There were seven of them in my wedding dress – alternating from satin to tulle to netting, with an outer layer of sequined and beaded lace appliqués. I insisted that the buttons up my spine be functional, not just decorative, and the loops which they are designed to slip into make it a garment impossible to put on without assistance. The lace covering the bodice ($300 a yard in 1994), has suffered from being stored in my damp basement, yet it remains beautiful even with its webs of thread tinted a shade of ecru deeper than its original off white.
How do I know all this?
This afternoon, twenty-seven years and one day after I wore the most beautiful dress ever sewn for me, I indulged my curiosity and removed it from the box it has called home for a quarter of a century…and tried it on.
A slightly musty smell penetrated my nose, but my other senses quickly pushed the minor odor aside. Seeing the dress laid out upon my bed reminded me of the excitement of that day, the cloudless blue sky, the loved ones gathered together, and the hopes and promises shared. Nothing about those things stinks.
I stepped into the dress and adjusted the shoulders to frame my collar bones. Reaching behind me, I easily pulled the zipper up to the small of my back knowing there was no way I could fasten the buttons unassisted. I consoled myself with the fact that if I were wearing that dress today, it would need to be altered for the most flattering fit.
Surprisingly, it’s too big.
After debating with myself about how weird it might be for my youngest son, I went upstairs to his room to show him how lovely the dress remains despite what it has suffered through my neglect. I pointed out the details and explained that his Oma had hand-sewn each embellishment scattered across the skirt and decorating the bodice. He was suitably impressed.
While my intention had been to simply try it on and then return it to its cardboard coffin, I decided that wasn’t the right decision. I might not have any daughters, but, perhaps one day there will be a granddaughter who might appreciate having access to something her very own great-grandmother had created decades prior to her being imagined, much less born.
Instead, I think I’m going to keep it in a garment bag in my upstairs closet, so I can peek at it once in a while and remember the day when it sparkled in the sunshine.
Life, like wedding dresses (and cakes) has layers. Shining some light and taking the time to examine each of them with care and gratitude helps me to continue my journey forward, with love.
It’s toughest to forgive ourselves. So it’s probably best to start with other people. It’s almost like peeling an onion. Layer by layer, forgiving others, you really do get to the point where you can forgive yourself. Patty Duke
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