Great Grandma’s Dress

My great-grandmother on my mom’s side, Anna Brue Tjernagel, wore this gorgeous dress for her wedding back in 1904. It became something of a tradition for brides in the family to wear the dress. That’s what we call it: The Dress. If you say “The Dress” to any woman in the family and they’ll know what you mean.

I wonder what she would say if she knew how many of her descendants wore her dress so many years after her death?

Would she be surprised and say, “Oh, that old thing?”

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Isn’t it amazing? Here are more women in The Dress. My mom and dad are on the far right.

When I got engaged, I just knew that if I could at all wear the dress, I would. By that time it was a bit delicate, having been worn around 12 times. But my mom, an amazing seamstress, made sure it happened for me. The idea had first planted itself in my head when I was 12, watching my sister prepare for her wedding. I remember them working diligently, fixing parts that were thin, adding a little lace here and there to cover up small tears, making a cummerbund to jazz up the waistline. I wish I could get a close up for you, but these are all old pics, no digital cameras when I got married 🙂

One of the best parts is the bodice. I wish I could get a good close up for you, but these are all old pics, no digital cameras when I got married 🙂 It is hand tatted. Yeah. It’s amazing. I I like to imagine it was subtly sexy back in the day to have bare skin under this light delicate tatting. Way to go, Anna.

Here’s the best I can do, so use your imagination (that’s me):

It was such an honor wearing this heirloom, being connected in a way to the women of my family in such a unique way. A few years after I wore it, another sister of mine wore it. She was friends with someone who had experience restoring Victorian clothing and they discovered some hidden secrets in the dress. If you look at Anna’s neck and then compare that to the others, you’ll see that at some point someone shortened the high neck. But they didn’t cut anything, they just folded it over. So my sister was able to restore the dress closer to its original form.

In the years since I wore it, the dress has been worn a couple of times. Considering we weren’t sure it would make it through my wedding, that’s pretty amazing.

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