Mother’s wedding dress is not hanging in the closet tonight. It had been there side-by-side with my dad’s tuxedo for as long as I am able to remember. I’d been fretting about what to do with it. I couldn’t just toss it like any old dress.
Maybe donating it to the theater department at the university? Or, hey, how about a vintage clothing store? Yes, good idea. I looked on-line and discovered The Glam Factory, downtown Las Vegas. Sounded perfect. (No website, but on Facebook.)
So I packed them up — the wedding dress, the tuxedo and added a dressy dress of my own from the 70s — worn twice — that I’d always hoped I’d have the occasion (and the figure) to wear again.
I located The Glam Factory on a small side-street — a small richly painted and decorated old house. How fun! Before I took everything inside, I did a quick check of dad’s tuxedo — who knows maybe there was a $100 bill hidden in the pocket. Nope, only the bow tie, but suddenly I thought “the last hand that went into this pocket was my father’s,” and felt tears prickling behind my eyelids.
“Get a grip,” I told myself as I struggled to get hold of the dress and tux in the slippery plastic bags.
The store turned out to be full of fun things from the last century. The clothes and purses looked strangely familiar. “Hey,” I said picking up a woven straw purse, “I had this exact same purse in high school.” As I snooped around, the owner hung my clothes on a rack and sighed over the soft satin wedding dress.
“Your mother must have been a small woman,” she said, “Look at this — her waist couldn’t have been more than 22 inches.” She sighed again. She turned to the tux. “Your dad wasn’t a large man, was he?”
“Well, 5’8. Mother was smaller. Yeah, not large for sure.”
“I love it, but don’t think they’d ever sell,” she told me, gently slipping the bags back over the hangers. “Nobody is that size anymore. I’ll buy your 70s dress, though,” so that was something.
As I turned to leave, she said “You should probably take those to Patina — it’s straight over on Main Street.”
Patina Decor http://www.patinadecorlv.com turned out to be a really elegant “retro” store featuring furniture from the middle of the last century along with sparkling crystal and glassware and toward the back, a rack of fur jackets and stoles — definitely retro!
“Can I help you?” an elegant lady asked as I stood holding my precious cargo and gazing around.
“I have my mother’s wedding dress. It’s from the 30s,” I added quickly. “She made it herself.”
Kate, as I discovered her name was, reached out and I was suddenly reluctant to let them go. Gently she took the hangers from me and setting the tux aside, laid the dress on a table over a display of colorful silk scarves. “It’s beautiful,” she said as she smoothed out the shimmering satin. “Your mother must have been very slender.”
Mother? Slender? I never noticed. She was just mother-sized. Slender. Huh.
“There’s something odd about the dress,” I said as Kate held it up. She arched her eyebrows. “It has no zipper and no buttons. I have no idea how she got into it.” We both looked again at the tiny waist. “It is cut on the bias,” I added, “so there is a little give, but still …”
She studied the dress again. “We don’t actually deal in clothes, although we have a few.” She paused a moment. “You know, we do have another, similar wedding dress. It’s from Bullocks. Let’s look at it.”
“Bullocks was my mother’s favorite store!” I said as I trailed after her. What an amazing coincidence.
“Here it is,” she said lifting it off the hook. It was strikingly like mother’s; high cowl-necked with a fitted bodice and a slight flare falling into a train. Could mother have copied the design? Was she that good a seamstress?
We returned to the table and Kate said “It’s really beautiful — it should be in a display box.” She looked at dad’s tuxedo one more time. “How much do you want for them?”
“Uh, I don’t know. I hadn’t thought.” It’s my mother’s wedding dress. Suddenly my eyes were burning. What am I doing here? I should take them back home where they belong.
She named a price and I said, “That’s fine,” suddenly anxious to be done. “Oh, here,” I said holding out the picture I’d brought. “It’s my mother on her wedding day. I thought you might like to see the dress on her.”
“Oh, lovely. May I take a picture of it?”
So she took a picture, and gave me a check, and I ran my hand one more time over the clothes that my parents wore on that one day 83 years ago. I turned back to Kate. “They were very happy,” I started to tell her, but my throat closed over the words.
She touched my hand. “I’m going to find the right person for your mother’s dress,” she said. I nodded and left quickly, not looking back.
So it’s done. Perhaps one day in the not-so-distant future, a young woman will be telling a friend about the most wonderful, perfect vintage wedding dress that she found in a marvelous little store in, of all places, Las Vegas.
And mother’s dress will once again shimmer softly in the light as vows are exchanged and a young couple begins their lifetime together.