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The Tale of Three Dresses

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 6:55 PM

When my parents started the process of moving out of their house, my hardworking mother cleaned out all her closets and in doing so, had collected a whole buch of wonderful things that were soon to be mine. Packed up in that box was a rather large collection of photos from my growing up years, a few pieces of old clothes, a cast iron ableskiver pan and krumkake maker, a scrap book full of my mom's valentine greetings she received as a child and what were 5 sets of teacups and saucers that orignally came from Sweden...The tea cups never even had a chance. 

As I started looking through this collection of photos, I realized that it was a wonderful documentary of the many pieces of clothing that my mother had made for me and my two older brothers over the years. Some of the photos were of clothes she didn't make, but still, come with great stories behind them. Some of them had a profound influence on my life and you're going to hear all about them.

 My mother made this patchwork outfit for me out of yardage my grandma had made out of old suits that were left over after clothing the missionaries who were home from the field.

This is proof that my mother made all our clothes. Even my brothers were not exempt. All clothing seen here, compliments of Joann. Not sure where the Nelly Olson inspired hairdo came from, but true story, my mom even made my swimsuits and underwear! 

But this is the real reason for this blog post, the real story, a Tale of Three Dresses if you will, that perhaps has affected my entire fashion life and will give you a little insight into my life as the youngest and only girl-child of Art Kalafut...much to my mother's dismay.

This story has been told to me many times. Maybe that is why I know it so well, although I do remember most of it firsthand.

 I was born in a small town in Southern Minnesota. My dad was a pastor, or actually, was still going to school to become a pastor. He would go away all week long to school and come home on the weekends to squeeze us all and bring us candy. Then he would preach on Sunday morning and go back to school for another week after lunch. I am the youngest of 3 and I was old enough at the time to remember him doing this for quite a while. Needless to say, my parents did not have much money, hence my mother making clothes for us out of anything that sat still long enough to be cut up.

 One year, when I was about four or five years old, my mother did the unthinkable. She BOUGHT me an Easter dress that year. GASP! Had she gone daft, had she gone crazy? Maybe there was not enough fabric left in the curtains anymore and the carpet was too think to go through her sewing machine, but sure enough, we went to Burke's Department store to BUY me a dress.

 After a little time shopping, I found a dress. I LOVED this dress. It was apricot colored with a pretty ruffle around the shoulder line and a big bow that tied in the back. At the hemline a little piece of ivory lace peeked out,but the best part of the dress was that it had a little jingle bell sewn into hemline and when I twirled, the dress made the most beautiful music I had ever heard, as it floated on air around me.

I HAD to have this dress.

 My mother, knowing quite a bit more than me about price tags said, "Sarah, you cannot have that dress. It costs too much money. Try this one on instead." as she held up a boring, all ivory colored frock that had stiff, itchy lace all the way up my neck. It nearly choked me to death!

This, that I know of, is the only surviving photo of me ever wearing that dress.

When we got home from our shopping trip to town, my dad wanted to see the new dress that my mom had just bought for me. I showed the dress to him quickly and then proceeded to tell him all about the other dress, how it had pretty ruffles, how it danced around me and how the little bell made such a wonderful sound. Oh how I wanted that dress!

 I do not know exactly how long it took my dad, but later the same day, before my mom had any idea of what he was plannng, my dad had gone back to town, to Burke's department store and purchased the apricot dream dress himself. He didn't take the first one back to the store either...

he had bought me ANOTHER dress.

 It took me years to understand exactly what that look on my mom's face meant when she saw him walk into the house carrying that wonderful piece of fiber art, but looking back now, I'm pretty sure I have seen that same look on my mom's face a few more times since then too.

 This is the dress.

This is the bell.

This is the princess.

A few years later when a man named Pete Sola asked me to marry him, I knew I'd wear a special dress on that day too. In the summer of 1995, Pete and I flew back to California as a newly engaged couple and my mom, Karen and I went wedding dress shopping. After a whole afternoon of looking and not being able to find that perfect dress anywhere, my mom said..."well, I'll just make you one." So she did. My mom designed and made my dress from scratch. She took patterns of formal dresses she had made for me during my high school years and mixed and matched this sleeve with this bodice and this skirt with that hemline and viola! She came up with a beautiful dress that was made of natural silk chantung. The only trim that was on the dress was taken off of my mother's dress that had been white when she got married on August 3, 1963, but over the years, had turned the perfect shade of ivory to match my wedding dress perfectly.

 When it was time for my mom and dad to come back to Minnesota, for the wedding, my mom used her Iowa farm girl charm to get to know her neighbors on the plane sitting beside her and somehow, she ended up talking them into riding the whole way with my wedding dress draped across all their laps so it wouldn't wrinkle.

Oh, how I wish I had a picture of that!

Here is the dress...

Not until the actual day of our wedding, had I even tried on my dress with the veil and shoes to be sure everything was right, but when it came time to dress for the wedding and my mom helped me put my dress on.

As I slipped into it, I heard a funny little sound. As I looked at my mom with the question on my face, she just smiled, bent down to turn my dress over at the hemline and this is what I found...

 A bell.

My mom said, "from your dad."


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Reply Nauja
9:50 AM on December 29, 2016 
So maybe you're already married, and your old wedding dress is currently taking up all the space in your hall closet. Sure, you could sell it, but you're kind of attached to it. You don't want to let it go completely, but wouldn't it be nice to have it bring some joy to others and maybe get it out of your closet for a while? Get the Gown offers free dress storage and a percentage of the rental cost to brides who rent their old dresses on the site http://www.vilniausatelje.lt/vestuviniu-sukneliu-siuvimas/ . You can also sell it to them outright, but if you're still holding out hope that your daughter is going to fall in love with it 30 years down the line, this gives you the option to hold onto it while making a little extra cash AND helping other women slip into the dress of their dreams. It's a win-win situation!
Reply Karla
1:06 PM on October 22, 2015 
What a beautiful story of the 3 dresses! Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures!
Reply Cindy
11:35 AM on September 24, 2015 
Amazing memories and pics... Thanks for sharing! You may need to amend your company name: SARA SOLA WRITES AND SEWS!