I had my wedding dress embalmed back in 1969. I’m not sure what they did to preserve it. I seriously doubt embalming fluid was involved but I think it was either washed or sprayed with something to keep it from yellowing. Then they stuffed it with tissue paper to hold the shape. Then they boxed it up into about three boxes like those Russian dolls. I ended up with a box so huge that the only place I could store it was under the bed. This thing was packaged to withstand a nuclear blast.
The first time I took it out for a stroll down memory lane was when Elizabeth was about 6 years old. I’m not sure what the occasion was—probably nothing more than the boredom of a housewife with a small child. It doesn’t take much to entertain people like that.
I got the big brown corrugated box out from under the bed. Inside was a stiff white box. And inside that was a gold box with a flap that you could open to reveal the dress behind a clear plastic window. I took out the stiff white cardboard box to reveal the glittering gold box with the window. I opened the gold flap to show the dress in all its glory. I sat back and waited for my child to behold her mother’s wedding dress. She gasped, “Wow!” I glowed in happiness that she was impressed with this family heirloom. Reality in the form of a six-year old child stepped in: “ What a NEAT box!”
The dress went back inside the magic boxes for another few years.
The next time I got it out was when Emily was 14. We were having some family event and all the uncles and grandparents were here. This time I decided to pull out the tissue paper and try the dress on
First, you need to know that in the late 60’s a lot of wedding dresses had an empire waistline that drew in just below the bustline and above the natural waistline. This was because in the late 60’s a lot of brides were….how shall I say this?....”overachievers” I guess might be a good word. They had already started on their family a little bit in advance of their wedding. In the 60’s this was an embarrassment that we seldom see nowadays. At any rate, it created a market for dresses that accommodated this little detail. Thus was born the empire waistline wedding dress.
That’s not the reason I got a dress with an empire waistline but it sure did make a difference in my ability to get into the dress 20 years later. No way, Jose, would I have gotten into that dress if I had to have the waistline I had on my wedding day. I waved bye-bye to that waistline after the first baby.
Recently, a couple of my friends were talking about clothes sizes. One lady is at least 20 years older than me and the other friend is only nine days older than me. And these chicks claimed they can still get into clothes they wore in high school.
I would be ecstatic if I ever managed to lose down to what I weighed when I was nine months pregnant. I would probably give a party. And serve lots of desserts, too.
There are three stages to a woman’s weight. Her “normal” weight which is the one she always dreams of going back to. Maybe what she weighed in high school. The next phase is what I call “fluffing out” which you hit around 45 or 50. Like a bird fluffing her wings, everything everywhere is just a tiny bit bigger than before. But then around 55 you start “melting“ and everything goes south. The fluffiness doesn’t go anywhere, it just loosens on your frame and hangs there.
I was in the fluffing out stage the night I decided I’d try the dress on. With the empire waistline I didn’t have to worry about my middle-aged middle so much but the dress still had to cover a woman who had fluffed out in every single other way a person can fluff out. My neck, arms, ribcage were all just a few centimeters more than 20 years ago. I could barely get into the dress but I did and all that was left was to zip the damned thing.
So close yet so far. There was about a three inch gap the zipper would have to cover. Various family members tried their hand at getting the zipper to do its job. I think Beaven even got out a pair of pliers. His approach always involves tools. I’m sure if he had access to power tools that afternoon he would have tried them.
By this time the entire family was laughing at my attempts to get the dress zipped. And this is what I claim was the main culprit. I was laughing so hard that my chest kept expanding and deflating with each laugh. There was no way we could have zipped that dress with me laughing so hard.
We let Emily try it on and it fit my 14 year-old daughter perfectly. Proving that at least at one point in my life I had the body of a fourteen year old.
We took pictures but I’m not sure where they are. Fast forward about 10 years to the year both of my daughters got married within five months of each other. Wedding dresses passed before my eyes at lightning speed that year. (And by this time brides didn't worry about being pregnant when they get married. No...nowadays they wait until after the baby comes and then have the fancy wedding and dress.) About the only dress that registered with me that year was when Elizabeth walked out of the dressing room to show me THE dress and I surprised myself with tears.
Five months later when Emily brought her wedding dress home and her sister tried on her Matron of Honor dress I decided it was time to try my own dress on again. And this time I was going to get that sucker zipped if it hair-lipped Hades. I didn’t care if we tore out all the seams, I just wanted that zipper to close.
Things got serious. No laughing this time, I ordered. I exhaled all the air I could get out of my ribcage. “Zip!” I ordered them with my last puff of air. And between the two of them we managed to get that dressed zipped over my middle-aged body. All the way up to the end of the high collar. Victory.
I couldn’t breathe to speak of—only small shallow breaths. I couldn’t lower my arms to my sides. I couldn’t move my head. “Quick! Get the camera!” I whispered. I wanted the moment documented. I knew there was no way on earth I would ever get inside that dress again.
This is one of my favorite photos. It was one of the best days of my life and it had nothing to do with getting the dress zipped and everything to do with sharing that moment with Elizabeth and Emily.