Great-Grandma’s Handmade 1932 Gown Is Passed Down To 3 Brides In The Same Family Over 83 Years
"The Story of the 1932 Wedding Gown. My maternal grandmother, María de la Peña, was born and raised in Mexico. She immigrated to the U.S. as a young lady and made her home in Los Angeles. She married my grandfather, Manuel Moreno, also from Mexico in 1932. She was a very accomplished seamstress from a very young age. She and a girlfriend went window-shopping in L.A. where they found a couture dress in one of the shops. They set out to make the dress based on the expensive version they saw on a mannequin. The fabric is a crepe-backed satin silk and it is sown on the bias. The train was originally 9-10 feet long and she carried an oversized bouquet, primarily of green and white.
When I became engaged in 1982, I had planned to try on (and wear) my mother, Anita Prietto's wedding dress, which was made by my grandmother, María Teresa (whom we called Grande). It had been cleaned and preserved in a giant box following my parents' wedding in Los Angeles in 1957. Unfortunately, my mom's dress had been ruined; the entire bodice was stained from a chemical used to preserve the dress. My mother mentioned she had her mother's dress in a box, and I should try it on. The only pictures we had from my grandmother's dress did not show the dress well because they are in black and white, and the bouquet covers the majority of the dress. Therefore, I never knew what it looked like until it came out of that box. The fabric is thick and rich, and at the same time, extremely soft and silky. And the color is a creamy gold. Upon trying it on for the first time, I knew I would wear it and did not consider for one moment the thought of shopping for a gown. My teenaged sister, Elena, tried the dress on also at that time and vowed to wear it someday for her own wedding. My grandmother was ecstatic that the dress was in such great condition. She and my mother got to work shortening the train and cutting a severe V into the back. It did not need hemming. It was a beautiful day May 14, 1983 when I wore it with all my grandparents present for my wedding. The dress then went back into the box.
My sister, Melinda, had her own vision when it came time for her wedding in 1984. Grande and my mom made her a beautiful white gown. When my sister, Anita, was to be married in 1987, she wanted to wear my grandmother's wedding gown. My grandmother did not "allow" her to do so, telling her she wanted to make her a custom dress and that my sister "had" to wear white, not off-white. My grandmother had a great sense of style and very strong opinions about fashion. She made all her daughters' clothing and most of her own (including elaborate gowns and formal dresses). Another sister, Maria, opted to wear Anita's dress made by my grandmother for her wedding in 1990.
My younger sister, Elena, was married in Los Angeles in 1997. She had been planning to wear it ever since she tried it on as a teen. After Elena's wedding, my mom was worried the process of dry-cleaning might damage the gown, so she threw it back in the flimsy box, and figured if it were to be worn again, she would deal with cleaning options at that point. In 2017, the dress emerged from the box again, as I wanted my daughter, Pilar, to consider it for her wedding. Pilar tried it on, and, just as I had more than 30 years prior, she fell in love with the dress. The dress was not altered after 1983, except to change the buttons, which were ruined when it got dry-cleaned in 2017 before Pilar and Nick's wedding in September of 2017. The three of us who wore Grande's dress each tried to recreate her massive bouquet from 1932. Pilar's florist did the best job with this task, as the pictures show. All 6 of us, my 4 sisters and I, as well as Pilar wore my grandmothers pearl earrings on our wedding day.
This dress carries the history and love of a simple Mexican woman with great class and style sense. As the years go on, we realize just how valuable this shimmery dress is and the connection it makes to our grandmother (and great grandmother). Our family is large and there is a very good chance this silky, dreamy, dress, hand-sown by our Grande, will be worn again. My grandmother would be humbled and embarrassed-but very pleased--to know the attention her gorgeous, handmade wedding dress has gained over the years. She died in 2008 at the age of 98."
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