Did my great-grandmother hate her wedding dress?

119 years separate two weddings I am thinking about. What is different, what’s the same? The fact that people still want to get married is news enough. In 1898, my great-grandmother, Sadie Bowen, of Putnam, Connecticut married Leonard Parker of Bartlett, New Hampshire. This year my daughter, a native of New Hampshire, and with the middle name Parker after Leonard and the Bartlett Parker’s, will be married to a wonderful young man from Connecticut. Circles upon circles over centuries.

I have in my possession Sadie’s wedding outfit from 1898. It is brown and copper striped silk taffeta, hand stitched and adorable. At 21 years of age, Sadie had a 21-inch waist. At her wedding she wore a skirt and a tiny matching jacket with lace collar and cuffs. To top it off she used extra lace for a doily-sized headpiece with maroon velvet ribbons. White was impractical, not in fashion and probably unavailable in 1898 in many rural areas. Leonard asked Sadie for her hand in marriage by giving her a box of chocolates with one missing where sat the engagement ring. By the size of Sadie’s waist, I am guessing she only nibbled one or two of those bad boys.

When wedding dress shopping with Jessy, I think about Sadie making her own dress. I look at my daughter in the 15th dress of the day and near to tears, and I wonder if Sadie cried over her dress. Did she hate brown silk taffeta? Was it all she had to work with? Was she dreaming of grandeur in blue with a hoop and tulle underneath? Did she ever think of scrapping it and making another? Did she look in the mirror and burst into tears?

Did Sadie even have a mirror?

I wish Sadie had written her thoughts down. How I would love to read them to Jessy while she rips off another layer of lace and fluff, cheeks red with exhaustion. Maybe Sadie would say, “It’s all worth it, honey. Keep trying. Get the right one, just like your man.” Or would she say, “For heaven’s sake, just pick one and get on with it. There’s bread to be made.”

All I have of Sadie is her tiny outfit with the perfect loop stitches and the stories my mother tells me which are mostly dates and events. I wish, with her dress, Sadie had pinned a bit of advice from the 19th century. Maybe her thoughts would be heeded, or simply amusing—connecting both time and geography with shared DNA. But the chances that these two young women, choosing a wedding outfit across centuries, may have much in common is too compelling for me to ignore.

Maybe we can reverse the time continuum and give advice back to Sadie: Perhaps, “Eat the chocolate and let out the waist!” or “Don’t let Leonard steal your thunder, Sadie. Go for the blue tulle!”

If I get a chance, I’ll pin a note on Jessy’s dress to a mother-of-the-bride to be in 2136: It will say, “119 years ago, I laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed. Wedding dress shopping with your daughter is the bomb.”

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22 Responses to Did my great-grandmother hate her wedding dress?

  1. Martha says:

    Perfect Sally. Just like Sadie’s wedding outfit.

  2. Annette says:

    Reading this was the highlight of my day. So glad you still have it.

    • Sally Sally says:

      Thanks, Annette. I was thinking of you when I hung up the outfit to take the picture. I am going to have a specialist help me preserve it and keep it at home.

  3. margaret says:

    Being in the throes of a child getting married I loved reading this blog. Wedding dress shopping was the only thing I wasn’t involved in as the mother of the groom. However my mother of the groom dress shopping sounds like it mirrored Jessy’s experience haha I admit to one melt down over the shoes! I just know Jessy is going to find the perfect dress and have her “Say Yes to the Dress” moment! And what a beautiful bride she will be! XO

  4. Linda says:

    This is a great one Sally! Congratulations and best wishes to Jessy and the lucky man. Loved the story & the images it created. I loved both my wedding dresses!

  5. Lisbeth Bochette says:

    I feel like a “dinosaur” – not up on Jessie getting married at all!! What fun! I am surprised Jessie did not design her own dress but I guess she has outgrown that! 🙂 I don’t think Rosemary is quite ready to ease on down the aisle. When & if she does, I don’t care if she tries on 100’s of dresses – as long as she is marrying a good guy! I will help her with her train as I push her down the aisle towards her groom & priest, thinking to myself…”For the love of God, please take her!!” hahaha

  6. Barb says:

    Great Blog Sally! Sadies outfit looks amazing as I know Jessy’s will. How luck your are to have that dress. I love to see a pic of Sadie. Have fun, it sounds like you are. Hugs to Jessy.

  7. Lisa Nathan says:

    Excellent Blog Sally! You captured my attention. I wish there was more to read. I too would like to see a picture of Sadie. It sounds like you had an awesome day with Jessy, to be treasured for ever!!

  8. JoAnn says:

    Awesome blog Sally!

    I hope Jessy reads it…every bride deserves to feel great about her appearance at her wedding…Jessy will I have no doubt.

    These are the moments of our lives-treasure them!

  9. mj wirght says:

    Oh that we could locate my wedding dress. Jess would love it. The veil was Venetian lace.
    Every time we moved we lost something. Once it was a box of mittens, easily replaced.
    At least the memories are still with us.

  10. Pam says:

    I love this post! What a cool outfit Sadie wore on her wedding day. The perfect dress is out there for Jessy.. be patient and have fun along the way 🙂 she’ll be the most beautiful bride Portland has ever seen!

  11. Stacey Lee says:

    Great post Sally!! I love Sadie’s dress and story. Jessy will find her dress and when she does, it’ll be tears of joy. I love you guys!

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