It all started with Maria Teresa Moreno ― known by her relatives as “Grande” ― who made the gown herself before her own wedding in 1932.
Since then, the long-sleeved gown has been passed down through generations of women ― Grande’s granddaughter, Marta Prietto O’Hara, wore it to her wedding in 1983.
Followed by Elena Salinas, Grande’s granddaughter and Marta’s younger sister, in 1997.
And most recently, by Pilar O’Hara Kassouf, Grande’s great-granddaughter, in September 2017.
Marta, who lives in Tustin, California, told HuffPost in an interview that that fact that she and her daughter Pilar both wore a dress with such rich family history was an experience “beyond words.”
“It was such a connection to my grandmother, with whom I was very close,” Marta said of Grande, who died in 2009. “She was also my godmother and she lived around the corner from me so I saw her all the time. And she lived to be 98. So my kids grew up knowing their great-grandmother.”
Marta continued: “My grandmother would just be so thrilled to know that one of her great-grandchildren wanted to wear her dress. I think she would be very touched. It fills my heart. It makes me just so happy.”
It all started in 1932 when Grande, a talented Los Angeles seamstress who was born and raised in Mexico, fell in love with a wedding dress she saw in a department store window and decided to recreate it by hand for her nuptials to Manuel Moreno, according to the Orange County Register.
The couple went on to have four kids ― two sons and two daughters. When one of Grande’s daughters, Anita, tied the knot with Pablo Prietto in 1957, she ended up wearing a different dress that was custom-made by her mother for the occasion. Still, Anita held onto the original gown, which she kept in a small, flimsy box in her closet.
Fast-forward to 1983 when Marta, one of Anita’s seven children, was planning a wedding to her high school sweetheart Kevin O’Hara. Anita wanted her daughter to wear the same dress she had worn at her wedding back in 1957. Although the garment had been specially preserved, when Anita pulled it out of the container, she saw it had been badly damaged with a large stain across the bodice. It was unwearable.
Anita had a plan B, though. She grabbed the box holding Grande’s dress from her closet for Marta to try on.
“It wasn’t even in tissue ― it was just in the box in perfect condition,” Marta told HuffPost. “Before I even saw the style ― just the fabric alone ― I said, ‘I’m wearing this dress if it fits me.’ I tried it on that day, and knew I was going to wear it.”
Marta described the dress as a creamy gold in color with a luxurious, buttery texture.
“It’s thick, luscious silk. You just want to feel it when someone’s wearing it,” she told HuffPost.
In 1997, Elena ― Marta’s sister ― married her husband Ric in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood and wore the elegant gown as well.
After Elena’s wedding, the dress sat idle for 20 years until Marta’s daughter Pilar got engaged to Nick Kassouf in April 2017.
“I always knew about ‘the dress’ but it was always a vague notion to me until I was actually engaged,” Pilar told HuffPost. “After I got engaged, I went over to my grandma Anita’s house to try it on. Once I did, and saw myself in the mirror, I knew. It fit like a glove and needed no alterations whatsoever. There was no way I was walking into any bridal store to look at a dress that meant nothing to me when our family dress meant everything to me. It was meant to be.”
Once Pilar decided she was wearing the dress, Anita spent a month interviewing dry cleaners before finding one she was willing to leave her prized possession with.
“My mom is superstitious,” Marta told HuffPost. “She’s like, ‘I don’t want to spend a lot of money to get it cleaned until somebody really wants to wear it in case it gets ruined.’ She’s extremely protective of this dress and the fabric and the care of it.”
Remarkably, the dress has never been taken in or let out for any of the women who’ve worn it. Somehow, it just fits. The only alterations made over the years include removing a portion of the original 9-foot train, changing the back of the gown to a deep V shape, as well as adding ― and later removing ― some beading, lace trim and other minor decorative details.
With no other family weddings on the horizon, it’s unclear who will be the next to wear the dress. Two of Marta’s nieces, Daisy, 15, and Lola, 16, have already called dibs on the dress for their future weddings.
Until then, the dress patiently waits for its next bride in a box in Anita’s closet.
H/T O.C. Register