeves and most of the skirt off. A week later, he finalized the hem and sculpted the neckline so it accentuated my collarbone. When I picked it up from his shop, I couldn’t believe how much it had transformed. It looked sensational, even on a hanger. Final cost of alternations: Less than the dresses I had considered buying!
When I pulled it out for my rehearsal dinner night several weeks later, I felt like it couldn’t have turned out any better. I packed a wallet-sized photo of my mom’s dress in my Marchesa clutch and showed guests the before-and-after shots all night long. Everyone looked so surprised about how well it turned out, including the few people who had been at my parents' wedding and seen it the first time.
No one looked as happy as my mom.
Later that night, she told me that reworking her gown meant the world to her. “I remember wearing that dress, so it was really emotional to see my little girl in it,” she told me. “I can’t believe how beautiful you look—and how much better it looks on you than it did on me!”