The Story of a Baptism Dress

For 38 years I had kept my wedding dress handing in an ugly plastic hospital discharge clothing bag. It survived more addresses than I care to admit and many times when I almost chucked it. Nostalgia won even as the laced yellowed from age. Over the years it has been taken out of its bag a few times, hung outside to air out, and even worn as a Halloween costume (bride of something), and then put away again. I kept wondering why I kept it until I started having grandchildren. That is when the dress became a possible “bucket list” project. “Someday I am going to make a baptism dress out of my wedding dress,” I would tell my friends. “Sure you are” I would then tell myself. Six years and 4 grandsons later we were blessed with a granddaughter, Etta Sue. It’s not that a little boy’s suit couldn’t have been made from my dress, but up to that point none of the grandsons were baptized, or likely to be as babies, and a little girl’s gown would be so much more fun and frilly to make, right? Once I knew there was a date for her baptism I had two  months to get going. In my head I didn’t think I even needed a pattern but I did buy one anyway. For whatever reason, I put off and put off making that first cut into my wedding dress. I took a lot of pictures of it, spent a lot of sleepless nights thinking how it would go together and kept thinking it would be pretty simple. Finally, one night I started removing all of the lace from the entire bodice of the dress. It took a week of nights!! My eyes were cross-eyed trying to find the “right” white on white thread to pull. It was nerve wracking. Once the lace was all removed I was really disappointed that it all looked so yellow and dirty…so I spent another 1/1-2 weeks mulling over the idea of bleaching the entire dress or just the lace. I ended up bleaching the collar first since I was not going to use it on the baptism dress. Bleaching made it even MORE yellow! My mom suggested I try vinegar. After many days of “should I or shouldn’t I” and “what if the dress disintegrates?” I threw it all in the washer and soaked it in vinegar – and I prayed A LOT. Thankfully it did actually make the material look a little brighter. Whew! Thank Goodness. I took that as a good sign and began cutting out the pattern of Etta’s dress from similar areas on my dress. I wanted the back of her dress to have all of the silk covered buttons my dress did. I had intended the dress to be longer than her so that it would flow when her parents held her over the baptism font but the dress had a mind of its own. As I tried pinning the ruffle from the bottom of my dress onto her dress bodice, it was like a light bulb went off. What a cute SHORT dress this would be. And the biggest plus was NO HEMMING! She is was 9 months old after all, a wiggly little monkey who likes to “go” though she wasn’t quite walking yet. A short dress probably made more sense instead of a long dress getting caught up in her legs. So the short dress was born by using the ruffle of my dress. If I had wanted to make it more girly I could have used a lot more lace, Lord knows there was plenty, but I believe less is best. I also wanted to appeal to Etta’s mom who wasn’t a fan of frilly. After two quick try-ons with her wiggling to get out, I was pretty sure it was going to fit. Then I spent the next couple of days sewing on the 12 silk covered buttons onto the back and making a lace belt/bow as the finishing touch. I finished the baptism dress the Friday night before the Sunday morning baptism. She was so cute with her tights and bow in her hair that day. Seeing her baptized in “a part” of the dress I was married in was really special to me. I am so glad that I saved it. Now the rest of the dress will be saved, in another bag, for a time when I can make wedding ring bearer pillows that I will keep in a hope chest for my grandkids to use when they get married some day. The circle never ends.

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