There may come a time when the women of Theta Omega Chapter of ESA, who work each year to present the “She Said Yes To The Dress!” wedding dress fashion show, don’t outdo themselves.
So far, that hasn’t happened, at least in terms of audience size and hopefully in terms of the amount of funds raised, based on early observations following the fifth fashion show, held Saturday afternoon, Oct. 19, in Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion.
“The entire sanctuary was full and I saw quite a few people walking up to the balcony. I never went up there to a head count, but I’ve seen some photos and the entire front row was filled and it looks like in some places there were people behind the front row, so I’m really excited that this means growth for the show,” said Trudy Zalud, a member of the Theta Omega Chapter of ESA who helps plan the show. “I couldn’t be happier about that.”
Twenty-seven wedding gowns originally worn by brides in Vermillion and the surrounding area over the past 10 decades were modeled Saturday. As models walked up the aisle of the church and spent a few moments at the front modeling their gowns, Barb Campbell, the announcer for the event, gave details of each wedding dress and shared amusing anecdotes about each bride’s wedding experience.
She also mentioned what soon became a common denominator throughout the show: a battle by the bride or a member of the bride’s family with cancer.
The bridal fashion show was held for its fifth year in Vermillion as a fundraiser for the The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
Zalud, contacted early this week, said hard figures regarding audience size and the amount of money raised weren’t available but she was hopeful that the show met or exceeded goals in both of those areas.
The women of Theta Omega Chapter of ESA were able to present a fashion event that included the oldest wedding gown in the history of the show.
“Until this year, the oldest dress that we had in the narrated show dated back to 1927,” Zalud said. “This year, our oldest dress went further back to 1922 so that’s the oldest dress that we’ve featured in our narrated show. That was really exciting and it presented a contrast to the other dresses from the ‘20s.”
This dress was worn by Margaret Catherine Mattes when she exchanged vows with John Alphonse Tigges on June 27, 1922 in St. Joseph Catholic Church, Dedham, Iowa.
The gown was modeled by Keri Kamphoff, the great-granddaughter of the bride.
Last year’s gown was from the late 1920s -- the period of the “Roaring ‘20s,” Zalud said, that were flapper-type dresses.
“This one (the 1922 dress) was definitely more aligned with the World War I era so it was very exciting,” Zalud said.
The gown fit the bride’s great-granddaughter “as if it had been made for her,” she added. “That is so amazing as bodies have evolved over the last 100 years. That alone was exciting that it fit her without a single alteration.”
The bride also wore a mob cap-style veil.
“We had a wedding photograph, so it was this wonderful point of reference for us,” Zalud said. “The bride had this really interesting garland that ran around the elastic of the mob cap and then hung down on either side and we could see that it was heavily beaded, so I recreated that to honor the spirit of what the bride wore and that’s what the model had on during the day of the show.
“It was fun to research the trends of that era and how this dress simulated the one worn by an English princess and how hers was the first to be shown in a fashion magazine and that’s what made it widely popular,” she said, “on both sides of the Atlantic. There are just a lot of wonderful aspects to that dress.”
Saturday’s show included dresses from the 1920s to this year -- a span of 10 decades.
“I really loved our representation from the 1930s,” Zalud said -- a gown worn by by Marguerite Peterson when she exchanged vows with Wendell Leafstedt on June 22, 1933 in the Alcester Baptist Church in Alcester. The dress was modeled by Marley Hanson.
“When you think of the economic devastation of the Great Depression and that somebody managed to have this lavish wedding, that they somehow found the cash to fund this,” Zalud said.
This wedding included five women and five men attendants and two flower girls. The women attendants all wore special dresses -- one of which was modeled Saturday by Emily Rentsch.
“They (the attendants’ gowns) survived all of these years and when you think of the ‘30s, that was the day and age of reuse and recycle and to think that they were still intact,” she said. The bridesmaid’s ensemble had a hat, gloves and a muff and the flowers the attendants’ carried were attached to each muff.
“All that survived,” Zalud said. “Isn’t that miraculous?”
A special aspect of each year’s show are the stories that accompany each gown and this year was no exception.
“I had so many people tell me Saturday that the stories brought just the right mix of smiles, laughs and tears and I thought, ‘yes, that’s it exactly,’” she said. “People were smiling, people were laughing out loud and you could also see people wiping the occasional tear away.”
Those stories also include how cancer has affected each couple’s families.
“Once people find out that this is a fundraiser for cancer, they are immediately on board saying ‘what can I do to help?’ It’s been truly remarkable -- the level of support from Vermillion and the outlying community outside of Vermillion -- everybody coming together to make a difference in the fight against cancer,” Zalud said. “It really touches my heart.”
After the first show was held in 2015, there was no certainty that a second fashion show would follow a year later. The women of Theta Omega Chapter of ESA successfully completed their fifth show Saturday and the event still proves to be wildly popular.
“It does seem like it has been woven into the fabric of Vermillion,” Zalud said, “and that it has become a Vermillion tradition. We’ll vote on it at the start of the year … but I’ve already gotten almost 40 women who have expressed interest in showcasing their dresses next year.”
In other words, it appears likely that there will be a sixth wedding fashion show held in 2020.
“This is a wonderful collaboration of our ESA chapter and folks outside the chapter,” she said. “Willson Florist is involved, we have six hairstylists who are involved, the folks at Trinity Lutheran who get behind and push. There are efforts by so many. It’s not a small project in any way, shape or form.”
Two photographers also donated their time to help record Saturday’s event and other corporate sponsors help make the fashion show possible.
“It’s just so gratifying to see so many come together for this common purpose,” Zalud said. She added that the local Theta Omega Chapter of ESA has over 30 members “and it takes every one of us, when you think of everything from ticket sales, to promotion, to decorations, to food, to figuring out how everything is going to work in the dressing room, to greeters -- it’s such a massive effort,” she said. “It really does take a village.”