Karen Milich drove cautiously for about 400km while transporting a satin white dress more than 70 years old. It was too precious and delicate to mail. Her daughter, Krista Milich, also drove more than four hours to meet her, anticipating what the dress might look like in person.

The hand-off took place halfway between St Louis and Ohio – at an Indian restaurant in Spiceland, Indiana, the United States.

Krista had only seen the dress in photos. It’s the one her beloved grandmother wore on her wedding day in 1945.

But even sight-unseen, Krista knew she wanted to walk down the aisle in the same dress in September. She grew up very close to both her grandparents. Her grandfather died when she was in middle school, but her grandma lived to see her graduate with her doctoral degree in anthropology.

Krista moved to St Louis for a position at Washington University. When she got engaged over the holidays, she started looking at wedding dresses online. While she was visiting her mum in Ohio, her grandparents’ framed wedding photo caught her eye. The dress was still stored in a cedar chest at her aunt’s house.

She cautiously asked her mum how she would feel about her wearing her grandmother’s dress.

“Oh, I think it’s wonderful,” her mum said.

Wedding dress

Krista Milich holds out the long train of her grandmother’s dress that she plans to wear when she gets married in September this year. Grandma wore the dress on Jan 1, 1945.

Krista, who prefers environmentally friendly options, said she thought it would be better to use something beautiful and vintage rather than buy something new. Plus, this dress is so meaningful to her.

She’s part of a growing trend of brides who are discovering the perfect second-hand dress. Many brides will find their dress on a site like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, which has around 25,000 listings. There’s also NearlyNewlywed.com, which also exploded in popularity over the past few years. Millennials may be looking to contain costs when considering a used-dress purchase.

Wedding dress

Krista’s grandmother, Josephine Macko, on her wedding day. Her photo rests on the veil.

But for some families, it’s about the tradition of passing down an heirloom for as many generations as it will last.
Dianne Rodgers, of Ballwin, Missouri, wore the same beaded satin dress her grandmother had handmade for Dianne’s mother. It was a soft peach colour and covered in small pearls. The work was meticulous. The glamorous dress weighed nearly 14kg.

“I was excited to wear it,” Rodgers said. She and her husband, George, married in October 1979 in a big, Greek wedding in St Louis.

There’s a west St Louis County family who may hold a local record for how many times a wedding dress has been passed down. Megan Gauthier, 31, is the fourth woman in her family to wear the dress her grandmother bought on layaway for US$268 from Garland’s department store in 1960. Her grandmother Georgia Weihe, now 77, of Manchester, had to find a last-minute replacement dress six weeks before her wedding. She had planned to wear her aunt’s dress, but the lace had deteriorated beyond repair.

Her daughter, Leann Adams, 57, of Ellisville, knew she wanted to wear that same dress. It fit her perfectly. She even wore her mother’s veil when she got married in May 1982. Her sister, Carla Michalski, also wore the same dress four years later at her own wedding.

When Adams’ daughter, Megan, got married last year, she knew she wanted to carry on the family tradition. Soon after she got engaged, she wrote a note to her grandma and presented it with a bridal hanger, asking if she could wear it.

“She didn’t know, but my mum and grandpa had gotten (the dress) to my parents, and we got it out of the box and tried it on with everyone there, which was really special,” Gauthier said.

“I couldn’t have been prouder,” her grandmother said, later. The long-term success rate of the dress makes it even more special.

“They’ve all had wonderful and successful marriages,” Gauthier said. “It was great to be able to honour my grandma by wearing it, as well.”

She’s not sure if it will hold up for another generation, though. It had rained on her wedding day, and the wedding was outdoors.

Gauthier, who now lives in Cincinnati, was born and raised in West County. She married her high school sweetheart from Marquette High School after dating for 12 years.

Krista credits her rescued street dog from Puerto Rico for leading her to her future partner. Anvil Head, named for the shape of her head, took her first walk in snow on a cold Chicago day.

Krista said they were walking in their neighbourhood when two guys passed by them. One of them was wearing shorts.

“Why are you wearing shorts in the snow?” she said, as they walked by.

“I don’t know,” Nathan Puckett replied. “How do my calves look?”

“They look like calves,” she said, and kept walking.

Not one to give up, Puckett said hers looked great. Then, he turned around to ask if he could walk with her. Anvil

Head started barking at him, but Krista agreed to the company. When they were still a few blocks away from her apartment, Anvil Head gave up on the walking. Her paws had frozen in the cold. Krista picked up her pit mix, all 27kg, and struggled to carry her home.

Puckett said he would have helped, but Anvil Head didn’t seem to like him. Krista immediately put the dog in his arms. Puckett carried her the remaining blocks. By the end of the walk, Anvil Head was looking at him with love glowing in her eyes.

That may have been a sign.

Krista and Puckett will be getting married nearly six years after that walk in the snow.

Her mother is expecting an extra emotional day.

“I know Krista’s grandparents will be watching over her and will love seeing her in that dress,” she said. – Tribune News Service/St Louis Post-Dispatch/Aisha Sultan