If you were to buy the dress or have it made today, Kennedy said it would cost anywhere from about $7,000 from a ready-to-wear line, to $120,000 from a designer like Vera Wang.
“Economy on the bolt of fabric is not what they were considering when they made this dress,” she said.
Restoring gowns is something Kennedy loves doing.
Upcycling a wedding dress is Earth-friendly, but Kennedy especially appreciates the tradition involved with passing a dress or veil down through the family.
“There's an extra special feeling of tradition, responsibility,” Kennedy said. “You're entering into kind of a club of the family where you now have to live up to your mom, your grandmother, your aunts. It's a lovely tradition.”
Kennedy often restyles dresses, both wedding gowns and other formals. For example, she'll use the original skirt and alter the bodice. Sometimes she will embroider the names of all the brides who have worn it on a family veil.
She's even designed debutante gowns and ordered extra fabric with the plan of restyling the dress into a wedding dress later.
On Elder's gown, Kennedy meticulously replaced disintegrated netting behind the intricate layered Alencon lace that makes up the dress's bodice. She repaired the numerous ties under the skirts of the gown, used to cinch the skirt into a French bustle after the ceremony so the bride can dance.
Kennedy installed a zipper, concealed beneath the row of silk-covered buttons lining the back of the bodice, to take the strain off the aged buttons. She repaired tears and holes in the lining.
The result was picture-perfect for the June 30 wedding. But Kennedy insisted the family return the gown and veil to her as soon as possible after the wedding, so she could ensure it is professionally cleaned and stored so it can be worn by many more generations of the family.
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There's an extra special feeling of tradition, responsibility. You're entering into kind of a club of the family where you now have to live up to your mom, your grandmother, your aunts.”