Sunday, August 15, 2021

My Husband's Grandmother's 1952 Wedding Dress

 When my mother-in-law and her sister found out my husband had plans to purpose to me they hatched a plan. In the back of my mother-in-law's sister's closet hung their mother's 1952 lace and tulle wedding dress.

Knowing I intended to make my own wedding dress, they decided to offer this dress to me and ask if I wanted to use some of the material from it in my wedding gown. Neither of them had chosen to wear the dress when they got married, and their daughters were already married and had no interest in the dress. Thus, wanting the dress to be used and loved, they gave it into my possession. 

I was, of course, very honored by this gift, and promised to put her to good use! That said, this wedding dress is a beautiful example of it's time and I didn't want to alter her too much and cause irreparable damage. I would have to figure out a way to honor my mother-in-law and her sister's request to use part of this dress in my dress, while following my own desire to preserve this dress so future generations can admire and study her.

The dress features a beautiful lace bodice and sleeves with an illusion tulle neckline.

There is a basque waist in the front, and both the front and back of the bodice are fitted with darts coming up from the waist.

Lace scallops are applied to the sweetheart neckline, over top of the tulle that goes all the way up to the throat.

The back of the dress is closed with a sturdy metal zipper.

The illusion neckline closes at the base of the neck with a metal hook and eye.

The lace is underlined with a synthetic taffeta on the bodice and a stiff netting on the sleeves.

The lace itself appears to be a galleon type lace, about 6" wide, with strips of lace placed together edge to edge to get enough width for the bodice.

The skirt consists of two layers of netting over synthetic taffeta.

The top layer of netting is pretty stiff and hemmed with narrow horse hair braid. The lower layer of netting is softer and has stretched out from hanging in a closet for nearly 70 years.

The front features five rows of the same galleon lace as the bodice running vertically down the length of the skirt.

This is probably my favorite feature of the whole dress!

The lace is absolutely beautiful, and the way it's spaced out gives the skirt a very light and airy look.

Unfortunately, the lace was starting to come unsewn from the netting at the bottom of the skirt and the horse hair braid this layer was hemmed with was disintegrating.

Since there was already some damage here, I decided this was where I would pull some material from to use in my dress. I could trim a few inches off this layer without harming the integrity of the dress overall. It would still look like the same dress when I was done with it.

That decided, I looked at the lace motifs and figured out how I wanted to incorporate them into my dress design.

Then I cut a few inches off the bottom of this skirt layer, carefully cutting around the lace motifs so I could make the most of them on my dress.

Once this strip of material was cut off the bottom of the dress, I seam ripped the lace free from the netting and horsehair braid and ironed each piece of lace flat.

I then cut the large pieces of lace into smaller pieces - individual flowers and leaves and swirls - to sew onto my dress.

This lace was much more ivory than any of the other laces in my dress (which I would classify as a soft white), so I decided to sew these little lace motifs directly to my silk twill, which was only a shade or two lighter than this lace.

I scattered these pieces of lace across the front of my skirt where the lace over skirt was the shortest.

The pieces got pinned in place, moved and adjusted, until I was satisfied with the overall arrangement. 

Then each individual motif was securely handsewn to the silk.

I love the look of cascading lace on my skirt!

I only wound up using four of the five pieces of lace I removed from my husband's grandmother's dress in my dress. So that fifth piece of lace can be saved for a future heirloom sewing project or something. 

Since I had the piece of lace handy on my wedding day, my photographer included it in some of the pictures of our wedding mementos, which I just love!

As for the dress itself. I bought an archival box and acid free tissue paper to store it in, so it can be safely saved for future generations to admire!

I am beyond honored by this gift my husband's mom and aunt gave me. It was an amazing "Welcome to the family" gesture, and I hope I did it justice!


  1. So wonderful to be able to incorporate a family heirloom into your wedding dress. Congratulations!

  2. Lovely idea to use small pieces of this family heirloom to embellish your dress. Thanks for posting!