My Wedding Dress Was Exhibited In A Museum! < Insert Age-Related Joke Here >

Time: The Year of Our Lord, 1976

Place: Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Once upon a time, when I was practically jailbait oh-so-young and full of promise, I fell madly in love with a darkly handsome mustachioed gospel singer who swept me off my feet and into an ugly green Pinto by proposing marriage down on one knee, holding a ring box from the jewelry department of Service Merchandise while I was sick in bed with a stomach virus and trying not to vomit.

I said yes.

It doesn’t get any more romantic than that, folks.

Since I was so very artsy and such a unique little snowflake, I obviously couldn’t buy a wedding dress off the rack– oh no, I had to “design” my very own special TOTALLY TORI WEDDING DRESS. And by “design,” I mean searching through every copy of Brides Magazines I could find looking for my dream dress (that I knew I wouldn’t be remotely able to afford) and then figuring out how to copy it on the cheap.

The dress I chose was a vision in white chiffon, with sheer layers of handkerchief points edged in French lace floating over a slinky little slip dress. Gorgeous.

**Kind of along the lines of this:

1DRESSsorta

So, of course in order to assert my budding independence and prove what a rugged individualist I was, I proceeded to change almost everything about it. My taste may have been questionable, but my vision was strong.

I heard about a dressmaker in Little Rock who could reproduce a dress from a photo without even using a pattern, so I called her up and made an appointment. Clutching my torn-out magazine page to my still perky bosom, I knocked on her front door and tried not to look too obviously shocked and appalled when I realized that apparently her specialty was not so much wedding dresses, but big (and I mean BIG) glitzed-out, sparkly pageant dresses. Yeah. Honestly, you couldn’t swing a cat in her sewing room without hitting something that was bedazzled within an inch of its life. To be fair, she looked a little askance herself when she realized that I wanted to convert that elegantly frothy little number on the magazine page into something… a bit “funkier.” “Earthier.” “Hippie-ish.” Perhaps even “folksy.”

(Think ‘Stevie Nicks at a hoedown.’ An ‘Amish wood sprite.’ Something like that.)

The dressmaker, bless her, bit her tongue and started taking notes. I wanted to change the color from snow white to ecru, the fabric from chiffon to India cotton gauze, the French lace edging to hand-tatted crocheted trim; also, lose the train and forget about a veil– I dreamily pictured just a few well-placed sprigs of fresh baby’s breath tucked in my hair.

Don’t roll your eyes at me, IT WAS THE 70’s!

Well, darned if she didn’t come through. She produced the dress to my exact specifications, with nary a sequin or spangle in sight. To my 20 year old eyes, it was a one-of-a-kind piece of ivory perfection, and when I stood in front of the big mirror at my last fitting, I felt beautiful. I didn’t even mind that she had fashioned a rosette out of extra fabric and pinned it to the front of the dress– “I just thought it looked a little plain,” she said sheepishly.

And so it came to pass that on Halloween night, Oct. 31, 1976, the dress and I floated down the aisle and into my future.

The End

OK, not really ‘The End.’

Fast forward 15 years: I wore the dress again when Russ and I renewed our vows at a lovely little ceremony in front of the fireplace at our house on Hillside Drive, surrounded by family and friends, and presided over by my brother Matt. Mom and Dad surprised me by driving up from Arkansas, and our manager Zach even flew in from LA. We held our ‘reception’ at a local bowling alley, and invited a whole gang of friends to join us. We set up a wedding cake on a card table by the snack bar, and though I changed out of my wedding dress before bowling, I did keep the veil on. (This time around I opted out of the baby’s-breath-in-the-hair look and wore a beautiful 1920’s lace veil, crowned with tiny wax orange blossoms.) It was a memorable night, made even sweeter in retrospect because I now know, though I had no idea at the time, that after lots and lots of trying and failing I was actually just the teeniest bit pregnant with Madi Rose…

(Note to reader: Please grasp that the salient point here is that I FIT INTO THE DRESS 15 years later. And no, I didn’t try it on to see if I did this time around, mainly because a) I have eyes and b) gravity.)

So here we are in 2014, and lo and behold my modest little 70’s-licious bridal dress was just part of a “Wedding Dresses Though the Decades” exhibit at one of my favorite places, Oaklands Historic House Museum in Murfreesboro. Isn’t that cool?! Here’s the poster:

1DRESSflyerIt was such an honor to be asked to participate in this year’s event, and though we were in and out of town during most of the time the dresses were on display, we finally made it in to see them on the very last day. My sister Carolyn and her husband David were still here, so they went with Russ, the girls and I. The staff at Oaklands is really extraordinarily good at what they do, and are really fun to hang out with as well, so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I took lots of pictures, so prepare yourself– but hey, when’s the next time I’m going to get the chance to have a dress in a museum, right?

(Unless, you know, they decide to do a Moon Pie Queen Museum or something.)

(Which is not a bad idea, really. Just saying.)

**My humble little homemade, er, custom designed dress surrounded by satin, lace, trains, veils and all manner of beautiful bridal related frippery.

1DRESS1

**The blushing bride and groom, then and now (37 years later.)

1DRESSphoto

1DRESSrt:me

**Our story– every bit as romantic as the proposal:

1DRESSplaque

**My sister Carolyn checking out my dress and silently thanking the heavens that they’re not displaying the bridesmaid dress I made her she got to wear– which was a lovely ivory dress topped with a custom designed handpainted sheer silk CAPE with a COWL. (Think a little something like THIS, but in soothing fall colors…)

1cape:cowl

Shut up. I was going for fashion forward/artsy, remember?

**Anyway. Here’s Carolyn:

1DRESScarolynlooking

**And here are some other highlights from the exhibit:

1DRESS lace

1DRESSheadpiece

1dresses 1DRESSvignette

1DRESShall

**Carolyn fell in love with this dress– very Downton Abbey, don’t you think?

1DRESScarriesfav

**Madi Rose and I are always immediately drawn to the antique underwear section.

1DRESSarmoire

1DRESScase

1DRESSfinalSo, thus ends my little wedding dress’ great adventure!

Now, tell me about YOUR wedding dress…

17 Responses

  1. sweet lil' redheaded dumbass

    If you only knew that the bridesmaids’ dresses should have been zebra print… There could have been face paint involved. I call a do-over.

    I love this, though. This dress is in all the photos that I grew up looking at in grandma and grandpa’s house. I think you should get the wedding photos of all of the brothers and sisters and put together a follow-up gallery post.

  2. tori

    sweet lil’ redheaded dumbass: Well, we don’t quite have a photo from my wedding with ALL the sibs, because if you remember, this was the year that the three remaining (out of 6) ones all got married within a few months of each other– so not everybody got to make it to all those dang weddings! I do however, have some great photos of the wedding party featuring Bud and Stuart Smedley sporting some might fine rust colored, double-knit-looking tuxedos! There were wide lapels and and sideburns as far as the eye could see…

    But the idea of featuring photos of everyone’s wedding is intriguing- “Timms Through The Decades!”

  3. auburn60

    All set for “Timms Through The Decades”…get everyone on that!

    Someday I will tell my engagement story. It rivals yours,Tori, for pure romance. *eyeroll*

    OK…my wedding dress. Well, first let me say that I am so glad I don’t have to pick one out nowadays. There are just TOO MANY CHOICES. Too much everything; styles, fabric, length, beading,glitter! I would paralyze myself with indecision.

    I always thought I would get married in the Fall or maybe around Christmas and it would be cozy, with lots of candles and maybe a winter theme…uh,no. May 24th,1986 in Orlando,Florida in the afternoon. More like 95 degree temps. and melting makeup.

    So, being a total career girl at the time I only shopped for dresses on my lunch hour. Alone. Remember the 80’s? Everything BIG; hair, shoulder pads, VEILS. Our wedding inspirations were Bo and Hope and Luke and Laura. I’m about 5 foot 2 on a good day and at the time I weighed about 105 lbs. When those (overenthusiastic) bridal consultants put me in the fashions of the day I looked ridiculous. Like a little girl playing dress-up. Leg-of-mutton sleeves with big headers at the shoulders, veils that stood at attention at the top of my head and wrapped around my face, and rolls of shiny fabric that pooled at my feet. I looked like those pictures everybody has of their ancestors weddings. You know, where the bride’s face peers out from the layers of veil and high necked dress and the huge gardenia bush she was given to hold. After a few of these sessions I blurted out “I look like an immigrant!”–not very PC, I know–but the salesperson giggled and said “Yeah,you do.”

    So to make a long story even longer: While working out of town I happened to walk into a very small boutique in Brookville on my way back from Gainesville, saw a tea-length,lacy dress on a mannequin, tried it on and ordered it in white. It had a dropped waist, long sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. We added buttons down the back and a hip length veil. I called my mother and sister and said I had bought the dress. Done. I’ll have to find a picture somewhere, especially as we are coming up on our 28th anniversary. Oh yeah! The groom wore the traditional tux. Who cares, right? :) And I haven’t seen that dress since having it carefully stored that summer. My daughters will never be able to wear it as they are both 6 feet tall so I have no idea why I’m saving it.

  4. tori

    THAT’S what I’m talking about! You wrote that so beautifully that I have a complete photograph of it in my mind… And I’m with you on those leg ‘o mutton sleeves– what the heck was that all about???

  5. bettyrwoodward

    Ok here goes. I was married in 1973. I had just finished at college and Stuart still studying therefore no money! I saw just the dress I wanted in the window of a department store and it was ready for a sale to start.I checked what size it was as it was a one off and just for the sale. Yes you have guessed it was my size and so I queued from 3.30 a.m. and managed to get it. It fitted perfectly not needing even the slightest change. I got it for £10. Now I’ll see if I can describe it. It was a full length, plain white satin, princess line, round neck, sleeveless dress with a lace, long sleeved coat with a train over it.
    My parent’s next door neighbour loaned me a crystal tiara and long veil which went with it.
    I was really pleased as you can imagine. Stuart wore a light grey three piece suit with slight flares!

  6. karen48

    Although I was divorced after 30 years of marriage (1967-1997), and I no longer have my wedding dress, I can still tell you about it.
    I didn’t have a big wedding. I had a knee length, off-white knit dress. It was A-line and had crocheted long sleeves and yoke. I was able to wear it several times after the wedding until I tried washing it by hand. It shrunk something awful. Learned a hard lesson.
    I loved the color yellow then. So I bought a pair of white heels, and dyed them yellow. I wore a yellow football mum corsage. I had a yellow circlet with net on it for my hair.
    We didn’t have much money, so everything was pretty much simplified.
    I love your dress, Tori. I would love to find spots like that to visit here around Kansas City. I don’t go much out of my comfort zone though.
    Thank you for sharing your special memories with us.

    Karen

  7. tori

    bettyrwoodward: I just love the idea of you standing in line at 3:00 am and getting that dress you wanted! And on sale, too? That’s MY kind of shopping!

  8. tori

    Karen48: My sister Carolyn got married in the 60’s too, and your dress sounds a little bit like hers– it was an A-line shift with a lace overlay, and she made a miniature one out of the same material for my favorite doll!

  9. auburn60

    Oh! So cute that she made a wedding dress for your doll! Love her.

  10. Janet B

    Danny & I got engaged on Nov 10, 1985…set the wedding date for Jan 19, 1986. 10 weeks and NO money. So, I literally couldn’t afford to be picky – and I had to be decisive about it!
    (True story: The Super Bowl was going to be on Jan 26th…and being the rabid & loyal Chicago Bears fan that I am, I knew they would be in (and win!) the big game. I did not want to miss it, even for something as mundane as my own wedding. So, we got married on the off-week between the NFC Championship and the SB. Priorities.)

    I went to the Bridal dept of a local store and said, “What do ya got?” As it turned out, the bridal consultant on duty that day was brand new (I was her very first bride!)…Janelle was extremely helpful and eager-to-please. If I remember right, I tried on exactly one dress. It was in my size and on sale for 1/3 off. ($210 down to $140) Satin, with lace appliques…long, sheer embroidered sleeves…sheer shoulders and back…a modest train, edged with French lace…V-neck with scalloped edging. But it was the bottom that I fell in love with. The satin skirt, which had an uneven, embroidered edge, stopped right below the knee…underneath that was a curtain of Chantilly lace, peeking out like a petticoat. Gorgeous. And much to my surprise, I looked like a bride! Who’d have thunk that?

    Danny wanted me to wear a veil with a blusher, so that he could lift it up when he kissed me. (Who knew the guy was such a romantic? It doesn’t come out very often, believe me!) Janelle found one for me…full length – with a blusher! – with the same lace as the dress. It was perfect…even though it cost nearly as much as the dress! ($125)

    Because the dress was JUST long enough (I’m 5’11”), and because Danny is 3″ shorter, I bought a pair of white satin ballet slippers.
    Horrible shoes. Killed my feet.

    My sister, Carole, and my best friend, Marty, were my bridesmaids. The three of us went to the dress shop…”I need something simple, fast, and cheap!” They had a design that was simple, but pretty…in satin, with a V-neck similar to my dress…slightly poofy shoulders (not Joan Collins-like, thank the Lord). It was called an “Express Dress” and it could be ready in a month. It came in two colors – royal blue or burgundy. So, I asked the girls, “What color do you want to wear?” “The burgundy.” Ok, then. Burgundy, it is.

    The guys wore dark gray morning coats, with striped trousers, light gray vests, and striped ascots. The girls carried burgundy roses and white carnations…the guys wore burgundy roses (Danny’s was white). I carried white roses & baby’s breath.

    We pulled the whole thing off for about $1000. I was a nervous wreck by the day, though. I was so sure I was forgetting something important. The bridal party was all lined up at the foot of the stairs, waiting to enter the sanctuary…the photographer took the picture…and I panicked. “The blusher! The blusher! We forgot the blusher!” Carole – “Calm down…we’re on it. Get a grip, already.”

    So, there I was, standing outside the sanctuary doors with my dad…shaking like a leaf. “Daddy, I don’t know if I can stand up.” “Don’t you worry about it. Your old dad is a pro at this…you just hang on to me. I’ll get you down that aisle.” (Yes, indeed…best dad in the whole world.)

    Deep breath…open the doors…one (painful) step at a time… I’m thinking, “Ok…this is going well…” Then – I looked up at Danny. He was CRYING. All bets were off then. That got me started – and I blubbered through the whole thing. People that were there – they still talk about it. That’s what you want, right? Memorable?

    Oh, the blusher played another important, nearly disastrous, role. By the point in the ceremony where we lit the unity candle, I was sobbing. I had trouble getting enough breath to blow out the danged candle…so I moved it ever so slightly closer to my face…and nearly caught the blusher on fire. That startled me so much that I screamed. In the video, you can see Carole and Marty shaking from barely-controlled laughter. They were so much help.

    Now…aren’t you so glad you asked? ;)

  11. Janet B

    AND…my sister, Kathy, got married in 1971 – on my 9th birthday. I was a junior bridesmaid. My Aunt Lola made the wedding cake (gorgeous). She also made a birthday cake for me…a doll cake, who was “dressed” just like I was.
    They surprised me with it at the reception…and everyone sang Happy Birthday.

    Now, everyone say, “Awww…” :D

  12. tori

    JanetB: AWWWWWW…. :) I LOVE that story! And I forgot that the lift-it-up-for-the-kiss veil thingy is called a “blusher”– how cute is that? Sounds you got a lot of bang for your buck with that $1000 wedding!

  13. LindaB

    Okay, Tori…….you had your dream wedding dress made by a lady who makes pageant dresses, you marry on Halloween, hand out candy to trick or treaters on your honeymoon, renew your vows at a bowling alley, and bowl wearing your wedding veil! I just LOVE you guys! No one can say you are a slave to tradition!

    I have LOVED hearing these wedding day stories! They are all so well written! Alyson, I especially liked “veils that stood at attention at the top of my head and wrapped around my face,…”! I know just what you’re talking about!

    As for my dress, I had made my sister’s wedding dress, several friends dresses, and several coworkers’ dresses. I took my inspiration from one I saw in Bride’s Magazine and recreated it in heavy cotton Battenberg lace over satin with a detachable satin train embroidered with flowers cut from the lace. Then I sewed thousands of tiny seed pearls on it. I had lots of time—–my husband to be was fighting in Viet Nam for the year before our wedding. It seems ludicrous to me now——he was trying to avoid being killed while I was sewing pearls on a dress. But it kept me busy and from worrying after hearing news reports every night about the thousands of G.I. dying in battle over there. He made it home……more than half of his unit didn’t. I can still remember how happy I was to see him walk off that plane when he got home! I ran to him and threw myself into his arms so hard, his hat when flying and rolled out onto the runway! I wasn’t as heavy then, but given an amount of room to get some momentum going, I was dangerous! A nice passenger getting off the same plane ran and retrieved his hat and shook his hand thanking him for his service! We were married April 6th, (his birthday), 1968 on a 72 hour leave from the army, at my church, with his pastor and my pastor officiating. I wrote the vows. I also made all the bridesmaid’s dresses (a blue one, pink one, mint green one, and yellow one). They were simple A-line dress in a heavy satin with lace bodices. (Rainbow wedding themes were popular back then). And I made my mother’s dress—–a brocade top with a green chiffon skirt. (I feel like one of those fashion reporters from the newspaper! Ha!)

  14. tori

    LindaB: You made ALL THOSE DRESSES? And your wedding dress, too? Dang, girl– I’m truly impressed! I somehow missed the sewing gene, but my sister Liz got it– she has the best outfitted grandkids around! I love the picture of you flinging yourself into Terry’s arms…

  15. Janet B

    Linda – My sister, Terri, got married on Dec 20, 1969. She & Ken got engaged the year before, right before he shipped off to Vietnam. (Ken used to love to tell the story of first asking my dad for Terri’s hand…and then asking Daddy to co-sign the loan for the ring!)
    Terri made her wedding dress, three bridesmaid dresses, and my flower girl dress (it looked just like Terri’s, but it was light pink…I still have it).
    I think, like you, all of that sewing kept her mind off of Ken way over there…well, sort of.

    And all of that sewing talent? Skipped completely over me. (I have other, not-so-useful, qualities. lol)

  16. LindaB

    If I did that today, well…..there would be hospitalization and occupational rehab involved. ;)

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