My Wedding Dress...And My (Spoiler Alert) Divorce
This blog post is a culmination of a few different things.
First off, it's October, my very favorite time of year, and my anniversary week.
Also, it's the month of my grandmother's birthday. She just turned 100!
It's been 2 months since my husband moved out and I can now (kind of, sometimes) talk about it without crying. So, why not talk about my wedding dress?!
This makes more sense than you might think. My wedding dress was actually my mother's wedding dress. Her mother (my now 100 year old grandmother) made it. To celebrate her, and handmade clothes, and happy memories, I'm going to talk about my handmade heirloom wedding dress.
SIDENOTE: My mother is approaching 60 and still fits in her wedding dress. This blog post is partially an ode to my awesome grandma, but my mum deserves a shoutout too, for being a knockout.
OTHER SIDENOTE: I recently learned about #slowfashionoctober run by Fringe Association. More on that next week, this week, I'm focusing on the uplifting topics of divorce and growing old! :-D
I don't think she'd prefer that I give you her entire biography. But...gosh darn it....I just keep typing and deleting sentences trying to describe her. Here's a good way to sum her up. Sitting in a brilliant purple outfit (that I would totally wear if I could pull it off as well as she did) at her 100th birthday party, I asked her about her favorite memories from life so far. She paused and said, "Oh, golly, I'd say working on the farm."
Y'all. WORKING ON THE FARM was her favorite part of 100 years.
I have a vivid memory of being a pre-teen watching her and Grandpa fix a broken fence in a blizzard. Where was I watching from? A heated pickup they sent me to sit in it because I "looked cold". Yup. Fixing a fence in a blizzard. While their perfectly capable granddaughter sat in the truck and Herefords stuck their heads through the broken rails for grain. When was this you ask? It was probably about 2002 or so. So she was 84.
Does that give you a taste for what kind of woman she is? Tough much? I'm pretty sure she's just made of barbed wire and a steadfast faith in God that is stronger than my faith in anything.
Beyond being a farmer, she was also a mother I can only aspire to be. She has 5 surviving "kids" (grandparents themselves), who care for her more than any other adult I've seen care for a parent. At this point, I'm prepared to become her disciple and learn what magic she possesses.
Beyond these facts, I really don't know her terribly well. I was raised a state away and she was busy doing her favorite thing (FARMING! I can't get over it.). I didn't see her much growing up. However, my mother tells me frequently that she and I are very similar: We both make decisions quickly, neither of us like to hem and haw over paint colors; we wear absurdly bright-colored pants; and we are both make-it-yourself-fix-it-with-duct-tape kind of gals who will do a lot of extra work to save a dollar. (We also both sew and have a love of fabric.)
Three Generations of Weddings
A few years ago, my mother asked her mother about her wedding. She said she didn't remember much but "plucking chickens." They had a chicken dinner for Grandma's wedding, and the entire week before, she had to empty her coop to help prepare. That's the extent of the information she shared. I called an aunt to try to glean some extra info on her, but it sounds like the chickens were a highlight. Probably because it dealt with her favorite thing. FARMING! Am I over it yet? Maybe not.
When my mother married, she was the youngest of six children and the fourth daughter to marry. My grandmother had made many of mum's clothes, and it was a given that she would make the wedding dress. They chose a fine cream-colored satin. The pattern came off the shoulder slightly with a fitted bodice and a train. She made beaded satin roses to sit at the shoulders.
When we pulled the dress out of storage for my wedding, I noted the thread; I thought it had discolored a bit over time. Mum replied laughing "Oh, she didn't buy matching thread, she didn't really want me to get married." Mum was, after all, the baby of the family, and there was little chance of any man being good enough for her in Grandma's opinion. I guess nonmatching thread was her way of getting the message across.
When I tried on Mum's dress for my own wedding. It fit like a glove. A four-inch-too-short glove. So we lifted up the hem to find that my lovely grandmother had left plenty of extra fabric to lengthen. What a lesson for me! Never snip off the extra length!
Just fold up that hem and do a blind-stitch to save the fabric for later. We (ahem....my mum) pulled the hem out and restitched it longer.
The satin roses had become a bit droopy over time and belied the era in which they were made, so we snipped them off. In their stead, we (ahem...still my mum) hand sewed lace around the neckline. I added a sash to go around the waist (because I could shop before I could sew) held in place with an antique brooch.
I didn't dance much in my mum's dress. The idea of sweat stains in satin was too much for me. I changed into a way-too-short knit white dress. I bought it for about $15 on clearance at Deb's. If you're not familiar with Deb's, think of Dress Barn, but for teenagers. I still have this dress, although I haven't found the perfect event to which to wear a white mini-dress made for someone still in braces. Let me know if think of one.
Wedding Dress of a Failed Marriage
This week will mark seven years since my wedding. It's going to be a bit of a tough week since we've been separated for 2 months. I'll probably celebrate by taking down various engagement, wedding, and anniversary photos from my walls. I've already given him our wedding album. I didn't like seeing it set out in its place and I couldn't find a spot for it to sit that I didn't feel it watching me.
I wonder now what will become of my mum's wedding dress. Will my daughter's want to wear a dress from a failed marriage? Will it carry bad luck with it? Not that I really believe in luck. But I do believe in symbolism and psychology. Will it carry the weight of those unhappy years with it? I don't know. Hopefully not. Hopefully it will just carry the energy of two young women, very in love with their new husbands, and ready to celebrate. That would be nice to believe.
Second Life for a Wedding Dress
I have a local friend who takes old wedding dresses and remakes them into christening and wedding clothes for babies. While I love of a good refashion, my dress is still perfectly capable of being a beautiful dress. It's classic design means it will stand the test of time.
I once bought a wedding dress at a thrift shop for a costume (my groom was my horse wearing black leg wraps and a top hat, he turned out to be the best groom of my life so far). Those used wedding dresses are always at thrift shops. Every time I see them, I wonder at their story. Are they all from marriages that ended with divorce? Does anyone buy them for $12.99 at Goodwill and wear them to their own wedding? How were the people feeling when they gave them away?
I am not ready to get rid of my wedding dress. My mom has it boxed away somewhere and I want it in tact for my daughters. In the meantime, I did pin some ideas on re-purposing a wedding dress. Since I love lace and elegant fabric, these give me a few ideas for the next time I see a ripped dress at the thrift shop.
Since we're here, how about a good metaphor?
My husband and I were high school sweethearts and I've never been a single adult. And, not to be too English major-y, the symbolism of this dress business is not lost on me. Am I the dress? I think I'm wondering what I will make of me. Will I refashion my life into something totally new? Save up as much as I can for my kids to shape in their future? Wait in limbo until moths eat me due to inadequate storage? Let's not get started on the trash the dress fad if we're sticking to this metaphor (although I did pin a few ideas).
I do love this idea of making new memories in the dress. This woman celebrated her new, single self after her divorce by taking photos in her wedding dress doing her favorite things. It seems much more respectful to the many hours put into crafting the garment than trashing it (also less petty). It's also a better message for me to hear since her blog today shows her generally loving life. During this dark transition time, that’s something I really look forward to.
If you have a dress story from your divorce, I'd love to hear it. Did anybody here trash their dress? Is it as satisfying as it sounds? I would consider it if he had made the dress. Because there is a limit to how mature I can be through this process. I have some of his old suits still, perhaps I can find some really good refashioning ideas for those...
For now, instead of ripping up his clothes, I’ll focus on the things that make me happy. Like farming (because I am my grandmother’s granddaughter) and sewing, and spinning, and knitting, and (most of all) my kids.