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“Something Old, Something Older”

Selection from “Something Old, Something Older”
by Ruth Weisberg in Main Line Today

JaniceMartin001When Christine Beardsley get married at her mother’s home in Raymond, N.H., in May, it will be her first time walking down the aisle. But her wedding gown – a sheer muslin, boat-neck, empire-waist dress with eyelets – will be making the latest of several trips to the altar. Beardsley’s mother, Barbara, wore the dress in 1971; her grandmother Ruth wore it in 1936; her great-grandmother Louise wore it to her nuptials in 1899; and her great-great-grandmother Louise wore it to her nuptials in 1899; and her great-great-great grandmother Olive was first to wear it at her wedding in 1827.

“It’s nice to carry on a family tradition,” says the 26-year-old fundraising and development coordinator for the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. “Nothing you can buy in a store has the same sentimental value as something passed through the family.”

Janice Martin of Janice Martin Couture in Ardmore is the sartorial wunderkind who altered and updated Beardsley’s cherished dress. A large portion of her high-end design work involves restoring and redesigning heirloom wedding gowns, vintage christening gowns, antique veils and other rare textiles.

“More brides are choosing to wear an heirloom wedding gown because of its sentimental value and to preserve a family memory,” says Martin. “They’re also in love with the gown’s original fabric and lace, which you don’t see in contemporary bridal gowns.”

Martin observes that today’s brides are more buff, bustier and built bigger than brides of previous generations, all but guaranteeing that an heirloom gown will require extensive tailoring. In some instances, the wedding dress may even need to be entirely reconstructed.

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