A Diamond in the Rough: Myriam Coker

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story by Allie Allsup / photos by Faith Riley Photography 

Thrift stores contain many things: regular, everyday clothes. Unique finds. For Myriam Coker, that unique find was what many brides search for — and spend hundreds of dollars on: a wedding dress.

“Thrifting is always so fun for me because it’s kind of like a treasure hunt,” Coker said. “You never know what you’ll find.”

In the spring of 2018, Coker and her sisters decided to go to City Thrift in search of whatever caught their eye. They didn’t know that Coker would be leaving with a one-of-a-kind dress. 

“What’s so funny was that my boyfriend and I weren’t even engaged, nor were we thinking about getting married anytime soon when I found the dress,” Coker said. “Yet, when I saw it, I just loved it so much that it didn’t matter. I had to have it. And so, I went ahead and got it.”

Given the timing wasn’t right, Coker put the dress on the back burner, storing it in her closet for years. When her boyfriend, Brooks Coker, proposed two years later, Coker already knew where to turn. That didn’t mean everyone was on board with the plan. 

“I think my friends and family just thought it was an impulse buy,” Coker said. “They didn’t put much stock into me using it as my wedding dress until I pulled it back out of the closet.”

While it took others a bit longer to see Coker’s vision, she was happy to be able to share this experience with her sisters. Being the oldest of seven and the first to walk down the aisle, she worried about including everyone in her wedding planning process. Yet, as luck would have it, they were all there with her when she discovered the dress.s. 

“This was the first wedding in the family and being able to share that with them – them being there with me at the thrift store, when I tried it on after alterations, and them also seeing it at the wedding – was really special,” Coker said. “I loved that they could go through the entire process with me.”

When it came to alterations, Coker turned to her aunt Deborah, a skilled seamstress who’d done work on wedding dresses before. At ease, she knew if anyone could take on remaking an old gown, it would be her aunt. 

After collaborating on the overall design, Deborah got to work, spending upwards of thirty hours in alterations. For the most part, Coker stuck to the original structure of the dress, keeping as much from it that she could — though she did cut out the shoulder pads. 

“My guess, from the shoulder pads alone, was that it was probably from the ‘80s and a dress that somebody’s loved one made for them,” Coker said. “It had no tags or labels on it which is kind of what drew me to it.” 

The dress also had some intricate beading Coker made sure to keep. This made alterations a bit tricky: her aunt had to take the beads off in some places before cutting excess fabric, and later reattach the beads. It was a long process, but what was once a discarded dress is now a modern wedding gown

“I wouldn’t change a thing about it,” Coker said. “That dress was everything I had hoped and dreamed for.”