With a Few Small Updates, This Bride Made Her Mother’s Dress Her Own

She even paired the 1990s gown with a 90s-inspired choker

Left photograph by Pamela Lepold Photography.

Long before she got engaged, says Katherine Estep, she loved the idea of someday wearing her mom’s wedding dress. Her parents married in September 1992 at Arlington’s Fort Myer Chapel, where her mother wore a satin gown with lace sleeves. As Katherine and her fiancé started planning their April 2019 wedding, she had in mind the ’90s heirloom. “I tried on a few [other] dresses for fun, but I wasn’t seeing anything similar at the salons,” she says. “I had to see if my mom’s gown could be ‘the one.’ ”

She and her mother headed to Katherine’s grandmother’s house, where the dress had been stored, and the three women shared in the anticipation. “It fit like a glove, and we just knew it had to be a sign,” says Katherine. “I remember looking at my grandmother and we both were like, ‘Yep, this is it. This is the dress.’ It was such an emotional moment.”

Still, Katherine wanted a few changes, so she asked the tailor at Tang’s Alterations to remove the sleeves and update the look. “I couldn’t move my arms in the dress, but my mom was [nervous] about taking off the sleeves. I also knew my sister would one day want to try to wear the gown.” The tailor solved the dilemma by removing the sleeves in such a way that they could be added back for a different bride. “I also got my veil at Tang’s to change things up, instead of wearing my mom’s ’90s headband,” laughs Katherine. On the big day, she completed her look with another sentimental item: a ’90s-inspired pearl choker. “It was the one accessory my mom told me she wished she had worn to her wedding,” she says. “Now it’s one of my favorite jewelry pieces.”

This article appears in the August 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

Assistant Editor, Washingtonian Weddings

Jacqueline comes to Washingtonian with close to five years of digital content experience and SEO best practices. She previously was a senior editorial associate at WeddingWire, specializing in wedding fashion, and before that, an assistant at Vow Bride. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, she now lives in Columbia Heights.