I had been going to Westwood Cleaners in Oshtemo, Michigan for well over a decade. They almost always recognize me and occasionally we manage brief and pleasant conversations. For a couple months they had a wedding dress for sale. Ivory, halter style, asymmetrical pleats encrusted with beaded lace appliqués, size 14, David’s Bridal, $125.00. (Picture from David’s Bridal.)
A few weeks ago, I went in to pick up a tie my husband had dropped off and started talking about this dress: how amazed I was at the prices of some gowns-we watch “Say Yes to the Dress” and how reasonable this dress was. I assumed it had been used once.
I know that not everybody wants to keep their wedding dress. My sister for example had me make hers into two christening gowns when she found out she was having twins. She had bought her dress off the rack in Chicago for what I assumed was a great price and it would hold more emotion for her by giving it new life as the christening gowns.
I always figured that if you wanted that fairy tale experience, you got the white dress. After all isn’t the white dress the thing of most girls dreams? I didn’t have that traditional wedding event when I got married. Don’t misunderstand, I got exactly the wedding experience and ceremony I wanted: small wedding in the church where my husband grew up. I wore a blue suit, my husband – a very 70’s brown suit. No groomsmen or bridesmaids. The reception for our 11 or so guests – immediate family – was in our apartment a few towns away. Mom and Dad brought the booze and petite fours and we hung out – until my husband had to go to work. That night was one of his last midnight shifts supervising a loading dock at a trucking company. A week later he was in graduate school.
I asked who was selling their dress? The staff person hesitated. “Well, I guess since you’re not going to buy it I can tell you.” I was not really prepared for the answer.
The dress had been abandoned at the cleaners. They had had it for over a year now and when they finally got a hold of someone at the number on the ticket, they were told the woman “had been murdered in her apartment last year – maybe you had read about it in the paper?”
Wow. I wondered how many times this poor woman had dreamed over this dress, dreamed about her beloved, their wedding and the family they would have. How would they raise their kids, where would they like to live, whose relatives they would visit on which holidays? Where would they plant the vegetable garden? What were their plans for growing old together? Very sad to think about.
The next week, I worked a booth at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago, but when I got home, I again found myself thinking about how sad it was that someone’s dreams were hanging in the neighborhood dry cleaners for $125. Was this a fitting memorial for this woman? I didn’t know, but I felt I wanted to do something that might give another voice to this woman’s life through this dress. I could make her dress into a single – or even a series of art works.
Now, who was she?
A good friend was looking for someone to help her create custom bench cushions for her new home when the designer had quoted a pricey amount. I volunteered. It is not too often I have the opportunity to help a friend out so I was glad to do it.
Then life intervened and it has now been 4 months since I accepted the job. Between trying to get my studio back in order after quitting the bank, tons of physical therapy-that thankfully is helping, and the arrival of a 17 year old in the household, I have been spinning.
I am happy to report that I am back on track and finishing some really beautiful cushions for my friend. Check out this fabric…OK, so you can’t see the sparkle at all-but it is nice. Yes, my friend has good taste.