Friday, August 24, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Before Bridezilla Roamed


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




Nothing says “Summer” like a flurry of wedding gowns suggested by this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt.

Somehow I managed to have bridal showers, a bridal luncheon, and a beautiful traditional church wedding and reception without the aid of gift registries, The Knot or “Say Yes to the Dress.”  I didn’t interview a host of caterers, photographers, florists, or bakeries.  Bachelorette parties were unheard of. No one that I knew ever had their make-up done professionally.  We certainly didn’t go for a mani-pedi, let alone a spa day.  I bought one Bride magazine and never tried on a single wedding dress.

That was 1973.  It was a given that my mother would make my wedding gown.  After all, she made everything else from school clothes to doll clothes, to slipcovers and drapes.  By 1973, Momma was a seasoned wedding gown seamstress, having crafted two gowns already.  

The 1960s gown


Miss McFarling's pattern sold for 75 cents in 1966
but can be found in Etsy shops, on eBay
and in vintage pattern shops
priced between $7 and $55.
Her maiden voyage into the world of bridal gowns was in 1966.  I don’t recall the circumstances that led my friends and me to spend an afternoon with our Latin teacher, but Miss McFarling was chatting excitedly about her plans for her upcoming wedding.  When she mentioned that she was looking for someone to sew her wedding dress, I volunteered my mother.  Really, I thought it was no big deal to make a wedding gown – just a dress with a longer length, right?  I doubt Momma was THRILLED with my teacher’s request, but she put on a good show.  My sister remembers Miss McFarling coming to the house in the evening for fittings, but I don’t.  All I recall is that I had to grade all of Momma’s spelling tests, reading quizzes, and grammar exercises.  That was either our trade or my punishment, not sure which.

Martha McFarling Athey
Wedding announcement
Virginian-Pilot 1966

The dress itself was very simple and very 1960’s.  The A-line gown was made from white peau de soie with long, tight sleeves that ended in a point over the bride’s hands.  At the wrist were covered buttons and loops.  The train was attached at the shoulders and contained the only adornment – lace medallions sewn randomly. 


Void of any frou-frou, this wedding dress was dramatic in its simplicity (certainly worth an A in Latin).













The 1970s gowns


In 1971 Momma made the wedding gown for the daughter of Momma’s high school buddy and life-long friend.  Unfortunately I have no pictures to share or stories to tell, so let’s move on to dress #3 -- MINE.


View #4 looks like my sleeve pattern.


My gown had that typical 70’s granny dress look:  empire waist, ruffled hem, and full sleeves with wide cuff. Believe it or not, it was inspired by a picture in Bride magazine.  (See, they even thought it was a good look!)  Momma did her best to replicate it, but that required pulling together parts from various patterns and then creating her own pattern for the train, which really was more of a sweep than full-fledged train.  
This looks like the ruffle and overall shape
of my dress.

Finding different kinds of lace was not easy either.  We bought from every fabric store in the Tidewater area and even from a shop in Staunton, not far from Harrisonburg where I was in college.  









The wide lace was an eye-catcher. We used it on the sleeves and then from the shoulders to the hem.  The narrow piece was used down the center, at the empire waist, and for the neck. 

I admit to making that veil.  It looks hideous now, but the Juliet cap and Anne Boleyn crown were considered quite “mo-derne” in 1973.  












Becky, Moi, Ruth, my sister Mary Jollette






However, I did a better job on the bridesmaids’ headpieces.  I covered a buckram head band with green voile and lace left over from their dresses (Momma made two of the dresses).  To be sassy, I made a fabric bow for the side.  Mmm – yeah – Sassy alright! 






The 1980s gown


Fast forward ten years to 1983. My sister Mary Jollette too had found her dream dress in a magazine.  Fortunately, patterns and lace were more readily available.  In fact, the lace matches the inspiration perfectly.  The train on her gown was inspired by Princess Diana’s train, but not nearly as long.  






While the train was important, the big hat defined the 80s. Mary Jollette had fallen in love with a bridal hat in the magazine. Our metropolitan area, despite its many bridal shops and specialty dress shops, didn’t have it.  Surprisingly, she found the hat in the bridal shop in Harrisonburg.  

Momma had requested that Mary Jollette not marry during the school year.  But Mary Jollette and Cam wanted to avoid the heat of summer, so April was the date. There were still papers to grade, and I had two babies to care for, so I was no help on that end this time.  









Is that orange juice on the sewing machine?
I guess Momma needed all the fortification
she could get to finish that dress.
That’s probably why the dress was never really finished.  Even though Momma spent her lunch hours at school sewing pearls and sequins onto the lace medallions, a pile of lace never made it onto the dress.  Surely a disappointment for my sister, but the dress didn’t suffer.











Please indulge me as I take one last look back at 1973 with "the going away outfit."


Momma made my pink suit.  Barry's might look
pink, but it's maroon and white POLYESTER.
Wooooo!
I scored big finding that maroon and pink bowtie.

Hey Wendy, Myles Standish called 
and he wants his shoes back!


Don't hate us because we're groovy.


If you haven’t had your fill of wedding dresses, take a stroll down the bridal path to Sepia Saturday.





©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

55 comments:

  1. LOLOLOLOLOL! Love that last picture!! Too funny! I remember thinking you all looked so COOL and SO together. Yes, groovy is the word. Better than Grease being the word.

    I feel bad when I look at that picture of Momma working like crazy on my dress. I guess she got the last laugh because it was 92 degrees on our wedding day in April HA! I still love my dress and train and don't be jealous, but I still fit in...my HAT! ;-)

    Our dresses are a lot better looking than those strapless dresses that today's brides love.

    Fun post sista girl!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I've made light of my dress because it is anything but classic, but it was beautiful for its time and I remember getting lots of compliments (of course, what can people say??). I'm jealous you can still fit in your hat. LOL

      Delete
  2. Beautiful dresses, what a clever lady your mother was.

    My grandmother made my mother's wedding dress and all the bridesmaids' dresses, her younger daughter's wedding dress and the bridesmaids' dresses and the two weddings were only five months apart and various items were still rationed in 1953 in England.

    Unfortunately her sewing skills have not been passed down through the family.

    Lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mother taught me to sew -- I just don't want to.

      Delete
  3. Hey, Wendy ... you guys were groovy! You Mom had talent and did beautiful work. The gowns are gorgeous.

    My Grandma J. made my dress, just as I wanted it. My "going away" outfit was a satin top and satin drawstring pants (what????) ... it was in 1978. I wore a hat for my veil, and designed it myself. I wanted my bridesmaids to have parasols, but my future MIL forbid it. I knew then that I was always going to be in trouble with that woman, lol.

    Kathy M.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Satin drawstring pants! Scandalous!

      Delete
  4. Beautiful dresses! Your mother was very talented.

    I love that last picture!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! That last photo is a doozy.

      Delete
  5. Oh Wendy! This was priceless! Your "Myles Standish" joke got me seriously laughing out loud. When my youngest son came in the room he wanted to know why the laughter, so I shared your photo and joke. You're a hoot!

    Oh, and your sister's wedding dress looks eerily like my own from 1984 with the big puff elbow length sleeves. I didn't have a hat though. Ya, we were groovy in our own 80's way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The 80s sleeve is still beautiful. Glad you enjoyed my little joke. There was a time I was embarrassed by that photo, but now it's a 4x6 laugh riot.

      Delete
  6. Your mother did a great job on the dresses.

    I remember when men dressed like Barry in the last picture. For most of the 20th century, men's styles looked pretty much the same, but that 1970s style looks ridiculous to me now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that suit -- when we bought it, we thought YES, finally something modern that's not grey or navy pinstripe. Whew! Lordy!

      Delete
  7. Your mother was a talented seamstress. I really liked the look of your teacher's dress - classic style for the time. Your mom did a great job with the other dresses too. I'm impressed - it was quite a task to take make three wedding dresses in your lifetime, especially while she was working a full time job.

    Thanks for sharing the going away picture at the end - like Jana commented earlier, I also LOL about your joke and my family came running to see what was up! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. About that last photo - I kept debating, do I dare? It is just too funny not to include with the wedding theme.

      Delete
  8. Wendy, one great story. Such an industrious Momma, so handy with needle thread, lace and more. A really great read, it made me smile and I absolutely admired the wedding dresses and that bow tie and the white shoes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Momma was very skilled. As for Barry's shoes and tie -- man, was he hot! HA

      Delete
  9. The 1973 picture is my absolute favorite, so recognizable! I had a similar moustache. If my family now looks at pictures showing my sign of masculinity, I better leave the room...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The 70s look is unmistakeable. Sometime you must show us that ol' moustache!

      Delete
    2. Maybe one day when I am in a reckless mood :)

      Delete
  10. I loved your post and all the illustrations and photographs. Your wedding experience was very reminscent of my own (married 1971). My mother, a trained dressmaker, made my dress too - though it had shades of the 1960's style rather than the 1970's. My Ann Boleyn headdress was all the rage with TV and films focussing on the Tudor period. Thank You for sharing your memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I can picture your headdress -- "Anne Boleyn" says it all.

      Delete
  11. What a talented mother, wedding dresses must be the most difficult thing to do. I'd forgotten about the 1970s purple suits, but it reminded me my husband of the time had one too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh those suits - what were designers smoking back then? Oh, yeah - now I remember.

      Delete
  12. What a great post, those old patterns bring back wonderful memories, especially going to the store and picking them out! I do remember those suits all too well....so glad they didn't stay around!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our favorite fabric store was Piece Goods. We went all the time. We knew when the new fabric for the season was due in.

      Delete
  13. I'm getting swamped in dresses this week. What a blessing it must have been to have such a clever mother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm enjoying all the dresses from various periods. But I guess it's not as much fun for you guys.

      Delete
  14. Terrific post! That maroon and white polyester suit is really something ;o)

    ReplyDelete
  15. That first paragraph had me. I could have written it. Only I made my dress. Not fancy, but definitely 70s style. And I had a floppy hat. 1975. And that last picture reminded me of my wedding too. I used to say we had the misfortune of getting married during one of the ugliest fashion decades. Your mom must have been a gem. Loved your post! (kathy at abbieandeveline.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed! Not a good decade for fashion.

      Delete
  16. I had to wonder where you were going away too in your snazzy outfits.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I remember a number of those styles. Some of my brothers and sisters were getting married back then.

    By the way I see according to Genealoggers today is your one year anniversary since you've been blogging. Happy Blogiversary

    Regards, Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Yeah, those styles are unforgettable no matter how hard we try to forget them.

      Delete
  18. What a talented Momma :-) Groovy, baby :-) Jo

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great photos and memories and we share the same wedding year. Isobel made her own wedding dress as well and I still have the bill somewhere for the wedding reception for sixty people (with wine and a sit-down menu) which came to £130!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that's a bargain! What do you suppose it would cost today?

      Delete
  20. Oh wow. That 70s suit your husband is wearing is...oh wow! I remember going to weddings with guys wearing all sorts of suits in bright colors. And really wide lapels with piping on them. The 70s had to have had some of the ugliest clothes of any decade thanks to the eventual disco influence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Bride magazine was doing a before/after or do/don't feature, I know exactly on which side of the equation our picture would fall!

      Delete
  21. This was SEW funny and well done! One of your best! The photos may save a thousand words but your story laces it all together perfectly. Your Mom should be proud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mr. Punster -- you do keep me in stitches!

      Delete
  22. So many people just have photos of the finished product - how lovely that you have the "construction" pictures, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was fun digging through old pictures and discovering one of my mother bent over that wedding gown.

      Delete
  23. A hugely enjoyable post Wendy. You packed so much in. Your mother was certainly a good seamstress. I too made my own gown and headdress and veil. It was 1975, so of course it had to be a Juliet cap!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you were up-to-date for sure in that Juliet cap!

      Delete
  24. I've certainly had a good laugh here and you had to end this post with the bane of the fashion industry: Polyester!!! Argh!! I loathed that fabric... I must say, your sister's bridal hat wasn't bad at all, for the era. I never got married, but I'm sure glad some of my looks have gone into oblivion for lacks of pictures, except in the back on my mind!!!
    :D~
    HUGZ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And we got that polyester suit on sale! Can you believe our luck??

      Delete
    2. UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE!!
      Next thing you'll say is that you still have it somewhere??
      ;D~
      HUGZ

      Delete
    3. All of society joins you in that "Phew" ~

      Delete
  25. I'm late to the party but just had to say how much I loved this post. I was married in 1974 and had the same cap/crown as you had - it must have been pretty uncomfortable because in almost every picture I look like I'm struggling to keep it on. I felt so horrible at the time for my parents since they forked out $125 for the gown....but that included the veil. Yikes, my daughter's in 2004 was about 10 times that!

    And I must have been ahead of the times because my bridesmaids wore the big hat that was popular in the 80's!

    Loved this post - and someday I might get brave and post the photo of my husband and me all decked out in 70's fashion leaving for our honeymoon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hurry and join me in the humiliation!

      Delete