Beyond the veil: Wedding dress collection wears well
Margaret Atwood Grant is taking a popular bridal maxim to new levels.
As the common saying goes, brides need to wear or possess “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” as they walk down the aisle.
Grant, 75, could help area brides fulfill at least one part of their wedding obligation through the selling of her multigenerational wedding-dress collection on display at Blue River Trading Co., 441 Main St.
The 11 dresses she collected are for sale through June in the hopes someone will want to purchase the collection, or perhaps an individual dress.
The newest dress in the collection was from a wedding in 1991, but it is the only one not for sale. Grant’s daughter, Kathleen, wants it back. The remaining dresses in the collection date to the early 1900s and even 1800s.
“Who has a collection like this?” asked Julie Groll, the owner of Blue River Trading Co.
Blue River Trading Co. is filled with consignment and unique merchandise.
Groll said she jumped at the chance to display the dresses when Grant approached her with the idea because of their uniqueness — most are original designs — and because Grant has an interesting story about each dress.
Families sometimes pass wedding gowns from mother to daughter, but Grant has saved wedding dresses from multiple generations. Of Grant’s 11-dress collection, six were worn by members of her family. Friends gave her the others.
No matter the stories, age or sentimental value of each dress, Grant said, although it breaks her heart, “it’s time for these to be where someone can take care of them.”
Before Grant turned the clean dresses over to Groll, most had been hanging in large plastic bags in her garage for protection from dust. And, despite the ages of most of the dresses, they are in relatively good shape. However, the 1918 hand-sewn dress Grant’s grandmother wore at her wedding is falling apart. It is still on display at Blue River Trading Co.
The desire to share the dresses prompted Grant to contact Groll, who spent four hours last week creating a window display to showcase each dress and any accessories and photos Grant also wanted to share.
The six family dresses include a formal black silk dress Grant’s great-grandmother wore in the late 1800s. Grant isn’t sure if her great-grandmother purchased the intricate dress before or after she immigrated to the U.S. from Wales in 1884. It features lace detail on the cuffs and on the detachable dickey.
The other family wedding dresses are her grandmother’s, her mother’s, hers and her daughter Kathleen’s white satin gown with long sleeves and lace and beaded trim.
As for the five dresses in the collection that weren’t worn by her family, Grant was able to date them based on style, thanks to her background in fashion design.
One dress was likely worn in 1925, Grant determined. The dress is a simple satin underdress covered with an overcoat made entirely of lace with small satin insets. The closures are snaps.
The dress from the 1920s was found in a cedar chest after the owners of a California farm gave the unopened chest to Grant’s daughter, Kathleen Hornburg, in 1992. When Hornburg opened the chest and discovered the dress, she immediately thought of Grant.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Grant admitted.
She knows even less about the seventh dress in the collection. It appears to be well-preserved, despite being 70 years old.
“This is so 1940s,” Grant said, holding up the ivory silk crepe and satin dress with long sleeves.
The next dress in the collection Grant knows a bit more about, considering it was worn by a woman named Sarah Kennedy in 1960. Grant’s oldest daughter was a flower girl in that wedding, so Grant remembers the day.
Kennedy’s 1960 dress has long sleeves with a rayon tulle bodice. Cotton lace helps fill out the billowing skirt. A full-button closure lines the entire backside of the dress.
The 10th dress in the collection is a white crepe design with an ecru-beaded bodice in an off-white color, giving the dress a two-tone appearance. Grant guessed it was from the 1960s. Hornburg gave the dress to her mother after buying it at an antique store.
“If I was going to keep one, I’d keep this one,” Grant said. “It’s ready to wear.”
The 11th, and final, dress was not worn at a wedding.
Grant steamed and cleaned each dress that was strong enough to stand up to the process, she said.
Now that the gowns are cleaned and displayed, Grant hopes others will find as much enjoyment in these family heirlooms as she has had through the years.
“I was flabbergasted,” Groll said of the collection’s magnitude and overall look. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I love it.’ ”