Business transforms sacramental dresses for the next generation

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: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash