Sunday, March 11, 2007

"Here Comes The Bride!"

Recently I went with my future daughter in law, K, and her mother, to choose K's wedding dress.
She looked gorgeous; on glimpsing his bride, my son will be enchanted.
And now I'm remembering..
My wedding dress was white satin; it had sleeves made up entirely of lace daisies.
A year later, I sold it to a twelve year old Rose Queen; she dyed it pink and wore it with a tiara made of tinsel. She rode on a milk float and conquered the world. Well, she made waves in her village, at least..
BUT NOW I wish I'd kept my dress, let it hang prettily for ever at the back of my wardobe amongst jeans and sweaters and everyday things....

They're emotional, lovely things, wedding dresses.
There are stories attached to wedding dresses.
Someone dear to me once told me how, on moving into a flat in East London, she decided to strip wallpaper. Beneath several layers, she found a wedding dress, pinned and flattened to the wall. It was damp, yellowing and musty, but nevertheless, it was someone's wedding dress and why it should be there, hidden away beneath purple stripes, orange flowers, it was anyone's guess..

Then another story: one morning in St Ives as we sipped coffee by the harbour, we were joined on our bench by an elderly lady. She was scruffy, graceful, with the dignity of the very old and the bearing of the once highly priveleged. Her skin was tanned and wrinkled, and her hair, long and white and braided. And her eyes had that wonderful faded blue of the once very beautiful.
I slurped my coffee and stole glances.
I peered at her long paint-splattered fingers, at her stained silk scarf glittering with sea greens, aquamarine, the yellowness of golden sands. I stared at her silver ballet slippers, scuffed and muddy, and at the dark military coat she wore buttoned to her neck, despite the new delight of a warm April day.
And then she spoke: " So warm!" she said and her voice was a flute, a melody: "So welcome, this sun, isn't it?" and she unbuttoned the coat, pulled it off and I stared, of course, and she laughed, of course, and her laugh was rich and vibrant like the air itself: "You're looking at my dress, my dear. It's my wedding dress and I wear it for Spring. I wear it because April has come.I wear it because I remember my husband's love.."
And then she stood up to show off her dress, its lace and ribbons, its sash, its furbelows, all its prettiness.Then she smiled, a wide and lovely smile, and she touched my face with her bony fingers and then she sat for a while watching sea and gulls and boats while sun shone and we sipped coffee silently, sitting peacefully by the harbour..
**This painting ( Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight) is " Wedding Morning" by John Henry Frederick Bacon ( 1866-1913). It was bought from the Royal Academy by Lord Leverhulme as an advert for his Sunlight soap. In his advert, soap replaced the clock on the mantlepiece and also the china on the table...
Critics varied in their views; the painting was described as " an essay in lighting" by one and as " hackneyed" by another.


Blogger Lee said...

A vivid post...

8:15 am  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Lovely story about the Cornish lady! You should do something more with that one...

You know, all sorts of human and animal things were once put into walls, especially near doors and windows, as wards to protect the house. I suppose a wedding dress might be seen as quite potent that way!

My house--an 1808 house built for a village newspaperman and colonel in the American army--had wards in the chimney in the form of concealment shoes, one belonging to a child, and one belonging to an adult. I suppose the chimney was finished after the death of the mother. These are somewhat rare, and I've always been disappointed that they were once on display here but were lost after the death of one of the owners. I wrote a story for them because I missed them.

1:40 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

Great post. I love the second story, so bitter-sweet.
thanks for visiting my blogs.

12:09 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks, Lee. Good to hear you.
Marly:Did you do anything with the story? Your house sounds amazing.
I love all these old traditions, superstitions. There's so much connected with weddings too..and the same tales crop up ( slightly different guises) throughout the world..
Hello, Apprentice. I loved your colour poem.
ALSO: I should have added at the end of my blog that there's a wonderful book by Justine Picardie called " My mothers wedding dress" ( she married, elegantly, in black..) It shows just how important clothes are to us, whether we realise/believe it or not..
I wonder if anyone else will come up with tales, superstitions... really fascinate me.

12:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely Stories Jan. Glad you enjoyed the outing with Mum and Kris.

Hope to see you soon.


5:46 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Glad you liked them, Leanne.
And yes, KristyB will slay 'em!
Pity about Ric wanting to wear a tweed suit spats and galoshes...!!

1:06 pm  
Blogger Philippa said...

Loved this blog, Jan. Can't believe you got rid of your wedding dress, and for it to be dyed pink of all colours!
When we moved down here I obviously had to clear out our old attic. My own wedding dress had been stored in my wonderfully heavy and solid leather trunk that I'd used at university. Despite a slight 'leathery' smell, it was still as fresh as the day I had worn it back in 1979, if a little less brilliant white. I couldn't resist the temptation to try it on (hope that wasn't bad luck?) and, low & behold, it fitted!!
Do I presume that Ric & Kristy are getting married soon?

10:30 pm  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Yes, I did.

It's in the anthology Salon Fantastique, edited by Datlow & Windling (Thunder's Mouth, fall 2006.)

I look on my center-hall federal as an 1808 trailer. It was built as a temporary house; then the owner built a fancy townhouse next door. This then became a place that held various people and servants and the outdoor kitchen--if I dig in the backyard I turn up all sorts of interesting garbage (Dutch pipe, clay marble, doll plate, big shards of transfer ware and other china, etc.)

But I'll bet that a 2008 trailer won't last 200 years. (If the world lasts so long!)

3:54 am  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Entrancing (is that a word? Well it is now!) story! I love the old lady and the wedding dress - I hope you can include it in some story or poem - although just as you've described it here is lovely too.
What a wonderful post - thanks Jan.

12:47 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks Philippa. I remember you in your wedding dress with Susan in vivid red... I also remember you all at MY wedding;I have a brilliant photo somewhere ( Aunty Polly, your grandma, with Ruby)
Marly: Interesting stuff! Thanks. Also good to see your comment on my Dec ( Nativity) blog. You've obviously done a lot of back reading!!
CB: Glad you liked it. I DID write a story ages ago based loosely on this.. I shall attempt to hunt it out.

4:43 pm  
Anonymous Richard B said...

Ooh! I hadn't thought of galoshes. Good thinking Mum, I'll add some to the costume! Kristy will be pleased. Cracking stories as ever, by the way. Richard.

9:55 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks Ricco.
You will Be A Star.
Now we need to think about My Outfit..

3:03 pm  
Anonymous clare said...

I don't remember this one - like Lee says it's particularly vivid - the lady quite loud with colour - and such a hugely intriguing character too. Lovely post, Jan and a great springboard for the're right about keeping wedding dresses too.

5:59 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks, Clare and lovely to see you again.
Glad all your research has been fun as well as work..can't really have one without the other" ( cue for song)

10:16 am  

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