Abigail Kingston, a native of Bethlehem, PA, made news last fall when she decided to get hitched in her mother’s wedding dress.
At first blush, it sounds like a pretty typical wedding day tradition.
What set Kingston’s story apart was that the dress hadn’t just been worn by the bride’s mother.
In fact, as reported by Lehigh Valley Live, the gown had been worn by a whopping 11 women in Kingston’s family.
If the elegant garment, made of ivory silk and lace, looks a bit dated on the modern bride, it is perhaps understandable.
The gown is, after all, considerably older than the woman wearing it.
Dating back to the Victorian era, the dress is now more than 120 years old.
It was first worn on December 11, 1895.
The dramatic gown was first worn by the bride’s great-great-grandmother, Mary Lowry Warren, for her winter wedding in 1895.
At the time, the gown was the height of style, off-the-shoulder, with a nipped-in, corseted waist — rumored to measure just 18 inches around — and very full sleeves.
The wedding, in Buffalo, NY, marked the start of a grand family tradition.
There was a lengthy, half-century pause between the first bride and the second.
Mary Lowry Warren’s daughter was a flapper, and wasn’t interested in wearing her mother’s gown.
The tradition didn’t pick up again until 1946, when the original bride’s granddaughters began to wear the dress to their own weddings.
Warren’s granddaughters both wore the Victorian gown for their 1940s weddings.
Virginia, pictured above, wore the gown in 1948.
Jane, in the previous photo, is responsible for reigniting the tradition with her 1946 wedding.
The next bride, Sally Ogden, wore the gown for her 1960 wedding.
Abigail Kingston’s mother Leslie remembers seeing the gown at Ogden’s wedding.
For Leslie, that early memory jumpstarted her own fascination with the lovely gown.
Leslie Woodruff Kingston carried her love of that elegant, old-fashioned gown all the way through to her own wedding.
The mother of the current bride wore the gown for her 1977 nuptials.
She was close on the heels of her cousin Laird MacConnell, who wore the gown the previous year.
The gown was worn three times in the 1980s, gaining several embellishments along the way.
As Abigail Kingston explained to Lehigh Valley Live, “Each bride could do what they wanted to do it.”
For a variety of women of different shapes and sizes, that meant a number of alterations and additions.
Over the course of 120 years, the gown was only dry-cleaned once.
Alterations were made to account for the style of the moment, and the dress was resized for different brides.
Above, you can see it pictured in 1986.
The tradition was about love, rather than about lovingly preserving the material.
The gown was pulled out of storage one last time for the 1991 wedding of Sally Ogden’s daughter Ann.
At this point, the gown had been hemmed repeatedly, nipped in, and let out.
While nobody in the family put a moratorium on wearing the dress, it did seem to go into a peaceful retirement.
As is the family tradition, it went into the keeping of the mother-of-the-bride, Sally Ogden.
But when Abigail Kingston got engaged, she knew that it was time to see what she could do about reviving the old tradition.
She reached out to her great-aunt, who happily sent the gown her way.
Kingston knew, however, that she would have her work cut out for her in making the gown wedding-ready.
The dress, hemmed for a more petite bride, was too short on tall and slender Abigail.
She decided to embrace the tea-length look, and avoid worrying about wearing a full-length gown.
Aside from the length, the gown had dozens of other issues, unsurprising in such an old garment.
The material had turned brown from age.
The fit was off for her slender build, and the gown had been oddly patched and covered with decorative lace over the years.
Most distressingly, the sleeves, the dramatic focal point of the gown, were in ribbons from years of wear and tear.
Undeterred, she took her gown to talented designer Deborah Lopresti.
Lopresti is bridal designer by trade, but she had the skills and connections to make the restoration of the dress a reality, over the course of 200 hours of work.
With help from a specialist dry cleaner, she was able to banish the brownish tint.
Then, she painstakingly matched the silk, and perfectly replicated the damaged sleeves, complete with 80 tiny pleats.
Restored to its former glory, the 120-year-old gown looks bewitching on Abigail Kingston.
She married in a ceremony in Pennsylvania on October 17, 2015.
The gown, despite its restoration, is still a bit fragile, so she just wore it for the cocktail hour, with her mom Leslie proudly standing by.
For Abigail Kingston, it was a beautiful and priceless way to carry on a tradition five generations in the making.
For proud mom Leslie, the moment represents so much more than just a simple gown.
To Lehigh Valley Live, she described the dress as “magical,” and noted, “It’s not just the dress that’s been handed down. It’s the love.”
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