A Letter to the Company that Ruined my Mother’s Wedding Dress

Steve Buchele and Suzanne Buchele wedding photos

Several years ago, my mother told my sister and I the story of her wedding dress. While we were at my Nonnie’s house in Connecticut, my sister and I noticed my mother and Aunite M wore the same wedding dress.

I asked if one of them had a shotgun wedding. My mom just laughed. No, she told me, we just both happened to fall in love with the same dress.  Since the dress was rather pricey, they decided to go fifty-fifty on the dress and both wear it. My mother wore the wedding dress first; my Auntie M a couple months after. It fit them both perfectly, in “the sisterhood of the travelling pants” kind of way.

I loved the idea of a family dress, to the point that later that evening, my younger sister and I vowed to both wear that dress and keep up the family tradition.

Three years later, I got engaged.  My fiancé got down on one knee at Tokyo Disneyland and let out a long, rehearsed speech about wanting to wake up next to me for the rest of his life and forging a future together. Of course I said yes.

Seijinshiki photo foreigner kimono American girl

The next morning, I Skyped my parents from Tokyo to tell them the news. I also asked my mother if I could wear her old wedding dress.

“Are you sure you want to wear our old dress?” She asked.  “You don’t have to. You can pick out your own.”

“I did pick out a dress. Your dress.”

It was everything I had ever wanted. Off the shoulder sleeves, tight in the stomach, and fanning outwards like a Disney Princess. It was a dream come true.

No other wedding dress could compare. And, because my mother and Auntie M had paid your company good money to get the dress preserved after their wedding(s), I would be able to continue the family tradition.

mothers ruined preserved wedding dress

Your company told them that during a normal wearing, the wedding dress will absorb oils from the skin and sweat. Add alcohol, cake, and a collection of young people ready to make bad decisions, and the bride has a recipe for a ruined dress. Which is why many women, my mother included, choose to get their wedding dress professionally cleaned and preserved for years to come from companies like yours. She paid your company more than she should to get her dress preserved in a gorgeous white box that would sit in her closet for the next twenty-five years… until her oldest daughter got married.

You see, Wedding Dress Preservation Companies are supposed to inspect the dress and determine which chemical solution is best to remove the stains. That chemical varies depending on the type of stain and type of dress.

But your company didn’t do that.

Instead, you took a flat iron and pressed the dress, forever trapping the stains. Then you put it in a box and gave it to my mother. The dressed looked mighty fine there, sitting in the box, but over time, the acid from the cardboard box soaked into the edges of the unprotected dress, causing stains along the side.

Mary Fox Fields and Suzanne Buchele at my mother's wedding

The next time that dress saw the light of day was five months before my wedding. I had been in Tokyo since the engagement finishing up my study abroad and was only back home in Texas for a couple days before heading back for my last semester of college.

I tried the dress on in the guest bedroom of my grandmother’s house. I had been imagining this moment since the day I got engaged. The dress was everything I had hoped it would be – it fit like a glove, brought tears to my father’s eyes, and took my breath away. It was perfect.

We noticed some staining at the bottom and on the sides. “It’s no problem,” my father told me, fussing over the now-yellow dress. “That is probably left-overs from the dress preservation. A cleaning company can restore the dress back to its original color. And get rid of the stains.”

mothers ruined preserved wedding dress

Except they couldn’t.

Fifty-nine days before my wedding, I got a call from my father. My mother’s wedding dress had been ruined.

He had taken the dress from the cleaners, he explained, and the cleaners told him that whatever company my mom and dad had used to preserve the dress had ripped them off. Your company had taken my parent’s money, ironed the dress, and stuck it in a box, hoping no one would be the wiser. How many people actually re-wear a wedding dress? You must have rationed. It’s a win-win situation.

I get it. You were probably trying to save a couple bucks.

Ironing a dress is much cheaper than actually treating, cleaning, and preserving it. When a couple of newlyweds showed up to your company twenty-five years ago, you never thought they would try to re-wear the wedding dress much later. But we did.

Steve Buchele and Suzanne Buchele wedding photos

I hope those couple bucks you saved were worth it.

I really do.

Because your cheapness and willingness to rip off and take advantage of a young married couple, my parents, has cost me the chance to walk down the aisle in my dream wedding dress – the wedding dress both my mother and Auntie M fell in love with, many many years ago. The dress my sister and I fell in love with many years later.

Instead, fifty seven days before I get married, I am madly scrambling through eBay for a discount dress my size, because between classes, graduation, and planning my upcoming move to Japan, I don’t have the time or budget to find a “real” wedding dress at a boutique.

I can’t find “replacement dress” because there is no replacement for tradition.

I’m not writing this letter for sympathy or retribution. I’m writing this because I want you to know you ruined this little girls’ dream for a family legacy to save a little bit of money.

My favorite baby picture

My favorite baby picture

I’m writing this letter because those who run a business have an obligation to their customers to fulfill their promises. I sincerely hope my mother’s wedding dress was the only dress you cut corners on, because I can’t bear the thought of another bride losing that special “something borrowed.”

You guys are jerks.



A Texan trying not to become Bridezilla

[Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele]

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

23 Comments on A Letter to the Company that Ruined my Mother’s Wedding Dress

  1. I also loved my mom’s 1964 wedding dress. 3 quarter length sleeves, crisp, clean lines. Square train, a-line skirt….alas I was way too tall for it. There was no way to lengthen it and since the dress had no beading there wasn’t a way to add something to lengthen it. Instead I chose an audrey hepburn inspired dress which 10 years later I’d pick it again. My wedding dress actually looked alot like my great-grandmother’s 1912 wedding dress. She died when I was 11 so it was a nod to her when I chose my dress. My mother-in-law had my dress preserved and your post here makes me nervous now…I want to crack open the box and make sure my dress is okay.

    I have no daughters, only sons so there is no one to wear my dress but it is still an important momento to me.

    • That’s lovely.
      I kind of love how you picked a dress that resembles your great-grandmothers (and great that you still love the dress, ten years later). I think tradition is wonderful – especially the whole “passing down through the generations.”
      While we were cleaning out my great-grandmother’s closet after she passed away, I snagged some of her old winter dresses from the Goodwill pile. They don’t necessarily go well with most things, but I like to wear this black and red one every once and a while when I’m feeling nostalgic.

      And who knows, perhaps your (possible, future) granddaughters might want to wear your dress :)

  2. Linda Classen // 13 November, 2013 at 11:14 am //

    Something you might not have known about your mom and aunt’s wedding dress. . . Auntie M wanted seed pearls sewn on to the beautiful lace on the skirt just to “fancy” it up a bit. So I did that. I must have sewn a thousand pearls onto that dress. When I heard what happened to that gorgeous thing I felt so bad for you and a thought occurred to me. My beloved dad (I wish you could have known him) died a few months before my wedding. There was no replacing HIM! So I walked down the aisle by myself. Maybe it would be ok if you just put that beautiful dress on. . .as is. . and walk down the aisle in it. Your family would be in awe of you!

  3. Grace,

    I hope you see the value in having the skirt replaced. It’s not that hard, and from what I see the dress needs refitting anyway. Dying won’t cover the stains, but a great seamstress will able to see you married in the dress you chose, albeit altered, and one you can restore for your girls.

    Try to see the good side… you’ve got time left. Use it wisely.

    • Thank you. I think we’re going to try to replace the skirt (that seems to be the general consensus). Hopefully we can find fabric that matches the other one.

  4. Sew white lace over the stains, making sure both sides of the dress are evenly covered, so it looks like it was meant to be that way.

  5. I am so sorry this happened to you and your family! I’m a wedding planner hear far to many stories of dress drama, but this is terrible!

    Not sure if it goes with the look you are going for but have you considered dying the gown? Blush and champagne are beautiful and may be able to cover the yellowing and conceal stains.

    If not dying, you could find other ways to have the dress “there” use the petticoat (underneath tulle that gives a dress fullness) and maybe use some of the fabric to wrap around your bouquet?

    Lastly, I’m in San Diego but I know of a fantastic designer (she was actually asked to be in the TLC show but declined because of the travel schedule) anyway, she does fantastic things with older gowns, and making them beautiful, just in a different way.

    All my best!


    • Thank you for your wonderful message Kellene!

      Recently I’ve thought about dying the dress (so I would still be able to wear it) – but am a bit worried it won’t fit with the venue. I’m having a traditional Texas wedding with classic, rustic themes, so I’m worried a non-white dress would cause problems.
      Someone else suggested commissioning a new skirt or doing some work on the old skirt. I like the idea, but am not sure I have the time… but perhaps I will wear the dyed (or repaired) dress for a renewal of the vows in five to ten years. If I did that, I would still be able to keep tradition without worrying about the actual wedding.

      Weddings make people crazy.

      I’ve heard about that TLC show – a couple friends and family members nominated me to be on it. I think that would be wonderful. Older gowns have such a rich history, I think what your friend does is great!


  6. Which preservation company did your mom use?

    • It’s a company that went out of business about 15 years ago. I didn’t see a point in dragging their name through the dirt (since they’re already long-gone)…

    • I contacted Something Borrowed, and they have closed casting for the season. :(
      I’d go with above comment and talk to Kellene’s designer friend!

  7. I’m so sorry to hear that, dear… It’s terrible for you but how bad the stain? How if you go vintage instead? Like broken-white dress with flower crown? I don’t really know how it feels wanting to wear long dresses for I’ve been wanting to have simple dress with no tail at hte back and with small bouquet and flower crown ever since I was child.

    At the end, don’t get too stressed over a dress. Just enjoy the moment when you walk down the aisle and put your wedding ring. The rests are just spices to make it sweeter =) All be best for your wedding prep, Grace ^^

  8. Have you heard of the show on TLC — “Something Borrowed, Something New?” They remake old family dresses, so maybe they would help you!

    • Sorry about the double post — it showed up and disappeared!

    • I actually HAVE heard of that show (I love all the TLC wedding shows. They are one of my guilty pleasures). A past teacher just nominated me for the show (apparently the only way to get on it is through someone else’s nomination).

      If you would be so kind as to nominate me too, that would be pretty awesome! Having TLC repair the dress would be fantastic (and a dream come true!)

  9. Have you heard of that show on TLC where they somewhat re-make an old dress? I think it’s called Something Borrowed, Something New.” Maybe they would help you!

  10. I’m so sorry this happened– I know time is tight, but can you maybe have a shrug made that echoes the lovely pleated collar of your mother’s dress and wear that with your new one? Some way of bringing the echoes of the dress forward.
    Sadly the truth is a lot of “preservation” companies do exactly this– some don’t even bother doing anything at all to the dress other than boxing it up, because it will likely never be opened anyway, or if it is, many years later. Brides, don’t do it! Yes, get it cleaned, but not preserved. Much better off getting an acid free box from an archival supplies company and some acid free tissue and doing that part yourself. Or simply buying several yards of unbleached muslin, washing that a few times to get rid of fabric sizing (chemicals), and gently wrapping the dress in it before storing in a box or drawer. Cheap solution to acid free box is to line the container with aluminum foil, it’s a barrier to the acids. Then drape more clean fabric (NOT old sheets! Those have human skin oil permanently bonded to them which is why linen closets can smell funky!) to cover the scratchy foil, and you have a safe place. Keep it dark, keep it dry, keep it out of plastic (allows micro climates and the risk of mold).
    Good luck to you!

    • We’re thinking about either trying to find (or commission) a new skirt for the dress – since a majority of the stains are on the skirt – or just buying a new dress. Though, now that you mention it, I could try to get a strapless dress and sew on the collar and sleeve’s from my mother’s dress. That would still keep the essence of the dress in tact (perhaps).

      I wish we had known that about preservation companies. It is very sickening. I didn’t even imagine this kind of thing could happen… Thank you for sharing your tips! I will be sure to pass them along (to other brides who want to preserve their dress).

  11. Anonymous // 5 November, 2013 at 8:11 pm //

    I am so sorry for what happened to you Grace. You still looked beautiful in the dress.

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