93 Years of Marriage: An Heirloom Wedding Gown

My daughter celebrates her first year of marriage this Sunday. I’ve been wanting to share about her wedding gown all this time. Finally! Here’s the story starting at the beginning in 1957. Canton, Ohio

Restored wedding gown,
Mikaela and Ethan, May 18, 2018

The Bride Wore a Satin and Lace Wedding Gown

April 21, 1956 – East Sparta Methodist Church – The bride wore Satin and Chantilly lace with a cathedral length train and a fingertip veil. The gown was handmade by the bride, Elaine Easterday. (my mother). The hem was so long that she has all her bridesmaids come over and help her finish the hem before the wedding. She married a handsome dairy farmer, Gene Dawson, from Louisville, Ohio. They said “standing room only” with over 400 guests attending. {Mom said the cost was $36}

1957 Gene and Elaine
original wedding gown made by Elaine, worn by daughter and  granddaughter
Gene & Elaine April 21, 1956

Off to Finish College

Gene had one more year at Ohio State University School of Agriculture. So they moved their few belongings down to Columbus, Ohio. Wedding gifts and such were packed away in the attic of the family farm. The gown was packed along with a few other special gowns in a cedar chest made by Gene’s brother, George.

family farmhouse
The Dawson Farm in Lousiville, Ohio before 1957

Fire Destroys the Family Farmhouse

March 1957 Louisville, Ohio – Elaine went to the farm and collected a few serving items to throw a birthday party for her beloved husband. She was now expecting their first child. It was the last she would see of her wedding gifts as a few days later, a fire would engulf the 3 story home and gut it completely.

farm house destroyed by fire
1957 after the fire

Upon surveying the damage, they saw the cedar chest high up on a beam. They knocked it down and it fell to the basement. The lid broke open to reveal her perfectly preserved wedding dress! No burnt ends or even the smell of smoke. (Just like Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego! – Read Daniel 3)

The dresses were returned to the cedar chest and there they remained in the cedar chest for the next 32 years, except for a few times to just take a look. Like Mary’s little lamb, the chest went everywhere Gene & Elaine went. Their first home in Wooster, OH; Then two other rental farms in Louisville before moving back the homeplace. In 1975, the family, cows, and cedar chest moved to Cambria, Wisconsin.

Daughter Marries A “Farmer”

December 31, 1989 – Columbia, SC – Daughter, Amanda (me) marries Pastor Michael Farmer. Just a funny side note that has nothing to do with the gown, I said I would “NEVER marry a farmer or a pastor.” God has a sense of humor… I married Pastor Farmer. ha!

However, I always wanted to wear mom’s gown when I married; so I had mom bring it to me in Detroit, Michigan in October of 1989. We were together for my brother’s wedding. It was a bit snug on me but mom had left the seam allowances so a church friend, Gabriella, did the work to make it fit! {Cost: $36}

Michael & I married in West Columbia, SC on New Year’s Eve 1989 with over 300 in attendance. As we headed to San Deigo, CA for our honeymoon, Mom took the gown back to Wisconsin. We met them there a week later for a 2nd reception with the home folks.

Then we headed to Barnesville, GA were Michael was already pastoring. And the gown headed to the cleaners for preserving. {cost: $36} Michael & I did a bit of moving ourselves. And the gown followed us everywhere!

  • 1990 – Chattanooga, TN
  • 1992 – Savannah, GA
  • 1997 – Milwaukee, WI
  • 2003 – Moultrie, GA
  • 2015 – Pooler, GA

Fifty Years Celebrated

April 2006 – Randolph Wisconsin – After 50 years of marriage, 6 kids, and many foster children a couple deserves a party, right? We planned a western event for my parents. Our youngest brother, Le, helped us three girls create a CD for our parents. It was entitled “For All You’ve Done”. I brought out the gown so that it could be displayed.

antique wedding gown celebarting 50th anniversary
Mandy and her daughter at Mom and Dad’s 50th

Another Marriage Begins

May 19, 2018 – Savannah, GA – Mikaela and Ethan wed!

wedding gown before alterations
Mikaela in dress before alterations

Mikaela desired to wear the gown as well. She’s just a bitty thing and the gown swallowed her whole! We weren’t sure there was anything that could be down but we began searching for a seamstress.

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But who do you trust with an heirloom such as this?

Who do you trust to alter your heirloom wedding gown? We found her! Click To Tweet

Fortunately, we found an awesome seamstress (in Waycross, GA) who is experienced with antique fabrics. She was excited and willing to update the dress to Mikaela’s style. At our first visit, Mikaela donned the wedding gown and told Mrs. Tammie what she would like. Mrs. Tammie pulled and pinned and tugged and offered ideas. Then we left the dress in her hands for about 3 months. (Hurricane Harvey plowed through Waycross during that time but the dress was safe.)

The Seamstress Works Her Miracle

January 2018 – First Fitting – It was hard to really visualize what Mrs.Tammie would do with the dress. But when Mikaela stepped from the dressing room tears filled our eyes and excitement filled our souls. {The cost this time, a bit more than $36.}

Ethan’s First Look

The wedding day arrived and sister-in-law, Tina drove to Waycross (about 2 hours) to fetch the gown. It was lovely. Just like Mikaela wanted. Her goal was to make her sweetheart cry. I believe, she succeeded as she entered the sanctuary on her daddy’s arm.

A huge thank you to Mrs. Tammie Thomas of Waycross, GA for doing the redesign. If you need alterations of any type, I definitely recommend her. And so did the girl trying on her third bridesmaid dress when we first arrived. The Okefenokee Living Magazine Spring 2017 featured Mrs. Tammie in their bridal Issue.

More story below…

Getting Married? Register on the Amazon Bridal Registry

Amazon Bridal Gift Registry

So Much Wedding Gown Fabric Left Over

Mom’s dress was so full. We had seemingly miles of unused fabric. So I started planning some repurposing. My first thought was a purse for Mom and I. And a small purse for Mikaela’s trousseau.

With plenty of fabric remaining still, I created a different style purse for my sisters who also have children preparing to marry. This gave each of us girls a part of mom’s dress to as a keepsake.

Still More Gown Fabric Left

The fabric seemed to multiply like the widow’s oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7. So, the next item we decided to make was a beautiful blessing gown for future grandbabies. No grandbabies will arrive in the near future, but I decided to make it now before the fabric ages more, or it gets lost. So I’ve gone to work on that. It will be waiting for any and all of the great grandbabies of Gene and Elaine to wear at their Baby Dedication. I found this free pattern and directions at See Kate Sew. I still have the finishing touches to do, but here’s what we have so far.

Will the Legend Continue? Who Knows?

The gown will return to it’s home in a cedar chest for years to come. You never know what could happen. But at this point, we have 93 years of good marriage represented in the gown.

Mom & Dad at 63 years, Mike & Mandy at 29 years, Ethan & Mikaela 1 year and we are all still counting.

Mandy Farmer

I’m certain that you know an heirloom wedding gown does not a great marriage make. Below you will find some great reading that may help you in this matter.

For more about the 2018 wedding click here.

wedding vows, redesigned antique wedding gown
Saying their vows led by both fathers.
wedding ceremony; cathedral train

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13 thoughts on “93 Years of Marriage: An Heirloom Wedding Gown

  1. Bettie G says:

    Such a beautiful story of continuing love! God has truly blessed your family, and brought such joy to all of you. And what amazing gifts to be able to share the gown through all those generations! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year already for your daughter! Happy Anniversary and Congratulations!

  2. April J Harris says:

    I’m blown away by this gorgeous story, Mandy, and this wonderful glimpse into your family history. How wonderful three generations of your family have worn this beautiful dress. Thank you so much for sharing with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. I’m featuring this post at the party this week. Hope to ‘see’ you there! Have a wonderful week ahead!
    April J Harris recently posted…June Ideas at The Hearth and Soul Link PartyMy Profile

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