Eight years ago, Katherine Wright and Jennifer Judd took their interest and skill in preserving beautiful clothing and launched a new business: Heritage Garment Preservation. They came to the business with extensive experience in preserving bridal gowns and have spent much time researching and applying methods for garment preservation used by the Smithsonian and Victoria and Albert museums.
When they launched their business, their goal was to provide museum quality heirloom garment preservation to the San Francisco Bay. Since then, they have expanded their business online and now provide both Museum Method professional preservation and guides and supplies for those would like to do it themselves. Both women give of their time to help their customers make the right decision for their garments. When Miranda Munro decided to be wed in her grandmother’s wedding dress, she turned to Heritage Garment Preservation to make that dream a reality. The dress had been worn three times before and each time became a bit more fragile—but also a bit more laden with history.
Here are the dress’ stories:
Barbara: Fifty-two years ago, I began a search for my wedding dress. I was quite young and had a small amount of money, which I had saved from after-school and summer jobs. I had completed two years of college and expected to complete two years more after marriage. I lived with my parents in Los Angeles and I loved window-shopping at a store called Bullocks. I was there one day when they were having a sale on bridal dresses and there it was—the dress. It called to me. I loved it. It was perfect and it was on sale at half-price, making it marginally and magically affordable. With some support from my parents, it was mine. I don’t recall it needing any alterations. I just loved wearing it at my wedding and am still married to the same guy.
Marcia: Before my wedding, I tried on many dresses, without really knowing what I wanted. None felt right until I put on the dress my sister had worn. It was the most comfortable and made me feel beautiful. You might think that a dress would look the same, no matter who wore it. But I never felt that I looked like my sister in the dress, rather it made me feel like myself. I loved the dress, too, for its sense of history and continuity. My sister’s wedding was some years before my marriage, so the dress represented the constancy of marriage as well. And now, after forty-four years, that constancy continues into the next generation.
Patricia: My mother has always looked young and slender and my father has always adored her. As a child, I was plump and couldn’t believe that anyone would ever adore me in the same way. In college, I lost weight and found someone who loved me with all my imperfections. Shortly after Dave and I announced our engagement, my mother took me up to the attic, where as in most Midwestern attics, assorted books and outgrown clothes and toys lay scattered about. What I had never realized was that in a back corner, the wedding dress lay carefully wrapped.
The dress was a symbol of the passion that always existed between my parents and I took it downstairs with some awe. I couldn’t imagine it would ever fit me, but when I stepped into it, its curves fit mine almost perfectly. And, when the day of the wedding came, I fit into the dress as though I had been poured into it. The dress only fit for a day—but the love it represents endures and strengthens with every one of our twenty-eight years of marriage.
Miranda: My first experience with the dress was shortly after Daniel and I became engaged. My grandmother sent me and my sister to clean the attic, one of many similar cleaning missions. After looking dutifully through the storage boxes, I noticed a dress-shaped storage box in a corner of the attic. Sure enough, it held the wedding dress. Over my sister’s objections, we took the dress out and I tried it on then and there. The front fit perfectly, but the back wouldn’t close. Even so, from that moment on, I knew that was my wedding dress.
Two years later, as the wedding loomed closer, I tried the dress on again. Despite having lost quite a bit of weight, my ribcage was just too big and I couldn’t button up the back. I imagined that there was a solution to the problem, but I didn’t have the skill to make it happen. I needed someone who was skilled in working with wedding dress restoration, alteration, and preservation.
I found Heritage Garment Preservation online and made an appointment with Katherine to discuss both restoration and alteration. The dress had yellowed over time and there were thin spots, as well as places where the lace had ripped. Kathy and I discussed how she would lighten the dress, and repair the lace. First, she worked very carefully to determine the kind of fabric and the appropriate cleaning technique. Kathy was informative and helpful in explaining what would be done with the dress and what other things were and weren't possible. Visiting her was always relaxing, reassuring, and helpful. She is wonderful to work with because she's very knowledgeable and clear about what is possible.
The dress emerged a few weeks later as a very light ivory color—almost the shade of natural silk. She carefully tacked the ripped lace to the tulle, which gave it stability. Finally, to allow it to fit around my back, she removed the buttons and replaced them with laces, then inserted a piece of silk in the back.
My wedding was just a few weeks ago. My grandmother, my great-aunt, and my mother all watched as, wearing the wedding dress, I circled Daniel to create the walls of our home to be. The dress has been worn by four brides. Each one has taken the family heritage, but also made it her own. Whether it is worn again or not, I hope its history inspires others in our family.
Heritage Garment Preservation
480 McCall Dr.
Benicia, CA 94510
Telephone: Mon-Fri 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Pacific Time
Toll free: 866-268-GOWN (866-268-4696) Local: 707-746-6300
Email: [email protected]