My Aunt's c.1950 Wedding Dress


About 18 months ago my cousin Glenda contacted me and asked me If I would be interested in some family vintage items she had, primarily her mother's wedding dress. She was renovating her house and clearing out some things she'd been storing for years. She said they weren't in very good condition. I said I'd come and have a look.

Here is Auntie Des marrying Uncle Martin and wearing the gown on her wedding day in 1950. The gown is barely recognisable today.

My Auntie Des had had the gown altered to a dance dress after her wedding. In those days, having survived the war years, the "Make Do and Mend" ethos was still strong and it was common for a dress to be repurposed. The length was shortened, the sleeves removed, and it was dyed pink. It came with the fingerless gloves Des had worn with it, also dyed pink. Time had not been kind to the gown. The full skirt was covered with brown oxidation marks and moths had feasted on the shoulders. I told Glenda that I would try to fix the gown and then she could decide what she wanted to do with it.

Pretty good from a distance, but...

The first problem I attacked was the staining. The yoke and skirt of the gown are rayon and the lace bodice is cotton. My fall back method for "nothing to lose" items otherwise headed for the bin is laundry soaker. I used Vanish Oxy Action. I was worried that it would fade the dye in streaks, but it came out 95% clean with little or no effect on the color. There are still one or two marks but being such a full skirt these are well hidden in the folds.

Secondly, the more challenging problem of the ruined yoke. Amongst my stock I was fortunate to find an old nightgown from the early '50s in a similar fabric and color. The nightgown was far from perfect so I had no qualms about shortening it from floor length to below knee. Now all I needed was a pattern. I planned to unpick the yoke from the lace and use it as a pattern to cut the replacement fabric. That proved easier said than done, and I ended up cutting most of the lace away from the original yoke. I had to leave the sleeve binding in place as I had no fabric (nor inclination) to cut more bias strips. Also, it would guide me in putting the bodice back together. Yikes!

 Note the rouleau button loops. No way was I attempting to reproduce those, so I cut them off attached to a strip, planning to sew them back in place on the new yoke.

Yokeless

The new yoke pieces were cut and sewn together and I carefully pinned all the lace in place and reattached it. I made new binding for the neck and reattached the armhole binding, putting it back together like completing a puzzle.The rouleau loops went back on, and I sewed on all the little buttons. Presto! Good as new (sort of).

 I had a couple of buttons left over, so I didn't quite get it right, but it's close. I hope it's not too much smaller as it was already about an AU6.

 The fate of the dress has not yet been decided, but I'm hoping someone in the family will adopt it. Auntie Des was very good to me when I was a teenager and I stayed regularly with my cousins, sharing a number of family holidays with them. This is my thank you to her.


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