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.”
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.”
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.”