Wedding dress shopping is one of the perks of getting engaged for a lot of people. You may have spent some time dreaming about whether you want something lace or beaded, whether you want to go regal like Allison Williams or more boho like Lauren Conrad — you can let your creativity roam free. A huge factor of the whole wedding thing is the dress. For bride-to-be Abigail Kingston of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, getting engaged was also all about the gown, but not just any gown — the family heirloom dress first worn by her great-great-grandmother in 1895.
Abigail will be the 11th bride to don the ensemble — now that’s history! When we asked her whether she thought her great-great-grandmother would have ever imagined that the wedding dress would have such a long legacy, Abigail told us, “She probably thought it would have only been worn by her granddaughters, but not her great-great-granddaughter. It only would have been worn three times and she would have never imaged it to have lasted for 11 brides.”
But a 120-year-old satin gown does have its limitations and sadly is subject to the wears of time. Traditionally, the mother of the last bride who wore the dress is the keeper of the gown. When Abigail got engaged, she and her mother Leslie Kingston reached out to Leslie’s aunt, who happily sent over the dress. When Abigail unpacked the dress however, it had moth holes eaten through the gown, the satin was discolored and the beautiful puffed sleeves were in rags. Abigail thought all hope was lost for the family heirloom. But according to Lehigh Valley Live, she and her mother were able to enlist the expertise of designer and salon-owner Deborah LoPresti to restore the dress. The process of bringing the dress back to its former glory took over 200 hours. Yes, you read that right.
But all the hard work was worth it in the end and Abigail will indeed be wearing it for her lakeside wedding in Pennsylvania. When she put on the gown for the first time after repairs, her first thought was, “I feel like Cinderella!” Abigail tells us, “My second thought was is this the same dress I pulled out of the box back in April?!” Leslie Kingston shares with us, “I got teary because seeing her in the dress reminded me of my wedding day.”
As for her hopes for the future of the dress, Abigail says, “My hope is the dress can be preserved and remain in its restored state. I would love for the tradition to continue maybe with a daughter of my own one day.”
“I would like to see it in a museum because it’s such a great story,” Leslie adds. “It’s not just the dress that’s been handed down. It’s the love.”
Check out all the previous owners of the storied wedding gown.
The first wearer of the dress was Abigail’s great-great-grandmother Mary Lowry who wed John Broadfield Warren on December 11, 1895.
The second bride was Mary’s granddaughter Jane Woodruff who married John Kearns on February 20, 1946.
The third wearer was Virginia Woodruff, who wed Douglas MacConnell on just two years later on October 13, 1948.
The fourth member of Abigal’s family to wear the gown was Sara Seiler, who wed Duncan Odgen on June 15, 1960. Stunning.
Bride number five was Laird MacConnell who married Timothy Hensler on October 16, 1976.
Bride six was Abigail’s mother, Leslie Kingston, who married Abigail’s dad Richard T. Kingston Jr. on August 6, 1977.
The seventh wearer of the dress was Janet Kearns, who married Mark Daigle on October 30, 1982. The only thing ’80s about this photo is that bouquet.
The eighth bride was Jane Odgen, who wed James Houston on June 2, 1986.
Virginia Kearns wed Charles Stinnett on August 26, 1989 and was the ninth bride to wear the dress.
The last bride to wear the dress was Ann Ogden, who married Robert Hausslien on July 4, 1991 — which was still 24 years ago.
And Abigail will continue her family’s tradition when she marries her fiancé Jason Curtis on October 17, 2015. So lovely.
Will you be wearing a family heirloom dress for you wedding? Tell us in the comments below!
(Photos via Susan Stripling + Abigail Kingston)