Transforming My Grandmother’s Wedding Dress

I was sixteen the first time I tried on the family wedding dress. We found it in my grandmother’s attic, and in its wrinkled and yellowed condition, my mom had me try it on as a joke; no one recognized it and we thought it was a costume. After a few minutes of laughter, my grandfather walked by and said to my chuckling mother, “Ah Suz, I see ya found your dress!”


Nearly a decade — and a plethora of intense alterations and cleanings — later, I became the third person to wear this timeless dress down the aisle. My maternal grandmother, Phyllis, passed it on to my mother, Susan, who gave it to me. And I have been waiting patiently for months to tell you all about the heritage gown alteration process!

Oh Julia Ann - Heritage Gown - Vintage - Third Generation Wedding Dress

Let’s take a few peeks at the original dress. Grandma Phyllis styled the long-sleeved gown with a hoop underskirt and a pearl choker, while my mother let the A-line skirt hang free and accessorized with a larger bouquet and pendant necklace. Beautiful!

Oh Julia Ann - Vintage Wedding Dress (1)

Oh Julia Ann - Vintage Wedding Dress (2)

While they both looked great in the gown, I wanted a few changes. The high sweetheart neckline and petite jacket weren’t for me…or my chest, which didn’t fit quite right. We decided to lower the neck and back into deep Vs using the jacket’s sleeves as new straps.

Oh Julia Ann - Vintage Wedding Gown - Before

After weeks of work, it was time to move forward with the gown. A pleated satin belt with pointed front was added to slim the waist and, later, the wide sleeves were deemed too large and set to be tightened up.

Oh Julia Ann - Vintage Wedding Gown Transformation

Everything really started to take shape around the third or fourth appointment. The addition of a built-in bra bettered the shape and a thorough cleaning (followed by repair work to the lace) fixed decades of damage. It turned out better than I could have imagined!

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Please note the man walking me down the aisle is my Grandpa Harold, and I’m the third woman he has walked with wearing this dress. Can we all take a moment for a collective awwww? I’m not crying; YOU’RE crying!

Like all wedding-related activities, working on this dress did come with its own set of issues. While still cheaper than many new dresses, altering a 60+-year-old dress is not inexpensive and it takes an understandably long time. Thinking of doing this for your wedding? Start early, and get everything in writing. (You’ll notice I don’t rave about the seamstress who completed the job in this post; while the work is good, we did not have everything in writing which lead to some extreme problems toward the end. Keep yourself covered by making a written agreement.) And remember the age of your dress. Third-generation lace isn’t the strongest fabric, so I kept a back-up dress available just in case the age of this one created any problems. Thankfully the only issue — a bit of boning poking out — held off until the end of the reception.

Mothers are full of fantastic wedding ideas, and this is the pinnacle of my mom’s perfect planning. She never pressured me into using her gown, but simply brought it up once as a possibility. I could not be happier we went through the crazy alterations journey to create my one-of-a-kind sentimental wedding gown. It was perfect. More photos and videos from our wedding coming soon!

VENDORS :: Photographer: Chameleon Imagery | Dress: Vintage | Shoes: Priscilla Heels c/o Naturalizer | Wedding rings: Shane Co. | Earrings: Color Bar custom Jayna earrings c/o Kendra Scott | Hair: Brady Keenan | Makeup: Amy Koehler | Ceremony: First Unitarian Church of St. Louis | Reception: Andre’s South | Headpiece c/o David’s Bridal | Necklace: Color Bar custom Kirk necklace by Kendra Scott | Videography: Applause Productions – DJs and Videography | Photo Booth: 2 Chics and a Photobooth | DJ: Complete Weddings + Events | Coordination: Sweet Tarte Events | Cakes: Harter Bakery | Tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse


  1. Nancy Almasi
    April 8, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    I love this story and all three of you look lovely in that dress. May I please ask what kind of flowers you had in your bouquet? They are gorgeous.

    • April 8, 2016 / 1:37 pm

      Thank you! I actually made my bouquet with silk flowers. 🙂

  2. judy kruse
    May 11, 2016 / 10:38 am

    Sorry,she should have left the dress as it was…Sometimes changing to the “modern look of today” takes away from the meaning of passing it down..She only wore part of the dress.Why did she have to destroy the dress to look modern..her mom wore the dress as it was passed down and didn’t wear the hoop under the dress…. That dress was passed down…

  3. December 5, 2016 / 12:19 am

    thanks f9or the great info

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