My mother in 1959
This morning, I read a lovely post by Susan Meissner called, White Lace and Promises… It is a brief look at how wedding gowns have enchanted her—certainly enough to embody their spirit and make them stars in two of her novels, Blue Heart Blessed and Secrets of a Charmed Life. I have only read the latter (which I loved by the way), but I was swept up from the very start with Emmy’s romantic yet ambitious fascination for wedding dresses. It made perfect sense to me that a fifteen year old during the war would still see a great need for lace, charmeuse and organza despite more modest means of the time dictating practical dresses.
In any case, something caught my eye in Meissner’s post, something that resonated with me. She writes, “There is something magical and dream-like about a beautiful gown that is only meant to be worn once by the person to whom it belongs.” This made me think of my own wedding, the dress I wore seventeen years ago.
I was living in Norway, a beautiful but very expensive country. It was where my husband and I decided to begin our life together. Oddly perhaps, we wanted somewhere neutral—somewhere where neither of us had all that we knew and loved around us, primarily friends and family. This way, we would need to depend on each other and make new friends as a couple—a team effort if you will. My being Canadian and my husband Swedish, it was a practical yet enchanting idea.
My wedding dress and our choice of countries was perhaps the first time practicality nudged its way into my life in true Scandinavian form. So what does a girl do when she needs a wedding dress on the cheap? She calls mom! And there you have it. Albeit yellowed with age, a beautiful wedding gown only meant to be worn once on a hot summer’s day in 1959 by my mother.
In Meissner’s post, she treats us to a video of 100 Years of Wedding Gowns. It’s fun to see how distinctly different the various designs are over the decades and how easy it is to spot the time period straight away. On the other hand, there are those timeless gowns that can float from one decade to the next and still be as breathtaking as the first time it was worn.
My reasons may have been practical and economical at the time, but when I lifted my mother’s gown from the package sent to me across the Atlantic, the rustling of it dancing in my little flat, I was brought to tears. It took my breath away this piece of history draped in my arms. I loved that my mom saw it in a catalogue, Modern Bride, in 1959 and ordered it from New York City that same year. I love that she knew that that was The One, just like Emmy Downtree might have designed. I love that she kept that issue all these years. I felt honoured to be able to add to her gown’s history and slip into something so beautiful and timeless. It made me feel close to my mom in a new way. It added something magical to my wedding day in a way that all the new dresses in the world couldn’t have given me.
Although, Susan Meissner added, “I most assuredly believe a wedding gown can be worn several times,” I believe referring to its sole owner, I wonder what she would think of a daughter walking down the aisle in the dress worn by her mother thirty-nine years earlier. Somehow, I think she might approve.
Thank you, Susan Meissner, for bringing this lovely memory to mind.
If you have worn your mother’s wedding dress or your daughter has worn yours, I’d love to hear what it meant to you.