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: Denver’s first Catholic classical high school opens under patronage of Our Lady of Victory

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Nearly half a millennium ago, thousands of Catholics heeded Pope Pius V’s call to pray the Rosary requesting Our Lady’s intercession for the deliverance of Europe from Turkish invasion.

In a miraculous triumph, at what came to be known as the “Battle of Lepanto,” the outnumbered Christian “Holy League” overcame the Turkish forces, winning Our Lady of the Rosary a new advocation: Our Lady of Victory.

Today, Denver’s new and first Catholic classical high school has chosen Our Lady of Victory as its patroness, with the mission of developing the whole person and forming students who are holy, well-educated and prepared to engage the present culture and contribute to society.

Our Lady of Victory High School is part of the Chesterton Schools Network, which encourages parent-led Catholic schools across the nation, inspired by the life and work of G.K. Chesterton, who wrote a poem about the victory at Lepanto.

Although the school is not an archdiocesan high school, it has been officially recognized by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila as a Catholic school. This fall’s inaugural 9th grade class will launch at the St. Louis Parish School building in Denver with nearly 20 students.

“Chesterton’s model of joyful Catholicism draws upon the classical tradition but is very evangelical: It engages the culture with a joyful approach to being Catholic… rather than a reactionary one,” said Dr. R. Jared Staudt, President of the school, Director of Formation at the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute. “We want to form saints to go out and do great things for the Lord within our culture.”

The classical education approach highlights the trivium (logic, grammar and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy).

“We emphasize Socratic dialogue as well as the trivium: how to read texts carefully and understand them through grammar, how to think about them in a coherent manner through logic, and then how to express yourself well in writing and speech through rhetoric; but also the quadrivium: How do we understand the logical order and beauty of the universe?” Dr. Staudt explained.

The benefits of this type of education are many, he assured.

“It’s not just a practical output, but about forming strong dispositions of thinking, of being able to evaluate things, being able to form a plan of action for your life that will translate into being successful in the future.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things,” Dr. Staudt said.

Part of what makes this goal possible is the communion between faith and reason. Students begin the school day with daily Mass; read Homer, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton, etc.; and study the Bible and the Catechism. They participate in a curriculum where history, philosophy, literature and theology are “braided together,” as their website states.

Part of what makes it unique is also its approach to the fine arts and to mathematics and science.

“We emphasize the fine arts because we want the students to be engaged with beauty and wonder… We want to humanize them, to make them more fully alive,” Dr. Staudt said.

“I would say we also approach math and science from that perspective. We take math and science very seriously, but not as something dry and textbook based, but something that is engaging the beauty, the logic, the wonder of the universe, and the fact that we can logically understand [it] because it is itself something that is a creative work of a mind, of God’s mind, and his beauty is impressed within it.”

As part of this approach, the school has implemented in its unique formation a lot of time in the outdoors, beginning the year with a three-day backpacking trip with the students and ending with a whitewater rafting trip.
The school also plans on having retreats throughout the year, attending and hosting fine arts events and providing service opportunities for its students.

“I think that’s truly part of what makes us unique, that we want to develop the whole person: body, mind and soul,” Dr. Staudt explained.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things.”

The seed for the foundations of the school began with the desire of a group of Denver Catholic parents for a holistic, classical formation for their children, also motived by the need for a Catholic high school in the South Denver metro area.

Hoping to open a Catholic classical high school for their children in the future, six dads organized a series of monthly talks titled “The First Educators” at St. Mary Parish in Littleton from September to November 2018 as a first step to help in this direction.

Little did they know that their dream would become reality only a few months later, with the help of Dr. Staudt, the Chesterton Schools Network and the support of other parents around the archdiocese.

With six experienced teachers on board, the mission-driven school is set to begin forming students in the classical tradition.

“We want them to be holy. I would say that is our biggest overarching goal, that we want to form saints in the sense that they are thinking people who are well-educated and well prepared to engage the world and make a contribution in society – but [in a way] that holiness integrates everything else that we do,” Dr. Staudt concluded.

For more information, visit ourladyofvictorydenver.com.