The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Displaying my grandma's wedding dress.

The dress on display at History Park. 
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I was allowed to put my grandma's wedding dress on display this weekend for a special event at the museum where I work.  In preparation for the event, I had to design the exhibit, arrange for items like a dress form and other display props,  and do my own set up and take down.  I also discovered that the gown and veil needed some TLC. before it would survive the display!  Even though they were only made in 1945 (and there are many things from the '40s that are in such good condition they can still be used), the gown and veil were literally falling apart in places.  I researched what it would take to restore them and found that I had neither the tools nor the money to do so properly ($80 per yard museum-quality silk crepeline for a support lining, anyone?).  The rayon satin of the gown, and the nylon (or rayon?) net of the veil were badly ripped in places, and the gown fabric was literally breaking off into bits at the edges of the torn areas.  The best I could do was to baste strips of well-washed cotton muslin from seam to seam across the torn areas, to take pressure off of the fabric, and then baste the edges of the tears to the muslin.
Ca. 1945 wedding cake topper made of icing sugar.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

As I did so, some of the silver-lined glass beads started falling off, because the thread holding it on was simply disintegrating.  Off to Michael's for a beading needle because all of my needles were too thick to fit through the very narrow beads!  I wish I had been able to find some really fine thread, too, because all of my thread turned out to be just barely thin enough to fit through the eye of the beading needle ... After re-sewing all the fallen beads and a few rhinestones as well (which were originally glued on, but the glue had disappeared), I got the dress to hold together enough to be carefully transported to the museum and put on the dress form (for which I made a cover).  Then, the dress form's shoulders were too wide to fit the dress over, so I had to put the dress on by drawing (pulling would have ripped it apart!) it up over the form's hips, which were just small enough to not rip the dress! 

But all in all, I got the dress stabilized (although I couldn't do anything to the veil at this time) and it will be on display through Sunday, August 14, 2011.  It is exhibited with one of my grandma's wedding portraits -- wearing the dress -- and the wedding cake topper.  Here is the museum "blurb" I wrote up to accompany the display: 

Wedding dress, veil, and wedding cake topper, October 1945.  Worn by Rosolia Caccomo on her marriage to Joseph LoBue, Omaha, NE.

The bride’s story:
Rosolia A. Caccomo (“Rosalie”, b. 1915 – d. 2000) was born in Omaha, NE to Sicilian immigrant parents.  Rosalie was the oldest of 3 children, and was the first one in her family to attend college.  After graduating from Creighton University, she got her teaching credential and taught in Omaha for several years in the late 1930s and early 1940s before she married. 

The groom’s story:
Joseph P. LoBue (“Joe”, b. 1916 – d. 2005) was born in San Francisco, California, to Sicilian immigrant parents.  Joe was the youngest of 3 boys and he and his brothers grew up on a cherry orchard in Willow Glen, where the family lived until the 1960s.  Joe attended local elementary schools and San Jose High School in the 1930s, before joining the family fruit growing and packing business.  The business supplied the U.S. armed forces with canned fruit during World War 2.

Their story:
Joe and Rosalie met in the summer of 1944 when Rosalie came out to California with some friends to see San Francisco; the young women visited a relative of Rosalie’s in San Jose who was a neighbor and a close friend of Joe’s mother. They were married October 14, 1945 in Omaha, NE, and settled first in San Jose, CA, and then moved out to an orange and olive orchard in Visalia, CA, where they raised 3 children and continued in the LoBue family business, LoBue Bros.  Their descendants and relatives still reside in the San Jose and Visalia areas of California, and the Omaha area of Nebraska. 

The dress, veil and cake topper:
The dress was purchased from Herzberg’s department store in Omaha, NE.  It is made of rayon satin and trimmed with clear glass beads, some of which are coated with silver on the inside, which has tarnished and appears black.  It measures about 31 inches in the bust and 26 inches in the waist and features a 4-foot train.  The veil is made of nylon net edged with lace and measures 12 to 15 feet long.  The cake topper in the shape of a wedding bell on a stand, is made of icing sugar and reads “Marriage” in gold. 


Kathryn Ross said...

Oh, my! What a reconstruction story to redeem the years eaten away on your grandmother's lovely gown so as to display it! Enjoyed the background story, too. I have often seen buttons and beads that appear black - now I know it must be tarnished silver lining. Hope your display goes well on it's last day, today - and you can remove it without further damage!
Miss Kathy

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Thanks, Miss Kathy!

The display did go well, and I did manage to remove the dress without further damage! *sigh of relief* Now to research the cost of museum-quality conservation and see if there is anyone nearby who can do it for me. Also, I'll have to find an acid-free box and acid-free tissue paper to pack the dress and veil in, so I can display them again next year!

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)