Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sisterhood of the Time-Traveling Dress

VFG Member Jody S. aka coutureallure has been featured in an article from the Bangor Daily News. Read this charming story!

The travels and adventures of a handmade dress
Tuesday, June 05, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

Dorrice Trickey Wetzler of Bangor died in October 2006 at age 92 and passed into the history of humankind. But the dress she made in 1935 has become an artifact of costume history and therein lies a tale — the travels and adventures of a handmade dress.

Who knows precisely where the story began — in a southern cotton field, perhaps, where the bolls were picked and shipped to a Massachusetts textile factory, where the fabric Dorrice eventually chose for her dress was manufactured. From there the fabric may have been shipped to a store in Maine, where Dorrice bought several yards of it — for what, 10 cents a yard?

She would have pinned the dress pattern to the fabric and cut it out with sharp dressmaker scissors. At that time, 1935, Dorrice was a young woman and a student at Farmington State Normal School, now a campus of the University of Maine. Perhaps the dress was a project for a home economics course.

In later years, Dorrice wrote a note and pinned it to the dress: "Made in sewing class at Farmington State Normal School 1935 — Dorrice Trickey — got a D because I didn’t use a thimble."

Did Dorrice wear the dress on a date when she met Robert Wetzler, the man who would become her husband? Or did she relegate it to the bottom of a trunk or a remote corner of a closet so she wouldn’t be reminded of that bad grade every time she looked at it? We don’t know. Those years of the travels and adventures of the dress are not known to us. But the fact that Dorrice saved the dress all those years is testimony that she had a certain affection for it, despite that bad grade. Surely, she knew good times while wearing the dress.

When Dorrice wrote the note that accompanies the dress, she was no longer young, and was in the process of donating the dress to the now defunct Webb Museum of Vintage Fashion, owned by Frances Webb Stratton, in Island Falls. Thus began the dress’s days as a museum artifact, where it mingled with other garments from the 20th century and those from the 19th century. Surely, it was gazed at by museum visitors, perhaps conjuring fond memories of similar dresses in the minds of women who also had been young during the Depression years.

Stratton died in March 2006 and in September of that year her museum collection was sold in 800 lots through Poulin’s Auctions in Fairfield. Proceeds from the auction were donated to five Maine charities, according to Jeanine Poulin.

One of the buyers at that auction was Jody S., owner of Couture Allure,, an online vintage fashion business based in Winthrop, Mass. "I made the trip to Maine for the weekend to attend and buy at this auction," Steinman said in an e-mail. "It is quite rare that a collection of vintage clothing this large and extensive comes to the market, so it was well worth my time to be there." Dorrice’s dress was one of the many items from the auction that went home with Steinman. Soon, she posted the dress for sale on the Internet.

Photos of Dorrice’s dress and the note also were posted at Erin McKean’s blog spot,, in the February edition. Those who participate in the blog chat about dresses, vintage and otherwise, and provide links to related topics. I stumbled onto the blog when I was seeking information on how to make pocket welts. That was where I came face to face with the photos of Dorrice’s dress and the note.

Good grief, I thought as I stared at the photos, I know this woman. Indeed, I had known Dorrice when we were members of Hampden Historical Society in the 1980s. She and her sister, Kay Trickery, helped me learn the ins and outs of genealogy.

Intrigued, I backtracked to where I found Steinman’s description of Dorrice’s dress: "Lovely vintage 1935 dress ... Depression-era dresses like this are very hard to find, as they were usually worn until they were worn out. The dress is fashioned from cotton broadcloth in red and cream geometric Deco print with large cream polka dots. There is a slit at the front of the neckline and an inverted pleat at the front. The long center front seam is top-stitched on both sides. The self-fabric belt closes with a snap. No closures — slips over the head."

In March, Dorrice’s dress continued its travels when it went to its new owner, Danika Myers in Pikesville, Md.

Thus the 72-year-old dress continues its travels through time.

It’s a wonder that the dress survived at all, and even more amazing that we know its maker, and can honor her memory, considering that the makers of so many pieces of handmade clothing in museums and private collections remain anonymous.

Stratton, Poulin, Steinman, McKean and Myers have become members of a unique group — the sisterhood of the time-traveling dress.

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