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A 72-year-old 'lucky' gown has been worn by eight brides across three generations in this family
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A 72-year-old 'lucky' gown has been worn by eight brides across three generations in this family

'Everyone who has been married in the dress has had a long-lasting, healthy marriage, so we like to think it brings good luck.'

Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Mark van Dam
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When Adele Larson Stoneberg bought a white satin wedding gown at Marshall Field's department store in downtown Chicago in 1950, she probably didn't realize she was purchasing a family heirloom that many future brides in her family would tie the knot in. And yet, 72 years down the line, her granddaughter Serena Stoneberg Lipari wore the same now-vintage gown for her wedding on August 5 at Ebenezer Lutheran Church—the same Chicago church where Stoneberg got married in. "There was no question that I would become the eighth bride to wear the dress," 27-year-old Lipari told The Washington Post.

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As she walked down the aisle in the long-sleeved gown with a floor-length train, high collar and tiny elegant buttons down the back, Lipari said she felt a special connection to all the brides who previously wore the dress—including her now-deceased grandmother. "When I started to walk down the aisle and thought about my grandmother also wearing the dress, the emotion hit me," the newlywed shared. After her wedding, Stoneberg loaned the gown—which cost $100 at the time of its purchase—to her two sisters for their weddings. Over the years, Stoneberg's daughter and three nieces also asked to wear the special dress on their big days.

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"The dress she settled on was well made and timeless," said Stoneberg's sister, Eleanor "Elly" Larson Milton, who was the maid of honor at Stoneberg's wedding. "It's a very classic dress, with a beautiful bodice, a Mandarin collar and lots of buttons. When you touch that high-quality satin, you realize it's way above average." The 90-year-old revealed that when it was time for her own wedding in 1953, she immediately knew what she wanted to wear. "My mother had taken excellent care of the dress and stored it in an airtight box," she said. "It never occurred to me not to wear it. It was perfect in every way."

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After Milton's wedding, the dress went into storage for 16 years until her sister, Sharon Larson Frank, strengthened the family tradition by wearing it to her wedding in 1969. "Our mother never told us we had to wear the dress—it just kind of evolved," said 77-year-old Frank. "It's a traditional dress, and we could all make it fit with a few minor adjustments. When my mom offered to take me shopping for another dress, I immediately told her, 'No, I'd like to wear this one.'" Although every bride who has worn the dress has added a few flourishes of their own, they've done their best to stay true to its original design.

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"We all had our own veils, bouquets and jewelry, and our individual personalities shined through when walked down the aisle on our wedding day," shared Stoneberg's daughter, Sue Stoneberg McCarthy, who wore the gown to her wedding in 1982. "Wearing that beautiful dress on my special day made me feel close to my mother and aunts." A few years later, in 1990, the dress was taken out of its storage box for the fifth time for Eleanor Milton's daughter, Carole Milton Zmuda. Her sister Jean Milton Ellis also walked down the aisle in the dress in the following year. Their cousin, Julie Frank Mackey, became the seventh bride in the family to don the satin gown when she wore it to her wedding in 2013.

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"Everyone who has been married in the dress has had a long-lasting, healthy marriage, so we like to think it brings good luck," said Mackey, 42. "We hope to continue to preserve the dress—and the tradition—for many weddings to come." The family credits Sharon Larson Frank for caring for the dress and storing it properly. "I keep it in a sealed box and use a small [mannequin-like] form on the top to help the bodice keep its shape," she revealed. While there are many young female family members who could have a wedding in the future, Frank assures them there will be no pressure to wear the gown. However, if they do wear the family heirloom, they will need another dress for their reception. "We now have an unwritten rule that nobody wears the dress to their reception," she explained. "To avoid stains."

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