Not Your Mother’s Wedding Gown

If you’re a bride in your twenties, chances are your mother wore something very similar to this. Yes, it’s the quintessential eighties wedding gown. And somewhere out there, a loving mother is trying to make her daughter wear it when she walks down the aisle.

But Mom, while this was the top of the pops in 1983, it isn’t anymore. And remember how you didn’t want to wear your mother’s wedding gown that looked like this?

And she didn’t want to wear her mother’s Depression era wedding dress, either.

That’s not to say you can’t or even shouldn’t wear your mother’s gown if you really want to. If it’s on offer and you like it and it fits, well and good! That’s fantastic. If it requires a bit of refitting and retooling and your mother is open to that, well, that’s fine, too.

But do keep this in mind: if you don’t want to wear it, you really don’t have to.

You see, there are some moms out there – wonderful, loving mothers with no agenda beyond Doing What’s Best for their daughters – who need convincing of this fact.

In point of fact, I know just such a family. The mother is a lovely lady, but she honestly thought all three of her daughters ought to wear her wedding gown.

The wedding gown from the late fifties was a really pretty one. It was tea length with a lace overlay and a rather spectacular low, wide neckline paired with a fabulously full skirt. Since the mom in question looked a tidge like a curvier Audrey Hepburn, you can imagine how good that looked, too!

The oldest daughter married at eighteen on a shoestring and a prayer. She was delighted to have a gown at the ready that looked okay on her and didn’t cost any money.

The second daughter took very much after her mother in the looks department. I was at her wedding, and she was absolutely gorgeous in her mother’s dress. In point of fact, I can’t imagine a gown that would have looked better on her. It was as if she and the gown were made for one another… much like the lady and her groom.

But the third daughter… she didn’t want to wear that gown. Oh, she could see it was a very pretty gown. And she was a very lovely woman. It’s just that the third daughter wasn’t shaped like her mother. She wasn’t colored like her mother. She and that gown were polar opposites, and she had no intention of wearing that dress, no matter how much of a family tradition it had become.

At her sister’s wedding reception, she actually danced up to me giddy with relief when her brand new brother-in-law managed to put his entire foot through the lace overlay of the gown. With the ruination of the dress, my friend knew she would be free to pick her own gown.

About two years later, I stood proudly in my very early nineties bridesmaid dress as my good friend took her vows with her new husband… in a dress that was entirely her own.

She looked gorgeous.

And I do hope she remembers her feelings on the subject when it comes time for her now teenage daughter to choose a wedding gown.

4 Responses to “Not Your Mother’s Wedding Gown”

  1. Katie says:

    Mum’s dress was relatively nice for a 70s dress, but I still wouldn’t have wanted to wear it. Fortunately, I don’t have that kind of mother, and she put it in an Op Shop (Thrift store) many years ago. On the other hand, had my grandmother’s wedding dress still been around, I totally would have considered wearing that, especially knowing that it was designed to have the sleeves and neckline fill-in removed and be dyed dark blue!

  2. My Mum’s dress looks just like the first photo but possibly with more puff and ruffle. Thankfully there has been no mention of any desire for me to wear it, but if there were, I’d pray I wouldn’t fit it and it was unalterable!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    How about the mother who had a nice-enough gown, but doesn’t particularly want her daughter (or anyone else) wearing it for their wedding?

    When I was planning my wedding, I knew exactly what I wanted for my gown: a copy in white, with a bit more lace on it, of a clean and simple evening gown I already had. My mother offered to do the work, and since she had sewn most of my clothes throughout my childhood, I thought, “No problem.” I should have known better — but I *was* still very young.

    My parents grew up during the Depression and WWII. My mother, additionally, grew up on a farm. Farm families are, by tradition and necessity, very very thrifty. These influences on her meant that when we went shopping for the materials for my gown, I was given a budget of $30 (USD).
    This was in 1975, when a low-but-reasonable starting salary for a college graduate was $150 per week (40-hour work week). The most basic ready-made wedding gown cost at least $80, and a really nice or fancy gown was upwards of $150. Her budget for me had to include all the materials including the veil and headpiece — everything except the shoes. So I ended up with a very cheap textured knit fabric. Does anyone remember double-knit acrylic fabrics — the most horrible look of the ’70s? My wedding gown is a double-knit fake brocade.

    The next disappointment was when I went for my first fitting. My mother had decided not to try to copy the gown I’d given her, but went and bought a pattern she thought looked similar. It wasn’t.

    I had wanted a copy of the evening gown because there was something about the cut of it that made me look and feel fantastic wearing it. I wanted something as close to that feeling during my wedding day as I could get. Mothers who think they Only Want What’s Best for their daughters don’t always see what that is …

    But the dress was already cut out, my parents were paying for most of the wedding & reception, I was a student living on my own in an apartment with only a part-time job, and I was young. There wasn’t a thing I could really say about it. So I never told my mother how very disappointed I was.

    But she got a severe case of sticker shock three years later, when my very strong-willed sister got married, also knowing exactly what kind of dress she wanted! (And it wasn’t a plain, simple style, either!)

    I’ve kept my wedding gown for sentimental reasons only — kind of like I’ve kept the husband. 😀 … Still, it would not please me especially to have anyone else wear my gown for her special day, “unique” as it is. Certainly not enough to pressure my daughter into wearing it!

  4. Twistie says:

    Oh dear, Elizabeth! I’m old enough to remember acrylic double knit. Goodness knows I’ve tried to forget.