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In 1948, three years after the war’s end, there were still shortages in the US, and material for wedding gowns was in very short supply, but Eileen found her dream gown in New York City -- satin and venetian lace with an illusion neckline and large, circular train. The color was called “candlelight,” perfect for her peaches-and-cream complexion. The satin skirt with whalebone half-skirt underneath was so heavy that finger loops sewn into the skirt were required so she could lift it. It may have been a bit unwieldy, but daughter Ellin remembers her saying that “she felt like a southern belle” in that dress.
On Nov. 13, 1948, 29-year-old Eileen married her Romeo. Here they are entering their reception at the elegant Barclay Hotel (now condominiums) on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
Eileen’s daughter, Ellin, and fiancé Jim, began planning their wedding in 1984, it seemed the most natural thing in the world for Ellin to wear her mother’s wedding dress. Needless to say, Eileen was thrilled. And so, 36 years after Eileen had so carefully packed away her wedding ensemble, her daughter took it out of the box. The headpiece and veil had disintegrated, but the dress was in perfect condition. It was, however, a little too long and a bit too snug for Ellin, so it was shortened and Ellin spent the next three months “jogging her brains out to lose 10 lbs,” which she did successfully.
A new headpiece and veil had to be made, and, with Eileen’s years of experience in the interior design business, she knew just where to go for the materials. Marmelstein’s on 4th Street in Philadelphia, known then as “Fabric Row,” was an institution for three generations until it closed its doors in 2015. In 1919, a Polish immigrant, Abraham Marmelstein, started a needle-and-thread business from his knapsack selling door to door. In 1937, he bought the three-story rowhouse and filled it with his family and everything a seamstress, decorator or blushing bride could possibly want to make her dreams come true. If you couldn’t find it at Marmelstein’s, it probably didn’t exist.
In 2009, Eileen passed away at the age of 90. Ellin lost her beloved mother, and we lost another cherished member of the Greatest Generation. We will not see their like again.
After 32 years of marriage, Ellin and Jim now feel the need to downsize and simplify their lives, something I understand well. My husband and I did just that when we moved from our large, colonial-style home to our current townhome. A lot of decisions need to be made at such a time – what to keep, what to discard and what to give away. It’s a difficult process, but one that forces you to focus on what is truly important in your life.
For Ellin and Jim, focusing on what is truly important in their lives has very special meaning. For the last five years, they have been helping their 28-year-old daughter successfully battle Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Ellin has made the difficult decision to sell her mother’s vintage wedding gown. While the thought of parting with it is, indeed, a sad one, the thought that Eileen’s wedding dress might take another trip down the aisle is a happy one.
dress dimensions: Measurements below... inches, then centimeters Under sleeve across bust: 34" /86 1/2 cm Outer under arm: 11", 28 cm circumference outside waist: 28", 71 cm circumference Hip- open Total opening-sleeve: 18", 47 cm shoulder to waist: 15",38 cm sleeve length: 25 1/2", 65 cm shoulder to shoulder in back: 13 1/2', 34 1/2 cm skirt length in front from dropped waist to hem: 39",99cm Total garment length in back from collar/neckline to end of train: 100", 254 cm front shoulder to front hem: 60 1/2",153 cm length of side zipper: 10 1/2", 26 1/2 cm neck-round opening at shoulders with it closed in back: 6 1/4",16 cm Underskirt- waist to hem: 38 1/2", 98 cm - waist: 27",68 1/2 cm
Has been preserved since 1984, until just recently when it was used for a fundraising event. Preservation was done by Talone's in Bryn Mawr, PA
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