One Day and counting...
I first wrote the piece below sixteen months ago just after Sophie, my third granddaughter, and Daniel, her tall, dark, and handsome prince, became engaged. At the time, my friend and I remarked, "I hope we make it to the wedding."
Now we marvel at how rapidly that magical sixteen months sped by. Sophie and Daniel will be married in just one day!
I took care as I lifted the tissue and slid my hand under the resplendent ivory gown’s hem. The candlelight-hue of the silky-satiny Peau de Soie fabric shimmered in the light.
Peau de soie, (“skin of silk” English translation) which originated in early modern Europe, is something I knew nothing about as a nineteen-year-old when I first encountered it.
A flash of my mom’s teary eyes streaked through my mind.
Gently, I took the edges of the beaded lace bodice and lifted my wedding dress out of the sealed protective cardboard container that had held it for sixty years.
A few tears welled in my own eyes.
When Sophie, the bride-to-be, invited me to Los Angeles on a wedding dress excursion, she mentioned the one she was most excited to visit—Happy Isles, a vintage boutique specializing in heirloom bridal gowns. But before our LA visit, she asked to try on my dress. After a few minutes of heartfelt reflections over what an fortunate and grateful grandmother I am, my thoughts turned to my own first marriage chocked full of the trappings of large church ceremonies.
In my solitude, my first moments with this exquisite, now vintage, dress sashayed through my mind. The one purchased when my mother marched my innocent, airheaded, nineteen-year-old butt to Neiman Marcus’ flagship store in downtown Dallas for our appointment with the wedding consultant. Our personal shopper turned out to be a brazen black-haired force of a woman who intimidated the hell out me. Mom too, it appeared.
We left with the designer ensemble—strapless tiered gown, pearl encrusted lace bodice with twenty covered buttons, a detachable train with the giant peau-de-sois peony blossom, which also detached at the appropriate time. This would have been just before I changed into my “going away” outfit for our honeymoon trip in his new Renault to Lake Lucerne in Hot Springs, Arkansas. A floor-length veil completed the outfit; somewhere along the line it went MIA.
Looking back, I realize I had no skin in the Methodist Church wedding game. This was Mom’s deal for her only daughter who thankfully would not become an old maid, the inescapable fear in the 1960s for all young unmarried women approaching their mid-twenties. I was not even twenty yet and was to be married three days after I turned twenty-one.
For quite some time after my gown had been selected, my mother, the Republican, relentlessly chattered about our choice and casually included Mamie Eisenhower’s pink inaugural peau de soie gown in the telling. She failed to mention Jackie’s Oleg Cassini number—same fabric choice, same color as mine.
In the car on the way home, my mom cautioned, “We won’t tell your dad about the price. He doesn’t need to know; he’ll be smitten with his little girl as a beautiful bride.”
With that, I knew the cost of my swanky garb was exorbitant. Only today do I fully understand this as I learned from the internet that the $500 Mom somehow siphoned secretly is equivalent in purchasing power to $5,004.66 in the current economy. An outrageous expenditure considering that although the dress has lasted sixty years, the marriage didn’t make it to five.
“Come on over, Neeny. I want to try it on now.” Sophie texted the morning after her red-eye arrival from the East Coast. She takes care to include me in every step of this joyous time of her engagement and wedding planning and this day was no different.
Sophie glows these days; she turned her blushing face to me before she turned to my wedding dress which I had carried over in a suitcase, her flaxen hair shining in the morning sunlight. I nodded her way. After opening, she did exactly the same thing I did the first time I encountered the dress; she slid her long slender fingers (her engagement ring size is 3.75) across the fabric gushing over its delicate softness. She turned to me again, smiling.
And as I had done two days before; she lifted the bejeweled, lustrous garment and held it to her tank-topped chest before clutching it tightly at the bodice and swirling like a Disney princess. She beamed. Her mom and sister did too.
She squealed as she lifted each part of the ensemble, including the minute, intricate pearly crown which she immediately placed on her head. Within moments she gathered all the pieces and disappeared around the corner.
I held my breath.
Quickly the radiant bride-to-be returned. I gasped at her adorableness. The dress fit her perfectly except for the bodice which gaped slightly. “Were your boobs this big?” she asked, her jaw dropped in disbelief.
“NO,” I countered remembering the rubber cups the woman inserted in the Merry Widow bodice of the dress all those years ago as I stood horrified with embarrassment in the multi-mirrored dressing room at NM in Dallas.
I added “the dress can be altered if it’s your choice. You look stunning in it.”
I have no idea whether Sophie will wear my vintage wedding dress next October when she marries Daniel. Nor do I care. It could make my ex-husband’s wife uncomfortable. It might not be a good idea to recycle a dress from a marriage that didn’t work out. It’s possible—even probable—my peau de sois dress is not what the bride envisions in her Pinterest world of wedding daydreams.
But for a short while this morning, there was magic as the worldly young woman from Manhattan, my third granddaughter who always had to be the boy when the little girls played dress-up at my house in the country, got to be Belle and Cinderella and Ariel all tied into one big fanciful bow dancing around the house and garden in her grandmother’s vintage peau de soie wedding dress.
PS - Come back next week to see the bride's wedding photograph.