I got an email from a friend yesterday, inviting me to her "self-declaration" wedding on Sunday. (This is apparently quite legal in Pennsylvania, and the way the Quakers do it, with no judge / minister / other authority figure involved). As of yesterday afternoon, she still had nothing to wear. She loved the idea of a gown but since they're doing something relatively informal and at home, she couldn't justify it.
I, however, could. This is the bride-to-be in my great-aunt Violet's wedding dress, circa 1932. I turned myself inside out as a teenager to get her to promise to leave me that dress, and she eventually did. However, my teenage self was not thinking that I would actually fill out a bit between age 14 and whenever I might have an opportunity to wear it.
Hell, if we're being realistic, it didn't really fit me at 14, and now I'd need a month on a desert island, rib removal and possibly a stint on the Biggest Loser to get into it. And this is not me saying I'm overweight, this is simply reality; the dress is made for someone much more slender - and much less bodacious - than I am.
Though my great-aunt (who was much more bodacious than me) did get into it, but she said she was bound within an inch of her life and couldn't take a full breath until she got the dress off many hours later. Which perhaps explains the pained expression on her face, though if we're being truthful, that was her natural expression. Sourpuss or not, they were married for 50 years, so the dress has some luck built in.
And considering it's been packed in tissue in a cardboard box (not the nice preserving kind of box and tissue, just whatever was around at the time) the dress was in immaculate condition, other than horribly wrinkled. The lace over-jacket not so much - there was a little splitting around the fronts of the armholes, but nothing that couldn't be repaired once I saw that it fit her.
The dress itself is ivory satin, bias cut, with snaps up the left side. It's close-fitting, even on her, and she's about 2 sizes smaller than me. The over-jacket is lace, with long sleeves (I love the sleeve puffs), and diamond-shaped insets of the satin all the way down the back and making up most of the train. The train, by the way, has a ribbon underneath so you can hold up your train while waltzing. Too fabulous.
The dress wasn't pressed yet when the photos were taken because at that point she hadn't completely made up her mind, but before she went home last night we ironed it and I did the repairs to the lace. Knowing her wardrobe fairly well from doing theater costuming with her, I know she has a pair of ivory vintage ankle-strap shoes that will be beautiful with this.
It hurt like hell seeing that dress walk out of the house, but I'm happy, for her and for the dress. Dresses need to be worn and loved. My closet is not a museum.
And for what it's worth, the bedroom furniture in the photos came from the same aunt, and was purchased the same year as the wedding. So I have my vintage 1932 heirloom, well-loved and used every day.
I wish I'd taken a picture of her when she tried on the veil. It has a beaded headpiece which is still intact, but the netting, which had little tiny ivory bows sewn all over it, was shredded and hanging in strips. It looked fantastic on her, very Miss Havisham.
Then again, that's probably not the effect you want on your wedding day.