24 July 2013

The Mystery of my Grandmother's Wedding Dress



My grandmother has another woman’s wedding dress in her closet, and it's completely on accident. We learned this fact together last month, in her home in Sharpsburg, Georgia. It all started with a request I made.

I’m getting married in less than three months. My fiance and I got engaged in May and set the date for October, about four and a half months out. Naturally, the first thing on my list was a dress. I made a couple appointments at different dress shops and went through the whole ordeal -- you tell a usually young, female attendant what your wedding day will be like and what styles you prefer; they select a dozen or so dresses and hang them up in your private dressing room; you try them on with the attendant’s help (this was always the funniest part to me -- they use those industrial strength metal clamps to pin the dress to your body, like stretching a canvas over a pickup bed). Up until then, it was all smiles and polite courtesies and oos and ahs and  “Oh, Cindy, you HAVE to see this one on her...” and lots of picture taking. But then they asked when the wedding was. And I told them October. And those smiles evaporated like steam.

Grandma, on her wedding day: June 12, 1954.

Grandma remembers picking her wedding dress out of a book. She was a freshman at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, 18 years old. Her mother, back in Rome, Georgia, sent her a catalog in the mail, and grandma (Betsy is her name) told her mother which ones she liked. When Betsy returned home, there was her dress, hanging up in her room. Her mother had ordered one for her while she was away. Betsy thought it was lovely.
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