Business transforms sacramental dresses for the next generation

Moira Cullings

When Lauren Forthofer managed a bridal store, she often noticed mothers and grandmothers wishing their daughters and granddaughters would wear their own wedding dress instead of one from the store.

“They’d just have the saddest look on their faces,” said Forthofer. “‘Are you sure you don’t want to wear my dress?’” they’d ask.

Forthofer’s new business offers a new way for those mothers and grandmothers to pass down their dresses to those they love — by transforming them into baptismal, first Communion and flower girl dresses for the next generation.

Although the young girls are excited to have a dress that was created from their loved one’s wedding dress, it’s often the wedding dress owner who is even more grateful.

“You just see all of this emotion come across their faces,” said Forthofer. “It’s almost like they’re remembering when they wore it, and someone so special and dear to them gets to wear it now.”

Photo provided by Lauren Forthofer

Forthofer never planned on starting a business like this.

“My parents and grandparents noticed that a friend of theirs had transformed her dress for a dress for her granddaughter,” she said.

Forthofer’s family members encouraged her to try the same thing.

“I kept saying, ‘That’s really amazing, but maybe not right now. I’m not ready to quit my job right now,” she said.

But after getting engaged and choosing her own wedding dress, something changed.

“I just had this moment where I was like, ‘I get it now,’” said Forthofer. “This is such a great sacrament. How cool that you get to go from one sacrament to the next through a generation or two generations, utilizing the same fabric.”

Forthofer quit her job and started her own business, where she is now able to work with sacramental dresses, as well as regular kids’ clothing during the off season.

Forthofer offers a variety of dress styles, which are displayed as sketches on her website, and helps clients choose the best one based on the style of the wedding dress.

After the design is chosen, Forthofer picks up the wedding dress directly or has it shipped if it’s coming from out of state. She then gets to work on the dress and returns it in about two weeks.

“I try to make it 100 percent out of the old dress, lining and all,” she said. “I use almost every little bit of the fabric.”

Photo provided by Lauren Forthofer

If there is extra fabric, Forthofer gets creative and makes small pieces, like a tie for a boy or a veil for a girl.

Knowing the dresses and accessories will be worn for milestone moments in each child’s life adds a deeper ministerial aspect to Forthofer’s work that begins the moment she receives the wedding dresses.

“You feel a little bit more of a reverence when you’re opening up a box for someone’s bridal gown,” she said. “You can feel it as you sew. There’s something a lot more holy and special and significant in the gown transformation side.”

Forthofer believes the experience is also meaningful for the families she works with.

“There feels like there’s a very spiritual aspect,” she said. “Someone was standing in the church however many years ago receiving the sacrament.

“With the mom and the grandmother getting to see that in a church again with another sacrament happening, there’s a very beautiful spiritual sense to it.”

Forthofer is grateful for her work and the joy it brings to the clients she serves.

“I love what I do, and I never imagined that it would be just as great as it is today,” she said. “It makes my heart happy.”

Visit laurenforth.com for more information, or contact Lauren at lauren@laurenforth.com.

COMING UP: Five Colorado places named after Catholic saints

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On Aug. 1, Colorado will have made it way over the hill at a ripe 144 years old. Better known as Colorado Day, the day commemorates the founding of our great Centennial State in 1876.

The Catholic Church has a rich history in Colorado, and believe it or not, various regions, geographic landmarks and places in the state are named after Catholic saints. The San Juan Mountain Range, the San Miguel River and the San Luis Valley are but a few examples.

In honor of Colorado Day, here are five places within “Colorful Colorado” that take their namesake from a Catholic saint. You probably already know a couple of them, but the other three are real “diamonds in the rough” that are worth making the trek; in fact, two of them were built and founded before Colorado was even Colorado.

Mother Cabrini Shrine, Golden, CO

 

One of Colorado’s most popular pilgrimage sites, it’s hard not to be enamored by Mother Cabrini Shrine. Originally founded as a girls’ summer camp by St. Frances Cabrini in 1910, the shrine overlooks the I-70 corridor heading into the mountains and is as charming as it is relaxing. In addition to the praying in the chapel, visitors can stay in the old Stone House that was built in 1914 or one of the various retreat houses that have been added over the years. Aside from being a wonderful space to pray, Mother Cabrini Shrine doubles as a sort of natural Stairmaster to get those steps in with the 373-step staircase leading up to the shrine, affectionately known as the Stairway of Prayer.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, Allenspark, CO

Photo by Andrew Wright

Better known as the Chapel on the Rock, this functioning Catholic chapel is perhaps one of Colorado’s most iconic landmarks. As the story goes, in the early 20th century, a man by the name of William McPhee owned the land where the chapel stands, known as Camp St. Malo. McPhee was a parishioner of the Cathedral in Denver, and he often allowed the parish to take kids hiking and camping on his property. During one of those trips, several campers saw a meteorite or shooting star that had appeared to hit the earth. They went looking for it and came upon the Rock that now stands as the foundation of St. Catherine of Siena Chapel. Completed in 1936, the chapel’s official namesake is fitting, as both it and St. Catherine of Siena share a common thread of mystical experiences facilitated by the Lord. It has had many visitors over the years, but perhaps none so famous as St. John Paul II who, ever the outdoorsman, just had to make a stop while in Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO

 

Photo courtesy of the Abbey of St. Walburga

Located in the picturesque Virginia Dale, a small community just south of the Wyoming border, the Abbey of St. Walburga is a place where the voice of the Lord lives in the mountains, plains and rivers surrounding it. Named for the patroness of the Benedictine nuns, the abbey was founded in 1935 when three sisters from the Abbey of St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Bavaria were sent to a remote farm in what was Boulder. There, they built a strong foundation for the future of the abbey through hard work, poverty and an immovable trust in God’s providence. Today, the Benedictine nuns of Walburga humbly carry out the good works of the Benedictine order and carry on the legacy started nearly a millennium ago in 1035, when the original Walburg abbey in Eichstätt was founded.

San Luis, CO

Photo by Jeremy Elliot

Moving into the southern most regions of the State of Colorado, the Catholic roots of the region become much more evident. The oldest town in Colorado, San Luis, was founded in 1851 on the Feast of St. Louis, and predates the official founding of Colorado as a state by 25 years. The town is located along the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which translates to “Blood of Christ.” One of the main attractions of the small town of just over 600 is a shrine at the town’s local Catholic parish. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross was built by the parishioners of Sangre de Cristo Parish and the beautiful stations were designed and sculpted by native San Luis sculptor Huberto Maesta.

Capilla de Viejo San Acacio, Costilla County, CO

Photo from Wikicommons

Just to the west of the town of San Luis lies one of Colorado’s oldest gems. The Chapel of Old St. Acacius, or Capilla de Viejo San Acacio as it’s known to the locals, is the oldest non-Native American religious site in Colorado that’s still active today. While the building of the church cannot be dated precisely, it was likely completed sometime in the 1860s. The namesake of the church comes from St. Acacius of Byzantium, a third century martyr. Near the church is the small village of San Acacio, which a local tradition holds got its name after one of the earliest San Luis Valley settlements, originally called Culebra Abajo, was attacked by a band of Ute in 1853. As the Ute attackers approached, the villagers asked for the intercession of St Acacius, a popular saint among their people. The Ute suddenly halted and fled before they reached the town, scared off by a vision of well-armed warriors defending it. In gratitude for this salvation, the village was renamed San Acacio, and the villagers built a mission church in honor of the saint.