The Recorder – Grandma’s wedding gown returns for an encore

TURNERS FALLS — A wedding dress is often regarded as an irreplaceable keepsake from the greatest day of a lifetime. Rarely, though, does it get to play the same role twice.

Turners Falls resident Allie Livingwater, 24, fit the 1960s ballgown like a glove. Even in its dingy, basement-kept state, the dress maintained a sort of majesty that Livingwater had dreamed of as a little girl — the same majesty that her grandmother walked the aisle with over half a century earlier.

“I came out and she was just speechless,” Livingwater said of her now-88-year-old grandmother, Anne Cooke, as she emerged from a fitting.

“It just fit her perfect,” Cooke confirmed. “I couldn’t believe that.”

Around seven years ago, long before she got engaged, teenage Livingwater was helping clean out her basement alongside her parents, sister, and grandmother, who had lived together in the house Livingwater’s grandfather built since she was a year old. In the process, she came across an old bag, complete with a hearty layer of dust. What was inside sparked the fireworks of childhood fantasies fit for a Disney intro.

“Since I was a little girl, I always wanted a ballgown like a princess. A Barbie on top of the cake type thing,” she said. “It had all of the styles I really wanted in it. The details, the long sleeves, the ballgown, everything.”

Enamored, Livingwater decided to put on the “wrinkly thing.” Fitting her well, she took to her kitchen as if it were the aisle to show her family, who marveled at the sight of bridged time. She said her father was particularly stricken with awe, having known the garment from when Cooke, his mother, married his late father.

Then, as her grandmother had done some 50-plus years earlier, Livingwater packed it away.

Fast-forward to 2021, Livingwater and her fiancé, Greenfield native Timmy Livingwater, had begun preparations for their Sept. 25 wedding at Turners Falls Rod & Gun Club. It didn’t take long for Livingwater’s mind to travel back in time once again.

“When I got engaged, it popped back into my mind and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I have to go back and find it,’” she said of the dress.

Livingwater uncovered the ballgown as she had when she was younger with marriage existing as but an “abstract idea” in her head. Now, with it becoming a reality and a wedding on the horizon, she hoped the dress might not look too out-of-place as she tried it on. She was not disappointed.

“It fit me absolutely perfectly …” Livingwater said. “It was almost like it was meant to be.”

The decision she made to wear the dress was “pretty instantaneous,” she recalled.

“I thought you would go and get something really special, knowing you,” Cooke said to her granddaughter, who responded with a soft laugh.

The dress itself seemed to agree with Livingwater’s choice, proving to be astoundingly low-maintenance as she had it restored by Mohawk Trail’s Meg Hawkins.

“I did not have to get it altered at all,” Livingwater said, adding that aside from a light cleaning, the only necessary restoration work was the re-attachment of some lace and the addition of a hoop skirt as Cooke once had.

Livingwater said the wedding was a success, with her marriage to Timmy “going great.” Looking back on her bridal attire, which still resides in the house she grew up in, Livingwater reflects on what her grandmother has meant to her all these years and the many “fundamental things” she has learned from her.

“We’ve always been super close, me and my sister with her,” Livingwater said. “We never really had to get a babysitter. We always had Grammy there.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or