Eight brides in a family wear Marshall Field’s wedding gown bought in 1950: ‘It’s a lucky dress’

CHICAGO — When Serena Stoneberg walked down the aisle at a North Side church this month, her wedding continued a family tradition that spanned three generations and seven previous brides in multiple Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.

Stoneberg became the eighth bride to say her vows in a satin gown previously worn by her grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins ​​on their wedding days. Her late grandmother bought it for $100.75 at the Brides Room at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street and was the first bride to wear it in 1950.

The family heirloom has graced seven more brides since then, with all but one of the weddings taking place in and around Chicago. Many of these brides congregate in Serena Stoneberg’s River North hotel room the day before the wedding.

The third bride to wear the dress, 77-year-old Sharon Larson-Frank, who was the youngest of the first generation of brides to wear the dress, said getting married in the same gown didn’t start out as an important tradition.

“We never talked about it and said, ‘Well, you’re going to wear the dress,'” Larson said. “It just kind of evolved.”

But over time, he said, the clothing has taken on a deeper meaning as a connection to each other and to Chicago.

Larson’s daughter and seventh bride, Julie Frank McKee, 42, who married in 2013 and was the last person to wear the dress earlier this month, said she never considered getting married in anything else.

“You were going to make it work,” Mackey said. “Even when it didn’t fit me. It was really important to be a part of that tradition. I always knew I would wear this dress since I was a little girl.”

The dress is long-sleeved, with a high collar and a floor-length train.

Serena Stoneberg, 27, added a few of her highlights for the event. She wore her shoes, her jewelry, and a new veil from her great-aunt, who was the third woman to marry in that dress.

“But other than that, I’m excited to fit into this tradition as it is,” Stoneberg said.

The family has undergone some minor changes in dress over the past 72 years.

Mackie, who is of average height, had her mother add an eight-inch-wide ribbon to the hem and back panel to fit the bra.

Jane Milton Ellis, the sixth woman to wear it, added a crinoline to “give it a little boost” and avoid changing the hem.

But they’ve done their best to stick to the original design of the dress, which the oldest living bride, Eleanor “Ellie” Larson Milton of Northbrook — the middle sister of the first generation — described as classic.

“I think that’s why eight brides are willing to wear it, because it doesn’t scream 1950s or 1970s,” she said.

Milton credits his older sister and first bride, Adele Larson Stoneberg, for the smart buy. Adele Larson Stoneberg, who died in 1988, is the only one of these women who did not wear a dress for her eighth wedding.

Adele Larson Stoneberg’s choice to buy a dress at Marshall Field’s was obvious, her sisters said. Her mother, Anna Larson, was a devoted patron of a large Chicago department store on State Street, and when it came time to buy a wedding dress in 1950, she doubted Adele would have gone anywhere else.

“My mother (Anna) loved Marshall Field’s,” Sharon Larson-Frank said. “So I don’t think she could have gone to any other store. And [Adele] Went to the bridal shop because they wanted it to be a beautiful dress.

Sharon Larson-Frank said her mother, Anna Larson, would take the “L” train to do her shopping in Lincolnwood and then have a Marshall Field truck deliver her home the next day.

Every year at Christmas, the family would gather in Marshall Field’s Walnut Room to view the giant Christmas tree and celebrate with a meal together.

“None of these women drove, so we’d take public transportation,” Sharon Larsen-Frank recalled, adding that her Aunt Lil would come from Chicago’s West Side and she and her mother Will come from the north, meet with everyone. at Marshall Field.

The store played an important role in the family’s daily life as well as its celebrations.

When Ellie Larson Milton had daughters, Marshall Fields became a place where she could meet her grandmother, Anna Larson, for tea.

Jane Milton Ellis grew up in Glenview and often visited her grandmother.

“Grandma used to say, ‘Hey, tomorrow, let’s meet at Marshall Field on State Street,'” she said. “And I’ll enjoy getting off the bus and meeting him in the old waiting room on the third floor and having a Field’s sandwich and Frango mint pie for lunch.”

When Jane Milton Ellis left the area for school, she would find packages of Frango Mints “pulled out of those little green boxes,” she said.

On Saturday mornings, Eli Larson Milton’s father, Elmer, would buy his wife Anna and take her to Clark Street.

“It was still her neighborhood, even though she lived in Lincolnwood,” Ellie Larson Milton said. “She wanted to have coffee cake. We always had coffee cake and lampa” – a deep Swedish rye bread – and lutefisk, a traditional Swedish dish made with dried fish.

The family’s Swedish heritage dictated not only their Saturday morning shopping but also where their weddings took place.

The first three weddings that featured a Marshall Fields dress took place at Ebenezer Lutheran Church on Foster Avenue in Andersonville, where Serena Stoneberg’s ceremony will also be held.

Anna and Elmer Larson, Serena Stoneberg’s great-grandparents, were committed church members and friends with ministers. They baptized and confirmed their daughters Adele, Ellie and Sharon there.

“Getting married in the church was a very familiar place,” said Eli Larson Milton. “We all went to Sunday school there. We used to worship there regularly. So Ebenezer Lutheran Church was our second home.

After Adele Larson Stoneberg married, they had three coffees and a cake from a bakery on nearby Foster Avenue or Clark Street – the women couldn’t remember which.

The oldest brides said it was completely different from the way many people celebrate weddings today.

“We got married and then we walked down the hall to the Sunday School room and had cookies and coffee,” said Sharon Larson-Frank. “But there was no band or dancing.”

“Or wine,” Ellie interjected.

The next generation of marriages were scattered across the northern suburbs.

Sue Stoneberg McCarthy, daughter of Adele Larson Stoneberg, was the first to dress in a church that was not Ebenezer Lutheran. She was married at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Park Ridge.

Later, Sue Stoneberg McCarthy’s home on Delphia Avenue in Park Ridge was a frequent gathering place for the entire family. Jane Milton Ellis said that one of her strongest memories of moving there was that the house, like much of Park Ridge, was directly in the flight path of airplanes bound for O’Hare International Airport. was

And when it was her turn to wear the dress – following her sister Carol Milton Zamuda and cousin Sue Stoneberg McCarthy – Jane Milton Ellis got married at Westmoreland Country Club in Willamette.

The dress has spent the last decade since Mackie’s 2013 wedding in Pittsburgh, in dress form after special cleaning.

In the 72 years since the dress appeared at Larson-Stonberg-Milton-Frank family weddings, whoever wore it hasn’t gotten a divorce.

Ellie Larson Milton added that all the marriages, they’ve all lasted a long time. “Really long, healthy, happy marriages.”

“It’s a lucky thing,” said Julie Frank Mackey.

“I think about the dress, and all the happy marriages that started after that dress walked down the aisle, and I just wish Serena and Chris the best because it’s a lucky dress,” she said. said

Serena Stoneberg said that wearing the dress for her own wedding would connect her to all the brides when they were at the altar, as well as to one bride who wasn’t at the wedding: Adele, Serena’s late mormor (grandmother in Swedish). ).

“It’s very special [to be] Wearing her original dress,” Serena Stoneberg said the day before the wedding. “Maybe it will feel like she’s there a little bit.”

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