For a bride, one of the most unique and personal elements of the big day is her wedding dress.

Some women have dreamed about their dresses since childhood, sketching up designs, saving magazine clippings and the like, as well as pinning their favorites on wedding Pinterest boards.

Given the detail, time and effort that goes into making that one-of-a-kind dream dress, even the most simple of designs can reach hundreds of dollars, something that modern brides aren’t always so quick to jump at.

According to a survey of 14,000 couples done by The Knot, an online wedding planning resource, in 2018 the average cost of a bridal gown was $1,631, including alterations.

Given that statistic, more and more brides have been opting to walk down the aisle in gowns that have done so before.

For some, this means wearing a relative’s dress while for others, it could be a vintage dress — or one that has been worn before. In this instance, vintage doesn’t always mean “years gone by.”

The Telegraph Herald spoke with area brides and a wedding dress expert on how women across the tri-states are adding to the story of their wedding days by wearing dresses that have a story to share.

All in the family

For Coel Hofland, vintage was taken to the next level for she and husband Elias’s June 2018 wedding in Galena, Ill.

She not only wore grandmother Coletta Schultz’s silk wedding gown but multiple heirloom accessories. That included gold earrings that were made with gold brought back from her great-great-grandfather’s time in California during the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century, as well as a pin and cross necklace that had been worn by Coletta on her wedding day.

Hofland’s engagement ring also had been passed down in Elias’ family.

“There’s so much history behind it, and it’s so beautiful,” she said of her ring.

Hofland’s wedding dress also held special meaning as it was created from a silk parachute that came from her grandfather John Schultz’s time as a pilot in World War II.

The parachute was all that was salvageable after John’s plane was caught in enemy fire. John and his co-pilot split the parachute between them, and when they returned from service, each piece was made into a wedding dress for their wives.

“So, there’s also a sister dress out there for (my dress),” Hofland explained.

The motivation behind choosing to wear the dress, she said, was her love of vintage fashion and a “desire to be connected to the family history in some way.”

The dress was made by Coletta and a seamstress in 1945. After that, Hofland said, the dress sat undisturbed for decades in her grandmother’s house.

“It was miraculously kept in a cardboard box in grandma’s closet,” she said.

The dress’s material is what Hofland attributes to its near perfect preservation, adding that few alterations were needed for her to wear it.

Though she never got the chance to ask her grandmother about her thoughts on wearing the dress, Hofland said that she and her family were “really excited that it would be worn again.”

“I just feel like it was such an honor because (my grandparents) were married for so long, and you could tell how in love they were when were together,” she said. “I wanted to channel that into my relationship if I could and emulate that.”

Evolution of the bride

As with many things in life and fashion, what goes around comes around.

Once-dated styles and silhouettes return in new forms as designers — especially in bridal fashion — strive to balance tradition and classic elegance with an individualized modern vibe.

And for every bride that is looking for a one-of-kind dress, they aren’t required to turn to the runway — they can look to other brides.

Shelby Duggan, owner of Vintage Chic Bridal Boutique in Dubuque, specializes in quality vintage weddings dress and accessories. Her selection offers bridal dresses at a fraction of cost, specifically because of their vintage status.

“Yes, the dress has been tried on, but it’s still in great condition and if there’s anything that needs to be fixed, it’s very minor,” she said.

With the average cost of a wedding hovering at almost $34,000 last year, according to The Knot, many brides, including those in the tri-states, are hoping to keep costs down by getting their dresses for the best deal possible.

“It’s that millennial (mindset),” Duggan said. “It’s all about being money savvy.”

She added: “The brides a year ago aren’t the same as they are today. As a society, everybody thinks of Amazon, and they want it now. They like the idea of coming in and taking their dress the same day.”

An added benefit of shopping vintage gowns, Duggan said, is that what you see is what you get because they come right off the rack.

“They’re all ‘you can take them, they’re yours,’” she said. “Brides really love being able to take them right away. You can go home and have the peace of mind that you have it.”

Making it your own

For bride-to-be Janae Krow, of Davenport, Iowa, she hadn’t always planned on wearing mother Heather Krow’s wedding dress for her big day — though she had already worn it once before.

“I was 1 when she got married,” Janae explained. “She made my flower girl dress from her own dress. I thought about it when I was little and I thought it was a beautiful dress.”

After getting engaged to fiance Connor Schmitt — both Krow and Schmitt are Dubuque natives and met while attending Dubuque Hempstead High School — and deciding on wearing her mother’s dress, she knew that she wanted to honor the dress’s original beauty and also make it her own.

“It’s between her and I and is a very special connection and experience for us,” she said, adding that Heather was “surprised and honored” to have her daughter wear the dress.

The dress’s sleeves were removed, though they will be featured in Janae’s bouquet, and some alterations were made to the bodice to reflect her personal style.

Janae said that Heather came with her to the fitting and alterations appointment and after seeing it re-envisioned she said, “I know it’s my dress but it’s meant to be the dress that was for you.”

Janae intends to wear the dress with pride on her wedding day in September, conscientious of the legacy that lives on through it.

“I chose to wear it because it was a beautiful dress, and my parents have been together for 25 years, and there’s so much marital strength behind that,” she said. “I wore part of this dress already and now I’m getting to wear it again.”

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