Generations Of Bridal Gowns Come Together At Benefit Fashion Show

By: Elizabeth Van Wye

In 1936, Lorene Arensmeir wore this sheer white embroidered organdy apron with cutouts over a satin slip dress for her wedding in Higginsville, Mo. Arensmeir was the mother of Chatham resident Jackie Crimins. Judy Bourassa is modelling the gown for the Congregational Church Bridal Fashion Show. MARY DRUMM PHOTO


CHATHAM – How often does a woman get to wear someone else's bridal gown just for fun? If your answer is "never," then you might be surprised by Saturday's Bridal Fashion Show and High Tea from 2 to 4 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Chatham. Seventeen gowns, originally worn between 1908 and 2018, will be modeled by women of all ages in a historic church decorated for a wedding.

The fashion show, which is followed by a high tea, will feature a narration about the local women who wore the gowns, along with humorous stories of their wedding day and traditions of their time.

Co-chaired by Barbara Newberry and Joan Anderson, the show was inspired by a similar event Newberry chaired 28 years ago at the Harwich Congregational Church. When the Chatham church was exploring fundraising ideas, Anderson admitted to Newberry that she had seen the original shown and "never forgot it!"

Newberry agreed to do it once more, as long as Anderson co-chaired, and the event was re-born.

"It has been a fun and amazing experience," Newberry said. "I started calling people in the church and asking 'do you have a wedding dress' and most all of them did," she said. "And every decade but the '20s turned out to be represented."

"All of the dresses were worn by them, or their mother or grandmother," Newberry added. "In several cases both the mother and the daughter had worn the dress."

One of the models, Chloe Emison, a student in Boston, will be wearing her grandmother Barbara Emison's dress. And artist Debbie Hearle, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, will wear her own dress, which she designed.

One of the challenges of modeling historical fashions involves accommodating the changing physique. Many of the older dresses are very small. Today's young men and women often have an athletic build that was unknown in earlier times, which can make it difficult to fit into decades old costumes. Newberry was happy to have teenage volunteers step forward to help.

The design of the dresses ranges from elaborate (including one with a 15 foot train) to simple and tailored. And the colors include a rainbow of hues to all white. Some were made by the bride, others were spotted on magazine covers and one came from Priscilla of Boston, the shop that designed Grace Kelly's dress for her marriage in 1956. One dress was taken to Africa for the wedding, and another included a lace cap that was made from lace given to the bride's parents when she was born.

Each bride will carry a bouquet, made by New England Gardens, Newberry said. In addition to funny stories about the dress and the day it was worn, the narration will include information about wedding traditions and why they exist. "People will really have fun," Newberry said with a laugh.

The high tea which follows the fashion show will include cookies, tea sandwiches and petit fours, Newberry said.

Tickets for the event are $40 and a


Bridal Fashion Show and High Tea

Saturday, Oct. 13, 2 to 4 p.m.

At the First Congregational Church of Chatham, Main Street

Tickets: $40, at, 508-945-0800, at the door