Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nana's Dress Goes to FIT

The spectacular beaded flapper dress here has recently been accepted into the study collection of The Museum at FIT. It bears no designer label, nor was it worn by a boldface name, but since it belonged to my Nana Tillie, we’re very excited by the news.

My grandmother was born in 1902. She was one of five sisters and grew up in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, where her family ran a kosher delicatessen. We have no photo of her wearing the striking black Art Deco-style dress, but we know she wore it in February 1925 to a cousin’s wedding in New York City. We do, however, have a photo of her taken only two months earlier at her own wedding, also in a flapper-style dress.

In trying to pinpoint the year of the dress, I lucked out and found a ridiculously detailed recap in a local Brooklyn newspaper about the wedding she attended.

“A neighborhood romance culminated last night in Miss Alberta Diana Spitz, daughter of …” 

The article details addresses, attendants, fabrics (white satin with flowing rosepoint lace, hand embroidered with pearls), and the floral composition of the bouquet and canopy (orange blossoms and orchids). Not bad advertising, come to think of it, for the bride’s father who was a florist. 

 “As Rabbi Wellerstein pronounced the couple man and wife two beautiful white carrier pigeons were released from the canopy and flew about the auditorium as a token of good luck.” And here I thought credit for that went to modern-day party planners. (The full newspaper clipping is at the end of the post.)

Nana Tillie in her wedding dress.

Back to the dress. Thanks to the exquisite care my mother (Tillie’s daughter) takes of everything in her charge, it has remained in superb condition for these many years. That is especially remarkable considering the weight of the beading on the lightweight silk.

Nana’s wedding dress, though the same vintage, did not fare as well and sits as a heap of rusted beads and evaporated chiffon. But remember, this is fact not fiction, so do not in any way take the fate of this garment as a symbol of her life or her marriage of more than 60 years. She was always sweet and loving, and well loved in return. When she died at age 102, Nana Tillie had produced, from her three daughters, a tally of about 50 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Luckily, she never got bored of going to weddings.

Here’s my mom looking smashing in the dress. She wore it to a costume party in the late 1980s.


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