There are brides who honor a family tradition by having their wedding dresses preserved, hoping to pass it on to another relative to wear for their special day. I think it’s a lovely idea for the sentimental value and the preserving of a piece of a family history. But care must be taken to store it properly so other brides in the family get a chance to carry on the tradition. And often alterations need to made to modernize or adjust the fit for a future bride to wear it comfortably. This a great article on wearing heirloom wedding dresses and what goes into their care and maintenance.
Take the gown featured in this post for instance. It was originally worn in 1928 and the last bride in the family wore it in 1978, fifty years later! So obviously it had been lovingly cared for.
In 1928 Arline Wilma Preston married Clark Wallace Bishop on the island of Nantucket.
From a newspaper account of the wedding- “Sconset was the scene of a pretty wedding last Saturday morning at ‘The Hedges,’ the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Horace G. Preston.” Miss Preston’s dress of “ivory satin and chiffon, trimmed with rose point lace” was custom-made at Bonwit Teller and the veil was brought from Italy.”
Barbara Anne Nicholas was just a child when she attended her aunt Arline’s wedding on Nantucket. I’m guessing she may very well be one of the little girls in the picture. And I’m sure at the time she had no idea she would one day be wearing that gown to her own wedding.
Fast forward to 1940. Barbara ended up marrying University of Arizona football player, George “Rattlesnake” Jackson and she wore Aunt Arline’s wedding dress. As a side note, Barbara had an engineering degree, was an officer in the Navy during WW II and eventually became a well known mid century modern architect, back in a time where it was pretty much unheard of for women to enter that profession. She was the only registered female architect practicing in Arizona from 1949 to 1960. More about Barbara here.
The next bride to wear Arline’s dress was Patricia Webster for her Christmas wedding in 1945. I’m still trying to find information on Patricia and her relation to the family. But it does look like alterations were made to the dress. Even though the bodice is the same, it looks like the skirt was lengthened.
Then in 1968 the dress resurfaced when Valerie Anne Jackson married Geoffrey Anderson Clark. Valerie , the daughter of Barbara Anne Nicholas, is an archeologist and museum curator. So it is certainly not surprising she would want to wear an heirloom wedding gown.
The last known bride to wear the dress was Debra Roby in 1978, for her wedding in Flagstaff, Arizona. And, like Patricia above, I have not been able to ferret out the details of her family connection to the dress.
Then in 1987 the gown was donated to the Nantucket Historical Association, which is where I found all these fascinating photos!
All these women looked beautiful and elegant wearing their “handed down” wedding dress. And I’m glad to know it is still being preserved.
And though some may think it strange sharing their wedding gown with others, I personally think it shows respect for a garment that played such an important role in one’s life. Instead of keeping it stored in the dark recesses of some closet, letting it see the light of day once again by letting another make special memories in it is so much nicer!
Have you ever worn an heirloom wedding dress or preserved your own dress for family members to wear?