Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grandmother's Wedding Dress

Around the time Aunt Debra's mother-in-law passed away, she learned her mother's wedding dress would be on display at the Ohio State University's Historic Costume and Textile museum's exhibit "And the Bride Wore." My uncle could not get over the timing of it all. After my grandmother (Doris Thomas) passed away in 2001, my aunt donated Grandee's dress, along with that of three of her four attendants (my Great Aunt Lyn was the junior bridesmaid, my Great Aunt Carol was the maid of honor, my grandmother's cousin, Mimi was one of two bridesmaids, the other was a friend of hers). The dresses were kept for decades with my Great Grandmother (affectionately called GiGi my many), and then my Grandmother. 

From left to right: Great Aunt Carol (the Roxyette -- somehow even her statue stands more elegant than the others), my Grandmother (known as Dot to many), Cousin Mimi, and Great Aunt Lyn (her younger sister). It is a shame the men's outfits were also not preserved as the different branches of the military were represented, along with a tux from the time (Great Uncle Russ was not eligible to serve).

The understanding after 70 years is that Grandee's dress came from Orbach Department store. She (or was it my Great-Grandmother, I got lost in the generations, and I know someone will clear this up for me and I can correct it for posterity) made the other dresses. We've seen her wedding album over the years (Aunt Debra is holding it in the picture at the end, I have my Great Grandmother's "parents of the bride album" upstairs). This was the first time we saw the colors of the dresses. In the black and white pictures, they all seemed to be the same color. The detailing on the wedding gown is lost in the pictures, too. Now we saw they have ruffles in the back.

  We were happy the museum put flowers on the side of my grandmother's statue's head because that is how she wore her veil. That is not her original veil. The one pictured is much longer.

The rest of the exhibit was quite small. It had about a dozen dresses from different eras -- spanning over 100 years. One dress had been worn by the original bride, and two of her granddaughters. They broke the exhibit down into categories: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue (as in non-white wedding gowns), generations, war bride, and local interest. They fell in the category of war brides. 

The text in the first picture reads (couple of minor corrections made by me):
And the bride wore a sheer white rayon gazer dress over taffeta with sweetheart neckline, long sleeves, and dropped waist, and a train. The neckline and sleeves are trimmed with lace-edged ruffle. Similar layer ruffles accent the dress’s long train. The bride was accompanied by a rainbow of bridesmaids. 1945 Doris Jacquelyn Fyfe wore the dress when she married David Thomas on December 22, 1945 in New Jersey.
Doris was born in New Jersey on March 30, 1923, the oldest daughter of Edward and Hilda Fyfe’s three daughters. Her father was an accountant and later a bank president.
David Thomas was born January 29, 1922 in New Jersey to William and Mabel Thomas. William was an electrical equipment salesman.
David and Doris met in high school and began dating when they were fifteen. Their romance continued through high school until David was enlisted in the army for World War II. They became engaged while he was deployed so Doris planned the wedding under the assumption they would get married whenever he came home. David sent money for Doris to buy herself an engagement ring with his mother. When she chose a ring, Doris had a professional photograph taken of her hand and sent it to him overseas.
It was some time, however, before David could come home for his wedding. He served in Guatemala during the war, working with military records, and although the war officially ended with the surrendering of Japan on September 22 1945, he could not get stateside until December. This was probably due to the amount of records that needed processing before he was allowed to go home. Since Doris had to plan a wedding that could happen at any time, her gown of lightweight material and open-toed shoes might seem inappropriate for a winter wedding.
The bridesmaids’ dresses shown with Doris’s wedding gown were worn by her sister Carol (peach, maid of honor) and her cousin Marian Karch (faded, formerly blue). <<we later learned, Carol wore moonstone (blue) and Marian wore peach)>> The smaller junior bridesmaid dress (green) was worn by her youngest sister, Marilyn. The male attendants included the groom’s brother, Russell Thomas, a friend in the marines, Herbert Conant, and another friend in the navy.
Following the wedding the couple lived with the bride’s parents until moving into their own apartment in nearby Ridgefield Park, NJ and later into their own home in Maywood, NJ. David attended NYU on the GI Bill and was an accountant and later worked in insurance. Doris and David were happily married for 28 years until David’s passing in 1974.
Aunt Debra is holding their wedding album in this picture. From left: Don, me, Debra, Ashley, Cousin Laura. Photo by Heidi.

On a side note, it is hard to take pictures (and stay out of the pictures) with a mirror in the background!


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