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Today I am celebrating (from a distance) the 39th wedding anniversary of my sister Melody and her husband, AKA “the best brother-in-law in the world”. I pulled out my photo album from 1975 to remember and reminisce, and was reminded once again of our mother and the amazing dresses she made for us over the years.

The first dress of note (other than Easter and school dresses) was made for my cousin Lenita’s wedding in 1954. I was the flower girl, and very much in awe of my glamorous cousin and her beautiful friends. But my floor-length white dress made me feel elegant and grown up, and definitely an important member of the party. (That spring, much to my dismay, Mom cut it short for me to wear on Easter.)

Fawn as Lenita Wood's Flower Girl, March 1954

Fawn as Lenita Wood’s Flower Girl, March 1954

Mom’s next masterpiece was an absolute dream in deep blue taffeta, with the scalloped overskirt trimmed with pink rosebuds. I remember her sewing this one while very pregnant with my little brother, and how difficult it was for her to pin up the hem. But I had a very important concert at San Bernardino Valley College, and she wanted my dress to be just perfect! I have the publicity shots for the concert, but none of my blue dress…but I could sketch it out from memory.

When it was time for the Harvest Festival “Bell of the Festival” competition (basically “Miss Arroyo Grande”), Mom was right there to design and sew me a dress appropriate for a young lady of good family in the 1890’s. She agonized over getting the bustle just right, and stuffed the leg o’mutton sleeves with tissue paper. (The winner wore an emerald-green satin dress appropriate for a lady of the evening or a saloon singer, but her grandparents were locals. My first lesson in regional politics.)

Harvest festival 1966 - my second try at the competition

Harvest festival 1966 – my second try at the competition

My favorite gown (today, at least) I was able to wear twice. First for Christmas Formal my junior year in high school, and then again when Cuesta College held a formal dance. The most remarkable thing about this dress is that the bodice is actually inside out…proof positive of what amazing finishing work Mom did. It was rose-colored silk brocade, and I still have it, even though it is several sizes too small!

My rose brocade gown with the bodice sewn inside out.

My rose brocade gown with the bodice sewn inside out.

Here’s the important dress Mom didn’t make. That’s a story for another day.

Fawn and Ken outside the Parlier Justice Court, June 12, 1971.

Fawn and Ken outside the Parlier Justice Court, June 12, 1971.

The dress that got me thinking about Mom and her dressmaking was the beautiful candlelight wedding gown she made for Melody’s wedding. Melody looked so lovely that day, both bride and groom so shiny and new and full of promise. I can’t believe 39 years have gone by (in addition to the bride’s gown, Mom also made the Matron of Honor’s dress and that of one bridesmaid).

Melody and Ken, July 19, 1975.

Melody and Ken, July 19, 1975.

I had to wait until 1981 for Mom to make my wedding gown. I’ll never forget our conversation when I called to ask her to make my dress, and then started describing it to her. “Oh, you mean a wedding gown wedding gown! Do people do that for second weddings these days?” I assured her “people” did, and that I wanted to, and that it was really important to me that she be the one to make it. I was looking for a grown up bridal gown…way too old for a fairy princess dress…and it turned out perfect! (For that day, too, Mom made more than one dress. She made one for my Matron of Honor…my sweet sister…and for one of my bridesmaids. I didn’t even see my finished dress until I was ready to put it on.)

Daddy walking me down the aisle, June 13, 1981.

Daddy walking me down the aisle, June 13, 1981.

Mom said, "Don't tell me you're getting on that motorcycle in your wedding gown!"

Mom said, “Don’t tell me you’re getting on that motorcycle in your wedding gown!”

My perfect gown underwent a total transformation many years later to make it the perfect gown for my daughter, whose style is very different from mine. All the frou-frou lace and train disappeared, leaving a sleekly elegant simple gown for Mom’s youngest granddaughter to wear. (And there’s a pattern here, too — Mom and I together reworked my gown for Georgia, and we each made an outfit for a bridesmaid!)

Georgia and Nick dancing

The constant thread that tied all these beautiful clothes together was Mom’s vintage Singer sewing machine…made the last year before Singers sewed backwards and forwards. And the love. Always the love.

Happy Anniversary, Melody and Ken. Thank you, Mom.