Readers share their wedding dress stories

June 22, 2012

When an e-mail landed in my inbox with a description of a wedding dress that was about to be worn for the seventh time across three generations, I was immediately intrigued. In a society where wedding dress shopping has become a rite of passage, it seemed particularly striking that a bride would forgo a trip to a bridal salon in favor of her grandmother’s gown. As I got to know the Zgorski women, I was blown away by the strength of their bond and the depth of their care for each other. The dress is a symbol of that devotion.

They are a rare breed. But perhaps not as rare as I thought. After the story ran, we began to receive e-mails about other such wedding dresses that have become family treasures. With each wearing, they become ever more precious and storied.

If you have a similar story you would like to share, please e-mail wpmagazine@washpost.com.

— Ellen McCarthy

***

I also wore my mother’s wedding dress. She and my father were married Dec. 22, 1946; my husband and I were married Dec. 28, 1980 — 34 years later. The dress is classic, simple and elegant. By my wedding, it had taken on an ivory appearance, as if its meaning had deepened as well.

On the day of my wedding, my mother was overcome by a rush of emotion that her life had come full circle. She still speaks of it.

I was hoping my daughter would also want to wear the dress, but she wants to be a June bride and said that long sleeves just wouldn’t do.

Avis Silver, Derwood

***

Our family has the same story, but Mother’s dress has been worn by nine of us so far. Thank you so very much for bringing back our own wonderful memories.

The story isn’t over for our family. My youngest sister (who also wore the dress on 5-30-1981) has two grown daughters that plan on wearing the dress. Therefore, the dress is now at her house in Cary, N.C.

Phyllis Gadd, Broad Run

***

The time: Summer 1961 — when my sister Mary had just graduated from Trinity College and was engaged to be married.

The place: Washington, D.C.

The protagonist: John Jay Daly, my father, newspaperman, former drama critic of The Washington Post and father to five daughters all named Mary Something after the first Mary in our household, my mother.

This particular summer evening, Daddy leaves the bar of the National Press Club at 14th and F streets NW, which is his favorite haunt as one of NPC’s earliest members. On the opposite corner stands Washington’s iconic and prestigious department store, Julius Garfinkel’s. Daddy loved Garfinkel’s! So much so that, when first married in 1926, he called on Mr. Julius Garfinkel himself to request a loan to buy Mom a mink coat, but that’s another story. . . .

So now, having left the Press Club bar, something in Garfinkel’s curved two-story corner window catches Daddy’s eye. There it is. Empire style, scoop neck, nipped waist, long sleeves, made of silk shantung with Belgian lace at the neck and wrists, 77 bride’s buttons down the back. A classically elegant wedding dress.

Not any dress. The Dress.

Now, my father was never a practical man; he was an Irish romantic. Mom, the Midwest banker’s daughter, was the realistic one. But hit with this burst of so-called practicality, Daddy rides up to Garfinkel’s sixth-floor bridal department and buys the dress.

Rationale: One daughter getting married, four to go, they need a dress. And here’s a beautiful one. Yes, a wedding dress is just a darn good thing to have on hand, much like a power washer, a snow shovel or jumper cables. There when you need it, at the ready. Only thing required was a fitting. Seemed logical.

Imagine the hue and cry at our house that night! Not coincidentally, Mom wrote a weekly column syndicated nationally in the Catholic press about our family called just that: “At Our House.” She was always seeking column fodder. . . . Boy, oh boy, here was a doozie.

My sister Mary wore The Dress for her wedding. As did others. Many others. And not just sisters. Cousins, friends, friends of friends; my niece Maureen wore it in 2006. Remember all that’s needed is a fitting. Cleaning and storage, natch. Perhaps an alteration, the taking in and the letting out, maybe some replacement fabric here or there. The Dress now has a library card of its appearances, which stays with it in storage.

The price? $99.

The legacy? Priceless.

Maybe Daddy wasn’t so crazy after all.

Ginny Daly, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

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