Archive for March, 2014

My Wedding Dress Was Exhibited In A Museum!

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:


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.


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



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


**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…)


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

**Anyway. Here’s Carolyn:


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

1DRESS lace


1dresses 1DRESSvignette


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


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



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

Now, tell me about YOUR wedding dress…

(I Promise My Next Post Will Be Full Of Funny Stories, Heartwarming Tales Of Small Town Life and Possibly A Few Fart Jokes.)

I seem to be in the middle of a season of loss around here.


Maybe it’s my age. Is mid-life (Why yes, I do plan on living to be 114 so technically this IS my mid- life, thanks for asking) traditionally the time when a lot of really terrible things start happening to people all around you? I know that life can randomly serve up crippling blows at any age, but dang, lately it feels like some celestial referee somewhere should be blowing their whistle and calling a penalty for PILING ON. Seriously, enough already.

People I really care about are struggling really hard. I am helpless on the sidelines. (Again with the football analogies?) This results in the following whirling dervish of emotions:

**Still filled with sadness and compassion for the Yake family who lost their Emily in a car accident last month.

**Distressed by the news of a dear friend’s cancer diagnosis. (NOT a death sentence, but definitely a life-altering event)

** Reeling from the sudden passing on Monday of music business friend Norman Holland.

**And finally,  I am trying to wrap my head around this horrible news from my longtime friend Crescent Dragonwagon:


Russ and I met Crescent and her equally fascinating husband Ned sometime in the 80’s when we stayed at their bed and breakfast in Eureka Springs. We maintained that connection for years, enjoying a comfortable ‘couples friendship,’ and were devastated when Ned was killed in a bike accident in November of 2000.  Crescent grieved intensely, but to the delight of all of us who cared about her, after several years alone she unexpectedly found love again with filmmaker David Koff.

They were a good match.


David Richard Koff (born 1939 in Philadelphia, United States) is an award-winning maker of documentary films, social activist, writer, researcher, and editor. His interest in social and economic justice has shaped a career largely spent exploring human rights, colonialism, resistance movements, racism, labor unions, and the oppression and exploitation of undocumented workers in America. However, he veered from political concerns long enough to write and co-produce the film, “People of the Wind” for which, in 1976, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.

Crescent and David have been together for 12 years now, and lived in a 1795 farmhouse on 35 acres in Vermont until a recent bout with extensive damage caused by broken pipes forced them to move out while repairs are made. Crescent’s mother, famed children’s book author and editor Charlotte Zolotow  died in November, so they have been staying in her house in NY getting it ready for sale. But apparently for many years behind the scenes, brilliant, loving, kind David was fighting for his life against a deadly, devious enemy– clinical depression. The only way I can begin to make sense of what feels to me like an unforgivably selfish act is to realize that in the depths of his illness, David truly did not believe he had any other choice to make the pain stop. But I ache for Crescent, my sweet friend left once again to deal with the sudden, tragic death of her beloved– and this time, by his own hand.

Loss. I hate it.

I know it ‘s a part of life, it’s inevitable, blah blah blah. But understanding that doesn’t make me hate it any less.

Natural order of things. Ebb and flow. Roll with it. It won’t always feel like this.

These are the slightly cliched, bumper-sticker truisms I’ve been telling myself lately, willing myself to believe them.  I’m not having a crisis of faith- I know who I am and what I believe. And the fact that Crescent and my recently diagnosed friend with cancer follow a different spiritual path than I do does not give me pause for a second as I lift them up to the God of my understanding and ask for his mercy, grace and comfort to surround and overwhelm them. It’s all I know to do, because the fact that life and loss are intrinsically linked really sucks and leaning into something and Someone bigger than I am is my only safe harbor–even when it doesn’t feel all that safe here in this dang harbor right about now.

But regardless of how smarmy this sounds, I want to say (write) out loud that I am deliberately and daily making a conscious choice to focus on the good things in my life– to find gratitude, to seek peace, to reach out and grab that “thing with feathers that perches in the soul” by its scrawny little neck and not let go. I truly understand that you can’t “happy thought” your way out of a treacherous mental illness like depression, but I’m not really talking about depression right now.

I’m talking about learning how to navigate through the sadness that is all around us, all the time, as long as we are living here on earth, without getting lost in it. I’m talking about learning to accept the fact that the price tag for loving someone is the risk of losing them. But even though the human condition does indeed contain all of the above mentioned opportunities for despair, the God’s truth is that it also contains unimaginable beauty and unspeakable joy. So I’m choosing to lean in, not pull away. I’m putting myself out there, knowing that sooner or later, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there will be more loss coming my way and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

Because what’s the alternative? There’s not a place, or a person, or a religion that can guarantee us a pain-free life– I know, because I’ve looked. And for me, shutting down and refusing to care or engage so that I can protect myself from getting hurt isn’t really an option. Or a life.

Because love, in all of its glorious, heartbreaking incarnations– is so absolutely worth it.


Let Evening Come

By Jane Kenyon


Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.


Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.


Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.


Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.


To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.


Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come

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