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: Repenting and renewing our role as shepherds

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Jesus tells the disciples in St. John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” contrasting his goodness with the thieves who come only to steal and destroy.  This past week my fellow U.S. bishops and I sought to act as good shepherds by approving three measures to increase our vigilance and prevention of the evil of sexual abuse by bishops, shepherds who have betrayed the flock entrusted to them.

This last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, which should remind biological and spiritual fathers of their great responsibility of protecting and raising up new life. This mission is further emphasized by the Rite for the Ordination of a Bishop, which says, “In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. Since you are chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.” This is the model for all bishops.

But the scandals of Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Bransfield and others have made it clear that our vigilance has not been adequate. To quote from the just-issued “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitment” statement, “We, the bishops of the United States, have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside of the Church over these failures.  The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance, and a desire to do better.” This sentiment was clear in my interactions with my fellow bishops in Baltimore this past week.

As evidence of our commitment, we overwhelmingly passed a set of directives for the bishops’ conference to implement Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi document on handling abuse by priests and bishops. These directives include the creation by May 31, 2020 of a third-party phone and online system that receives reports of potential violations by bishops, the establishment of a protocol in which the Holy See designates and authorizes metropolitan archbishops to investigate cases of alleged abuse by bishops, and the expectation that the investigating bishop involve lay experts in assisting with these inquiries. For any investigations that falls under my jurisdiction, I will ensure that lay experts are involved, as I’ve done throughout my time as a bishop. As the new directives indicate, I will also appoint a lay person to receive complaints from the third-party reporting system, publicize how to make reports, ascertain the credibility of reports and gather any additional information necessary for an investigation to commence.

I also want to highlight that the bishops overwhelmingly approved protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons and that we adopted a code of conduct for bishops, which explicitly states that the Dallas Charter will now include bishops.

All these measures are in addition to those we have been enforcing since 2002 in relation to preventing sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Archdiocese of Denver has a strong track record of actively working to protect children, including annual audits, background checks of employees and clergy, and a code of conduct that previous bishops and I have all signed, and a robust training program aimed at fostering safe environments for children. The effectiveness of these measures over the past 20 years has made us a model for other institutions seeking to combat abuse.

Pope Francis rightly noted in a January 2019 personal letter to the U.S. bishops that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs or committees.  They can only be resolved by humility, listening, self-examination and conversion.

My brother bishops and I hope that by obeying the Word of God, seeking the will of the Father and embracing what the Church expects of us, we will imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Read more

Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi can be read at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html

The USCCB Directives implementing Vos estis can be read at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2019-june-meeting/upload/usccb-modified-amended-directives-2019-06.pdf

Reach out

Christi Sullivan serves as the Protection Specialist for the Office of Child and Youth Protection and can be reached at 303-715-3241 or Christi.Sullivan@archden.org.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Dr. Jim Langley, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 720-239-2832 or Victim.Assistance@ArchDen.org.