Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A final look at weddings in Steele County, Part III May 5, 2016

A groom's jacket from

A groom’s jacket from 1897.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE GROOMS? I wondered as I toured the Wedding Traditions of Steele County exhibit at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna.

 

Look at the fabulous detail on the back of this bridal gown.

Look at the fabulous detail on the back of this bridal gown.

 

Among the nearly two dozen bridal gowns displayed, I noticed only two dresses complimented by groom’s attire. What’s with that? I figured I knew the reason. Char Ost, a volunteer who helped with the project, confirmed my suspicions. The museum simply doesn’t have groom’s clothing in its collection (other than those displayed and some military uniforms) because the men continued to wear their suits after their weddings.

Makes sense.

 

The bride wore a blue grey wool suit at her 1944 wedding.

The bride wore a practical blue grey wool suit at her 1944 wedding.

 

I really enjoyed this exhibit. It gave me insights on how world events and the economy and personal wealth (or lack thereof) and tradition shaped weddings.

 

This dress had the longest train of all those on display.

This dress had the longest train of all those on display.

 

Here’s one final look at this exhibit from my perspective. You may notice things I didn’t if you were to view this display at the Steele County History Center. And that’s the beauty of a collective historical display. We each bring our own backgrounds, our own interests, our own experiences to an exhibit.

 

My favorite headpiece is this lovely hat worn by a bride in 1923.

My favorite headpiece is this lovely hat worn by a bride in 1923.

 

A crown headpiece, probably from the 1950s (I don't recall).

A crown headpiece, probably from the 1950s (I don’t recall).

 

Hair prep essentials.

Hair prep essentials.

 

Imagine fitting your feet into these tiny boots and then attempting to lace them.

Imagine stuffing your feet into these tiny boots and then attempting to lace them.

 

Vintage portraits are part of the exhibit, helping to tell the wedding story.

Vintage portraits are part of the exhibit, helping to tell the wedding story.

 

Look at the beautiful hardanger on this 1909 wedding gown.

Look at the beautiful hardanger on this 1909 wedding gown. Simply stunning in handmade simplicity.

 

FYI: To read my previous posts in this three-part series, click here. And then click here.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Details of weddings in Steele County, Part II May 4, 2016

A sampling of dresses in the exhibit.

A sampling of dresses in the Wedding Traditions of Steele County exhibit.

 

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER AND WRITER, details matter to me. Likewise, details matter to historians. We are meticulous in our documentation. We understand that details tell the complete story.

 

Details have always been important in wedding photography.

Details have always been important in wedding photography as shown in this exhibit photo.

 

Wedding gifts are listed in this book on display.

Wedding gifts are listed in this book on display.

 

That is evident in Wedding Traditions of Steele County, a recently-opened exhibit at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna. Although bridal gowns certainly are the highlight, there is so much more to be seen—in the photos, in the genealogy, in the explanations of traditions.

 

This bow sits on the shoulder/neckline of a dress.

This bow sits on the shoulder/neckline of a dress.

 

Lovely fabric rosettes adorn a 1964 bridal gown.

Lovely fabric rosettes adorn a 1964 bridal gown.

 

A sash ties in the front of a dress designed by Owatonna native Scott Nylund.

A sash ties in the front of a dress designed by Owatonna native Scott Nylund.

 

An illusion neckline drapes on a 1949 bridal gown.

An illusion neckline drapes on a 1949 bridal gown.

 

As I took in the displays, I found myself focusing on details in bridal gown design.

 

Sharon West and her wedding party party get ready for her September 1959 wedding at the United Methodist Church in Owatonna.

Sharon West and her wedding party get ready for her September 1959 wedding at the United Methodist Church in Owatonna. Although this vintage shot doesn’t look posed, it likely was.

 

And then I studied the wedding photos, noting how wedding photography has changed from mostly formal posed portraits to the journalistic style of today.

 

A name place card is among items displayed.

A name place card is among items displayed.

 

Details, details, details. In planning a wedding, they are essential. And this exhibit shows that.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for one final post in this Wedding Traditions of Steele County series. Click here to read my first post in this series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping vintage in Minneapolis: I never thought my daughter would find her wedding dress in a (former) garage April 16, 2013

The unassuming exterior of Andrea's Vintage Bridal, housed in a former garage.

The unassuming exterior of Andrea’s Vintage Bridal, housed in a former garage.

IN THE UNLIKELIEST OF PLACES—an old auto garage—in the definitively hip and cool Lyn-Lake Neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, my first-born bride-to-be daughter set her heart on finding the perfect gown for her late September wedding.

On Saturday, Amber, her sister Miranda and I arrived for our 10 a.m appointment at Andrea’s Vintage Bridal, located in an unassuming block building angled into a corner of West 26th Street and Aldrich Avenue just off arterial Lyndale Avenue.

Inside Andrea's you'll find a wide selection of vintage dresses, shoes and accessories.

Inside Andrea’s you’ll find a wide selection of vintage dresses, shoes and accessories.

I was expecting a Victorian venue for this vintage attire. But, instead, I found the sweet surprise of this garage transformation from grease under your nails to manicured nails, from rags to lace. I expect if I’d peeked under one of the many scattered area rugs, I may have uncovered a faint oil stain.

The mismatch of expectations and reality seems fitting for a bridal shop that rates as anything but ordinary in the wedding fashion business.

Nikolina Erickson-Gunther consults with my eldest daughter.

Nikolina Erickson-Gunther consults with my eldest daughter.

“No one in the world is doing what we do—focusing on redesign (of vintage bridal gowns),” says Nikolina Erickson-Gunther, who runs the shop with her mother, Andrea Erickson.

Dresses from the 20s and 30s.

An example of Andrea’s bridal gown offerings, divided by vintage year.

From pre-1920s antique to 80s glam and everything in between—sleek 30s, lacy 50s, early 60s ballroom and those oh-so-cool hip flower child late 60s and early 70s—Andrea’s continually stocks around 350 gowns for those future brides, like my daughter, who appreciate vintage and a dress that is anything but the latest trendy style. You would be hard-pressed to find a strapless gown here.

Nikolina, her mom and associates specialize in customer service that focuses as much on individualized attention as the vision of how a bridal gown can be redesigned. Because these are one-of-kind finds, brides-to-be shopping Andrea’s need the ability to envision the transformation of a pulled-from-the-rack bridal dress into the perfect gown.

A sweet vintage dress, left, and Nikolina reflected in shop mirrors.

A sweet vintage dress, left, and Nikolina reflected in shop mirrors with racks of bridal gowns.

Working with vintage-attired and vintage-obsessed fashionable Nikolina, it’s easy to imagine any dress customized to fit a bride’s body and style. Nikolina, who holds a degree in film and 10 years experience as a make-up artist, possesses a commanding knowledge of fashion and style that exudes confidence.

Andrea's focuses on redesigning vintage wedding dresses.

Andrea’s focuses on redesigning vintage wedding dresses.

Under her tutelage, it was easy to envision sleeves and high necklines removed, lace tacked, straps added and more as Amber tried on about a half dozen dresses before finding hers, one that needs few adjustments. Because I am sworn to secrecy, I cannot share her pick. But suffice to say, she will look stunningly elegant on her wedding day.

That it should have been so easy for my girl to find “the dress” not only pleased, but surprised me. I was not expecting this.

And for someone like me, who really dislikes clothes shopping, Andrea’s offers a relaxing singular customer-focused experienced. Nikolina wasn’t darting between future brides trying to make the sale during our two-hour appointment. She settled Miranda and me onto a comfy cream-colored sofa outside a dressing room and dubbed us “the queen and princess” when I asked her to define our roles. Then she continued in her sole role of adviser and visionary to Amber.

Pierre

Pierre

Shopping for a bridal gown can become emotionally-charged, Nikolina says. And that perhaps is the reason her mother brings Pierre, a white poodle, to the shop. Pierre, Andrea’s unofficial therapy dog, accompanies her to her other job as a licensed counselor. Now I am not much of a dog person, but even I was drawn to the charming Pierre who mostly lounges on the floor. Nikolina advised us, if we had food in our bags, to keep them close or Pierre would rummage for the treats. I kept my purse close, having stashed several granola bars inside.

Poodle decor in the shop.

Canine art, in lamp and painting.

A kitschy poodle clock in a window display.

A kitschy poodle clock in a window display.

While a dog in a shop can ease tensions, so can the loving rapport between Andrea and Nikolina, evident when Andrea several times calls her daughter Pickles, a sweet childhood nickname. They work well together with Nikolina leading the gown fittings and Andrea occasionally offering input.

Andrea Erickson, bridal boutique owner and therapist.

Andrea Erickson, bridal boutique owner and therapist.

Nikolina returned from Boston to Minneapolis to help her mom run this organically-grown vintage bridal boutique, opened some half-dozen years ago. Andrea’s desire to offer brides an alternative wedding dress shopping venue and experience stems from her own frustrations in 2004 as a middle-aged bride-to-be seeking a gown different from what other brides were wearing. She eventually settled on a custom-made dress.

A view looking toward the front door.

A view looking toward the front door.

Soon thereafter, Andrea began collecting vintage wedding dresses, eventually opening Andrea’s Vintage Bridal and creating, as her daughter says, “a space that was different.”

Andrea's sells an assortment of vintage merchandise that includes jewelry, displayed here.

Andrea’s sells an assortment of vintage merchandise that includes jewelry, displayed here.

On this Saturday morning the old auto garage at 723 West 26th Street proves the ideal venue for my bride-to-be eldest who often shops thrift stores and appreciates vintage.

It is not lost on me either that her father, my husband, works as an automotive machinist, an unexpected historical link that brings this entire vintage wedding dress shopping experience full circle for our family.

Shopping Andrea’s Vintage Bridal was simply meant to be.

My daughters leave Andrea's Vintage Bridal after Amber, right, finds her "perfect" wedding dress.

My daughters leave Andrea’s Vintage Bridal after Amber, right, finds her “perfect” wedding dress.

FYI: Regular store hours at Andrea’s Vintage Bridal are from 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Gowns are shown by appointment. Click here to reach Andrea’s website.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Need shoes? Andrea's sells those, too.

Need shoes? Andrea’s sells those, too.

Plenty of shoes from which to choose.

Plenty of shoes, and gloves, from which to choose.

Vintage dresses, vintage signage.

Vintage dresses, vintage signage.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The search is on for the “perfect” wedding dress April 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:32 AM
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My mom's dress came from the Lorraine Shop in Mankato. You'll see my mom's name, Arlene, written on the box cover.

My mom’s dress came from the Lorraine Shop in Mankato. You’ll see my mom’s name, Arlene, written on the box cover.

I HAD HOPES, when the boxed vintage wedding dresses were stashed into the back of the van for the 120-mile trip from Vesta to Faribault, that one would fit my newly-engaged daughter.

My Aunt Marilyn's bridal gown was shipped from New York to the Lorraine Shop in Mankato for 77 cents in 1961.

My Aunt Marilyn’s bridal gown was shipped from New York to the Lorraine Shop in Mankato for 77 cents in 1961.

She’d asked that I bring them—her grandma’s and her Great Aunt Marilyn’s bridal gowns—back for her to try on.

Aunt Marilyn's dress with the slim waist.

The bodice of Aunt Marilyn’s dress with the slim waist.

But, alas, no matter that my daughter is tiny, she was not slim enough to be buttoned into Marilyn’s 1961 bridal gown. Besides, she thought the skirt too pouffy.

Just like the back of my aunt's dress, my mom's bridal gown closes with a long row of buttons.

Just like the back of my aunt’s dress, my mom’s bridal gown closes with a long row of buttons.

And, although my mother’s 1954 dress was not quite as narrow, the fit was still too snug for comfort on my 27-year-old. But mostly, the bodice lace was itchy and comfort counts on your wedding day.

My parents, Vern and Arlene, on their September 25, 1954, wedding day.

My parents, Vern and Arlene, on their September 25, 1954, wedding day.

So the bride-to-be has moved to Plan B, scheduling an appointment at Andrea’s Vintage Bridal in south Minneapolis. I am delighted with my daughter’s first shopping choice. I can easily envision my girl wearing something from a bygone era. It fits her down-to-earth style and personality.

Several times she’s expressed her desire to find a gown different from the norm and, most definitely, not a strapless one. I’m totally with her on that. At way too many weddings, I’ve watched brides tug at their strapless bodices to keep everything up and in place.

No matter what dress she eventually chooses, I am confident it will be the right choice for her. Not me. Not her sister. But her, my darling precious bride-to-be eldest daughter.

SHARE YOUR WEDDING dress story with us, or tips on how and where to find the “perfect” bridal gown. And, if you have a vintage bridal dress…

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling