'I just feel like it's cool that it's just a part of her that I'm bringing into the present day, and it does make me feel closer to her,' she shared.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 9, 2022. It has since been updated.
A 27-year-old woman's TikToks are going viral on social media with a pleasantly surprising blast from the past. Maddy Bill, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, has grabbed the attention of more than 6.6 million people since March when she posted a video of herself opening a green suitcase from the 1950s. In it was vintage clothing that her grandmother, Marie D'Alessandro Donato, wore during her honeymoon to New York in 1952. Donato—who is now 91—had such a blast during that trip with her late husband Anthony James Donato that she wanted to preserve her memories of the honeymoon in tangible form.
She did so by creating a fashion capsule of what she wore, tucking every outfit away in the same suitcase she took with her on the trip seven decades ago. "The excitement of the future ahead was what my honeymoon meant to me," Donato explained to Insider. "I guess, in a way, I wanted to save that feeling in the suitcase for my daughters and their daughters." Bill eventually inherited the suitcase from her mom and was so moved by what it represented that she decided to share it with the rest of the world in a series of heartwarming videos.
"I've always known about this suitcase ever since I was a little girl. My mom discovered it when she was a little older and she told me about it and she selflessly saved it for me and my sister for when we were of age," Bill told Good Morning America. "I opened it up and I was just like, 'This is the coolest thing I've ever seen,' because it really just brought back everything to me, especially memories—my grandfather passed about 21 years ago—so just those memories of my grandparents in that time in their life, it's just really cool."
The Donatos got married in 1952 and visited various spots in Manhattan in May of that year, including a stop at The New Yorker Hotel. According to Bill, her grandmother had told her it rained throughout their trip. "She was like, 'I did not care because I was with my honey'—that's what she called my pop pop," she said. "And she had just a wonderful time just being with him and really just taking it all in—that there was this time in their life where they could start a family and all these things she'd always dreamed of."
In a series of videos following her original TikTok post, Bill tried on her grandmother's honeymoon clothing—including dresses, blouses and accessories—and was thrilled to find that they all fit her "like a glove." Although the outfits dated back to the '50s, she revealed that they had all been well-preserved. "It's pretty cool how they've been so intact to this day, like it was 70 years ago [and] there's elastic on some of the pieces and [they're] still springy," Bill said. The first piece she tried on for TikTok was a black buttoned dress with a cinched waist and short sleeves. "I remember in her living room, she has that portrait of her at the New Yorker... in her black dress, and it's just always been something that fascinated me," Bill said.
In part two of her "Grandmother's Honeymoon" wardrobe try-on series, Bill showed off a striped top and a matching gray jacket and skirt ensemble that her grandmother wore to take the train to New York. Bill shared that she grew close to her grandparents when she was a young girl as they would watch her when her parents were away at work. She described Donato as "very nurturing and loving and caring" and said that being able to try on her clothes decades later was particularly special. "She had a few blouses that I've worn out to dinner with my boyfriend and one of my best friends, and I just feel like it's cool that it's just a part of her that I'm bringing into the present day, and it does make me feel closer to her," Bill said, adding that she's saving the dresses to wear for a special occasion.
Bill shared that she's heard from many strangers online since sharing her grandma's honeymoon wardrobe. "I was just like, 'This is something maybe people would like, maybe a few people would see it,' and it kind of got a lot bigger than I expected," she said. "But it's all been really cool, a chance to share [my grandma] with the world." According to Bill, Donato has an idea of how famous she's become online even though she's not on TikTok herself.
"She is aware that this is happening. Obviously, TikTok is not in her realm of knowledge. It's so foreign to her … so I just described it like a little television and people all over the place are seeing her and they're admiring her style," Bill said. "I definitely want to save it for someone. Maybe my future kid or someone special in my life that's younger than me, because I mean, I don't want it to just to be a current piece that is being worn, I want it to be savored for someone in my future too, like my grandmother did for me."