story by Allie Allsup / photos by Faith Riley Photography
Michaela Lyle knew from a young age that she wanted to use her mother’s wedding dress. She’d always loved it.
Whenever Lyle would look at her mother’s wedding pictures, she’d listen to her mom talk about the dress and the feeling she had when she looked at it.
“She’s never said, ‘I wish I’d gone with a different dress’ or ‘Man, that dress really didn’t hold up to the test of time,’” Lyle said. “It was genuinely really beautiful in its own way.”
When Lyle got engaged in 2021, she was quick to ask her mother if she’d be willing to part with it, letting her wear or alter the dress for her own wedding.
“The joy on her face told me everything I needed to know,” Lyle said. “My mom wanted me to have a dress that I felt as in love with as she did her own.”
However, her mother didn’t account for the amount of damage it’d undergone after years living in storage.
“It’d been through both fire and water damage, and it was slightly yellowed,” Lyle said. “When we pulled it back out after so many years, I could see it slightly broke my mom’s heart because that dress was really special to her.”
Her mother stayed positive, though, offering up other solutions, such as incorporating a piece of lace into whatever dress Lyle would decide on, or making a handkerchief out of what good material was left.
First, though, Lyle would take the dress to the dry cleaners on the off chance it would make a difference.
“I don’t know what magic they pulled,” Lyle said. “But when it came back, it looked almost completely brand new.”
There were only a couple of pieces of lace that couldn’t get completely cleaned after the first round. Lyle took the dress home and, with her mom’s help, tried it on.
“It was a little big but super workable,” Lyle said. “The fact that the dress was even usable was incredible, but we were both laughing because it was so completely out of my style and the look I wanted.”
What Lyle wanted was something simple and classy; something that never went out of style. Her mother’s dress was dated: a stereotypical, late ‘80s gown with puffy sleeves. However, the more they looked at it, the more they thought about alterations.
Part of those alterations was adding in a unique touch to check that “something blue” box. Using damaged pieces of fabric, Lyle and her mother discussed the possibility of incorporating blue into the train of the dress.
Seamstress Frankie Crabb brought some blue lace up the train a bit to create a waterfall effect, mirroring the dress’s scalloped edges. When Lyle’s train flared, people could see a subtle touch of blue.
“It was just gorgeous and honestly my favorite part,” Lyle said. “I felt like that was my personality, just a classic flare.”
While not necessarily a traditional family heirloom, the dress is something that can continue to be passed down in the future.
“Now, I have a dress I can always look back on, just like my mothers,” Lyle said.
Her mother’s dress wasn’t the only dress used in her wedding weekend, either. Lyle’s grandmother asked Lyle if she’d like to incorporate her old wedding dress in some way too Once again, Lyle sent it to Crabb,who converted the dress into a skirt, which Lyle wore at her rehearsal dinner.
“Ultimately my whole wedding weekend was just very sentimental,” Lyle said. “I had both my mom and my grandmother with me. My something old, new, borrowed — and of course, the blue lace counts for my something blue.”
Lyle wouldn’t change anything about her experience, loving her dress and the journey it took to get to that final look.
“I know in my heart, after my husband and I have been married for fifty plus years, I’ll love it then, too,” Lyle said. “It’s one of those things that I have absolutely no regrets on.”