The Dress: Then and Now

The big bows and pouffy sleeves mark me as a true bride of the 80s.

The big bows and pouffy sleeves mark me as a true bride of the 80s.

 

 

Twenty-five years ago I purchased the materials to make my dream gown—the one I would wear as I walked down the aisle to marry my prince. Unemployed, still in school, and short on funds, I spent under $125.00 on fabric, lace, sequins, beads, and two patterns (I couldn’t find a pattern for my dream, so I combined two different ones) . While student teaching, I spent every spare minute between lesson planning, grading papers, and teaching to bead the lace (it took about 90 hours). I optimistically believed that I’d be able to do it all—student teach, plan a wedding and make my gown. In the end, friends helped tack on the lace in the hours before the wedding (I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew!).

The dress fit perfectly, the sequins and beads glowed in the soft candlelight, and the long, satin train made me feel like a princess as I walked down the aisle to meet the love of my life at the altar.

After the wedding, I had my dress professionally cleaned and packed and I proceeded to haul it across country during our multiple moves. Occasionally, I pulled it out of its treasure box and tried it on (only during those periods when I was sure it would still fit 😉 ). As the years went by, and the moves multiplied, Pedro often jokingly questioned me as to what in the world I was keeping my wedding dress for—it took up a lot of space. I would always reply, “I spent a lot of time making it, there’s no way I’m going to leave it behind!”

By our last move—the empty-nest-move—we entered equally into the spirit of reducing and donating. But I kept the dress. I threw away the two layers of boxes and the special tissue stuffing, though, and packed it in a giant zip-lock bag.

When we finished remodeling the house we moved into last summer, I finally hung the dress in the guest room closet and took a good look at it. Some of those last-minute tack-on jobs had come undone, so the lace was loose in places. The styles had changed—no one wears Princess Di sleeves these days—but the dress still made me smile. The sequins and beads and beautiful lace still glowed in the light.

I thought about how, over the years, children, challenges, controversies, communication errors, and cancer all played their part in changing us from the idealistic, wet-behind-the-ears couple of a quarter-century ago. But Pedro still makes me smile.

Each of those Cs of our marriage presented us with a choice: we could let them tarnish our love or we could work on our relationship and retain the glow. I’m glad we chose hard work. And I’m glad we kept the dress.

***

In June, at the request of our eldest daughter, I started ripping seams and redesigning. The dress had a purpose again—to make my daughter look like a princess (just not Princess Di) as she walked down the aisle to marry HER prince.

The important part of the dress remained—all that beaded and sequined lace. I removed the sleeves and replaced the long, satin train with something appropriate for a summer outdoor wedding.

The new dream dress represents Laura's vision of what a princess should wear.

The new dream dress represents Laura’s vision of what a princess should wear.

Pedro’s eyes glowed with pride as he walked Laura down the aisle. I snapped a few photos and sat back to enjoy her big day.

My prayer for her marriage is that it be like the wedding dress—something that she and her husband cherish, spend time on and aren’t afraid to clean, mend, and change as the need arises. (tweet this)

I saved the train and sleeves—maybe one day, she’ll have a daughter, who will eventually fall in love and ask that I remodel the dress—and maybe big sleeves will be back in fashion.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • alejandra

    Beautiful story and beautiful dress

    • Anita Ojeda

      Thank you for your kind words, Alejandra :).

  • Shelley W

    Okay – like I needed to cry in the middle of post-vacation laundry this afternoon! Lovely dress, daughter, and story, Anita! I especially love the comparison of the dress to the marriage: “. . . something to clean, mend, and change as the need arises.” Not to mention something to cherish and keep forever, as you did this very special labor of love!

    • Anita Ojeda

      I’m sorry you added a salt rinse to your regular laundry cycles ;). But I’m glad that you found meaning and resonance :).

  • Your daughter

    I love this message! And do keep the sleeves and train, because you never know!! Maybe my daughter will think I’m silly for having wished for a sleeveless dress!

    • Anita Ojeda

      🙂 I loved our adventure in remodeling and wedding planning! Thank you for making me part of your special day!

  • Oh this brought tears to my eyes… So beautiful – both of you!!

    • Anita Ojeda

      Thank you, Tonya. I’m glad you enjoyed it :).

  • How absolutely beautiful – this story and your dress have so much meaning. I love the message of fixing, mending and cherishing.

    • Anita Ojeda

      Thank you for your kind words, Catherine :). It’s so easy to get caught up in consumerism-wether its in our possessions or our relationships.

  • Jolie Strawn

    I know dogs don’t cry but, I enjoyed this take on a marriage.

    • Anita Ojeda

      ;).

  • Stephanie D

    I love this post! I was so curious to see the before and after pictures of the dress.
    You two almost look like twin sisters, but from a different time period.
    I wish Laura all the best in her marriage, and I hope she can learn from the great example you and Pedro have set forth.

    • Anita Ojeda

      Thank you for your kind words, Stephanie! Back when she was 13, Laura probably wouldn’t have appreciated the ‘twin sisters, but from a different time period’ comment–but now, I think she’d like to hear that ;). I love what love and hard work do for a relationship!

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