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The Dress

May 18, 2010

Getting Dressed

My grandmother on my mom’s side was very sweet and generous enough to let me wear the wedding gown that she wore when she and my grandfather were married in 1954. My mom’s dad passed away a little over a year ago, and at his funeral, my mom put together some great photos of my grandpa and grandma and their family over the years. I don’t remember ever seeing my grandparents’ wedding photos before then, but it was touching to see these pictures of my grandparents on their wedding day, and the vintage-clothing lover in me couldn’t help but notice my grandmother’s beautiful and classic wedding gown.

Grandma and Grandpa Jarvis Wedding Photo

Grandma Jarvis Wedding Photo

As soon as Jamie and I got engaged, I called her up to ask her about it.  My grandma still had her wedding gown and, she told me, it was in great condition.  She shipped it to me from Utah (hoop skirt and all!) and I was so thrilled when it arrived that I poured over every detail of it before I even tried it on.  I noticed the original label inside the dress (Cahill of Beverly Hills), and out of curiosity, I googled it.  Turns out, according to Cherished Vintage Bridal Salon (…

Cahill of Beverly Hills was the firm of William Cahill, premier designer of wedding gowns from the 1940s through the 1960s. Cahill enjoyed a reputation for unerring attention to detail and timeless elegance, and Cahill of Beverly Hills defined quality in bridal wear during this period with it’s use of exquisite fabrics and fine craftsmanship.

50's Cahill Dress

Cahill gowns are eagerly sought today by sophisticated collectors of vintage fashion.

That’s right, my grandmother has fine, fancy-pants taste.  Thanks to the savvy internet search skills of my mom, here are some great old advertisements featuring Cahill dresses, even an old cigarette ad.

Old Gold Cigarette Ad, featuring Cahill of Beverly Hills dress

Old Gold Cigarette Ad, detail of text

Of course, when I did finally try it on, I learned that my grandmother’s waist in 1954 was significantly smaller than my own waist now, which means that the gown is currently in the process of being altered so that it will fit me.  The tailor and I talked about making a few changes to the neckline and torso so that it will actually fit, while still preserving the overall style of the dress.

Grandma and Grandpa Jarvis Cutting the Cake

Katie and Jamie cutting the cake

To me, wearing the gown that my grandmother so carefully and lovingly preserved these past 56 or so years on my own wedding day is a great honor and is a way for me to recognize my grandparents on both sides, embrace their stories and our shared heritage.

Me and my grandma, the original owner of my wedding dress

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