It’s not uncommon for little girls to be obsessed with weddings. I was as a kid. Or at least wedding dresses. When my mom would go to the fabric shop, I’d go through the Vogue and Butterick pattern books and look at the pictures of the wedding dresses. When I was 10, I decided I wanted to go to a wedding bridal show. I checked out the books from the library on weddings and wedding dresses. I also checked out all the books about costume and costume history. As I got older, I got into theater, but liked the carpentry and lighting much better than the costume. I also never got particularly good at sewing. One of my sisters can build pretty much any costume she puts her mind too and she’s made some doozies (this is a simple one). I made a shirt once and that just about put me over the edge. It was for love, what can I say?
As I got older, I still had the urge to play dress up with wedding dresses. (I did enjoy trying on wedding dresses when actually planning my wedding, but that’s a passing thing and one has to worry about a few other matters at the same time). Then a while back a friend of mine from college who is a photographer and artist in multiple media did a photoshoot with an old wedding dress that she had dyed in midnight and mossy shades and I was immensely impressed. In February I saw a whole rack of wedding dresses at the goodwill, mostly long sleeved 80s and early 90s models, but a couple from the 70s, plus a scattering of haltertops from the late 90s and more recent strapless ones. I lingered over them, intrigued by the different quality of fabric and construction in the older ones, and wondering about the stories that lead to wedding dresses being at the goodwill. Another friend commented when I put the picture up on Facebook “So many broken hearts.” Goodwill in our area has some strange ideas about pricing (and other things – that’s a whole ‘nother story). I was not about to pay $30.00 for a used wedding dress, particularly since I’d just lost my job.
But last month I found one for a mere $14.99. I still convinced myself I didn’t need it, until I thought of an idea for a Halloween costume. I scuttled back to the goodwill the next day and got it. I’d say it’s about a 1992 model: very tight, long puffed sleeves, flared at the knee, all over lace. The exact sort of florid tackiness that I most enjoyed as a child.
Then I set about dying it. My sister told me I would need a Very Large kettle because I would want to stir it. So I got a galvanized washbucket and set it out in a fire (made in another galvanized washbucket that I use for a fire pit). It was pouring rain, but the stacked buckets kept the water off the fire. Water, Rit dye, salt and some stirring later, and I had a purple wedding dress.The pouring rain did a pretty good job of rinsing it over the next day or so.
Add a wide brimmed hat, dyed in the same vat and trimmed with a feather boa from someone else’s leftover costume, a sash done with sharpie and presto: Suffragette redux. Now mind you, the real Suffragettes weren’t going out in fancy lace gowns with trains. They were much more practical. But it’s roughly the right era. And its the ERA. The Oregon ERA Amendment is on the ballot this election.