The Case of the Traveling Wedding Dress

As I sit here on our back porch, preparing to write this blog, what should be playing over our Sonos system?  “Goin’ to the chapel and I’m gonna get married.” How incredibly appropriate!

Over Christmas vacation of 1966, Jerry Janc—my boyfriend of five years and fiancé of six months—gave me the green light. “If you can pull a wedding together between now and the end of January, we can get married over semester break” Let’s just say he didn’t see me for the dust, because those were the words I had been waiting to hear.

A week or so later, my mother and I visited a long-since departed wedding dress shop on S. Country Club in Tucson. By the time we left that day, I had, as they say, “said yes to the dress.” It was lovely. My mother, Evie, was not thrilled. In her eyes, it had cost a fortune—$130. Considering I was earning $600 a month as a beginning teacher, it was by far the most expensive piece of attire I had ever purchased. And, by the way, I paid for it out of my own pocket.

We got married on January 29, 1967. We were poor. We did not have a professional photographer. Friends took color photos with their own cameras. I remember distinctly that one of the ones with me posing in the dress was next to a locker for folding chairs in a church basement. On the wall next to me was a half-sized door with a padlock on it. I remember the photo, but the photo itself, along with many others, disappeared many moons ago in the course of many moves. So if you’re looking at the photo below and thinking that’s me, you have another think coming, as Evie would say. So stay tuned.

Two years later, on April 5, 1969, my younger brother, Arlan, married Deidre Dugan. They were as strapped for funds as we were when wedding time came around. Since my brothers tended to marry tall women, I loaned Dee Dee my dress, and it fit her perfectly. But once again, a professional photographer was not in the budget, and the wedding photo they have—one that survived the 26 moves of Arlan’s military career—won’t reproduce here. Sorry.

A few years passed, then in 1975, it was time for my youngest brother, Gary, to tie the knot. His wife, Kathy Boyd, was also a tall drink of water, and so it was time to use the dress yet again. Gary and Kathy actually had a professional photographer present, but the one featured below is also a “friend photo,” was taken on their wedding day, December 25, 1975.

Weddings are one thing. Marriages are another. Those of you who have followed this blog know that my first marriage wasn’t the best. That one was only good for thirteen years. For me, love really was lovelier the second time around. Bill and I are at 34 years and counting. Gary and Kathy are coming up on 44. As for Arlan and Dee? Today is their 50th. Happy Anniversary! And Huge Congratulations!!

There’s no way we can be in Huntsville, Alabama, for the celebration, but seeing the invitation got me thinking about that much-used dress. Right now the per year cost turns out to be $1.21.

I believe even Evie would have to admit that was pretty cost effective.


27 thoughts on “The Case of the Traveling Wedding Dress

  1. I love hearing about your trip through life.
    I am glad you have a great husband now.
    I liked you as a librarian in 1968-1970. I am
    so glad that Lynn introduced me to your books.
    (My sister and I went to see her in the hospital before we drove to Idaho for our mother’s 80th birthday. I don’t know if she knew we were there, but I knew.)
    I am thinking of going to Tucson in May.

  2. I can’t get the dress photo to show. I assume that is what is in the box at the end of your message. I think you certainly got your money’s worth.

      • Thanks. It is working for me now. I think it is great it has been worn by so many of you. I didn’t wear a long white gown for my wedding, but made a two-pieced dress of medium blue. I kept it for years and finally gave it to the Salvation Army—after I cut the buttons off!

  3. In 2010 the historical society museum where I volunteer had a wedding dress event. We had many wedding dresses loaned to us, including a mini dress and an embroidered hippie dress, and we found teenagers to model them. One woman could still wear her own, and it was actually her 51st wedding anniversary that day. She told the story of her dress, which was first her sister’s, then hers, a few years later a friend’s, and a few weeks after that it was rescued from a burning house. The dress survived to be worn by the daughters of the first 2 sisters who wore it, with a new veil created by Lucille. So that made for a wonderful story, and after the program, she donated her dress to the museum.

  4. I enjoyed your blog as always. I also could not find the photo and I would certainly love to see it!
    I’ve been lucky enough to be at two of your talks and loved them. I encourage everyone who can to go to one!

  5. Your $130 dollar dress according to the CPI inflation calculator would cost almost $1000 in todays dollars. Still a good deal in it was worn 3 times!

  6. A beautiful dress with stories to tell and stories already told!! Thank you J. A. Jance for all the stories you have shared!! I’ve read them all……..some more than once…..Please never stop writing……….fact and fiction!! My favorite is the Joanne Brady books!!

  7. No wonder we love you!! We’ve got many of the same memories! My wedding dress was also shared again and again, and everyone was grateful. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Love reading your books and your weekly blog, I look forward to you writing about your life and experiences and brings back memories of mine.
    I didn’t have a traditional wedding dress when we married in 1970, I had what was called a pant suit but dressy, the top could be worn without the pants because the dresses were short then but I wore the pants and my maid of honor made herself one similar, mine was aqua and hers was lime green, my colors that day. I still have the outfit and may or may not fit in it.
    Keep the stories coming.

  9. I remember Arlin very well – we were in DeMolay together. He is a great guy and I am glad his marriage has lasted this long. Sue and I didn’t get it right the first time, but we have been married 20 years now, and are going strong. Hope to see you while you are in the Valley of the Sun.

  10. My wedding dress cost $25–got it at a bridal shop in the University District here in Seattle in 1966. Summer wedding and it was a long-sleeve brocade dress. Not what you would wear for a summer wedding, BUT it was on sale and I could afford it. We’ve been married 53 years this June. Love your stories.

  11. I love all of the stories about wedding dresses. Looking at the photo again I see your gown has long sleeves and a high neckline. So much nicer than the strapless gowns brides ten to wear now.

  12. Your stories yesterday is the reason why I read your books. I never read before. I moved to Bisbee in 1997 again.. I told my husband I wanted to read. He told me to find something that would interest me. I lived in Bisbee back in the early 80’s working in group homes for trouble teens. So I went to the Bisbee library in 97 and found my 1st Joann Bradley book. I read everynite because of you. Thanks so much. I read all your AZ books. Vicky

  13. My mom purchased my first wedding dress at Peoria Dry Goods Store in Peoria, Illinois. It was not floor length, but very beautiful white taffeta with, covered over with lace. Three quarter length sleeves and I was thrilled with it. My family was very poor so I now this was such a luxury for my parents to buy. My husband tore it off of me that night. Not in a rush of love & lust, but in a show of power! The man had treated me like a queen until our wedding night. It was the beginning of years of abuse. No way I can explain it to anyone seeing this. I still have pictures of the dress. After many years I was rescued by my second husband and my wedding dress was just a nice sleveless dress with a jacket. I still have it. That wonderful man died in 2000, but shortly afterward I met Frank and I wore another street length white dress which I will always cherish. My life is so fabulous now that it’s hard for even me to think about all I went through. I am so blessed now with my Frank.

  14. I married in my US Navy Dress White uniform in 1969 and was so very proud because we had been told when they had issued us our uniforms at Boot Camp that they had originally been designed in Paris. My husband was in his Dress Blue “Cracker Jack” uniform and there we were, at the NTC San Diego Chapel … the perfect picture of “love eternal.” Or so I thought. He would soon be off on a ship bound for the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Viet Nam and unbeknownst to me, I would be headed to Nebraska to stay with his family because I would soon receive an Honorable Discharge when I did the ghastly thing of getting pregnant … definitely against regulations at that time. Seven years later, divorced (my husband’s drinking endangered not only myself but also my children), with both children in tow, I was Recalled back to Active Duty in the US Navy and was able to enjoy a 30-year career. (Thank goodness they changed the regulations regarding women with families.) None-the-less, I still recall that Spring day in San Diego when I stood there, so young and naïve. I thought I had the world by the tail in that “Paris designed” white uniform. What was I thinking??

  15. This reminded me of my own wedding dress. Couldn’t afford one so a co-worker, Jean, suggested I use hers. She came from a wealthy family and her dress was handmade in France with beautiful lace. Astonishingly, it was a perfect fit. I wish I could have kept it but I have wonderful photos and memories. When Jean had her first child, she had the dress made into a bassinet and canopy. It is still out there somewhere…

  16. My maternal grandparents eloped in 1920, taking the passenger train for the Sandhills of Nebraska to Denver. Her dress was a navy blue wool traveling dress, with the cutest little “cape” from the collar. It also featured navy blue buttons on each aide of the dress. Grandma wore a cloche hat with the suit. I still have the dress, in immaculate condition. Not your usual wedding dress, but quite elegant. Many hopes and dreams are worn with the dress.

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