A bride turned her mom’s wedding dress from 1985 into a modern gown with a sheer bodice and dramatic train

A side-by-side of a bride and her daughter wearing the same dress 26 years apart.
Erika Redding updated her mother’s wedding dress from the 1980s for her own wedding. Yours Truly Media
  • Erika Redding and Christel Wekon-Kemeni got married on September 5, 2021.
  • Redding wore her mother’s wedding dress from 1985 to the Atlanta, Georgia, nuptials.
  • She turned the original long-sleeve gown into an A-line dress with a semi-sheer bodice.

Erika Redding and Christel Wekon-Kemeni met at the University of Miami.
A couple sits in a field and smiles.
They’ve been together for over seven years. Yours Truly Media
As Redding, 26, told Insider, the couple first met when she was a freshman and Wekon-Kemeni, 28, was a junior in 2013 at the Florida school.

They started dating in 2014, and they’ve been together ever since.

Today, the couple lives in North Carolina with their dog, Nutmeg. Redding is a PhD student who works in public health, and Wekon-Kemeni is a pediatrician in his residency. 

Wekon-Kemeni proposed to Redding the day he graduated from medical school.
A couple hugs and leans their noses together as the groom puts a hand against a wall.
They got engaged in 2019. Yours Truly Media
After he graduated from medical school in 2019, Wekon-Kemeni got down on one knee in front of his friends and family as a surprise for Redding. 

As Wekon-Kemeni told How They Asked, he wanted to propose to Redding on the day he graduated because it felt like he and Redding “were graduating from this stage of our lives together.”

The couple planned their wedding for May 2021, though they eventually postponed it until September 5, 2021, because of the pandemic. 

Redding said she “always wanted to wear” her mother’s wedding dress on the day she got married.
A bride in a long sleeve dress and veil poses for a photo.
Redding knew she wanted to wear her mom’s dress. Erika Redding
Her mom, Kimberly Covington Redding, wore a long-sleeve gown with a high neckline to her 1985 wedding. The dress had shoulder pads, netting on the bodice, and a skirt covered in intricate lace.

Redding’s aunt also wore the dress in the 1980s. 

“I always knew I wanted to wear it,” Redding said of her mother’s dress. “But it was very dated.”

“It was just a matter of trying to figure out how to wear it,” she went on to say.

Redding decided to update the dress.

Redding worked with a seamstress to turn the dress into the gown of her dreams.
A bride poses in her wedding dress in front of a mansion.
She transformed the dress. Yours Truly Media
Redding hired Gizzelle James Couturiere to transform the dress.

The bride said her mom was “excited and touched” that she wanted to wear her dress, and she was supportive of Redding updating it for her own wedding.

Redding had her initial appointment with James in 2020, during which she brought inspiration images for what she hoped the dress would look like. They started truly changing the dress in the summer of 2021.

The original bodice became a form-fitting V neck that featured modern lace.
A bride touches her earring as she poses for a photo.
The top of the dress was completely different. Yours Truly Media
James removed the sleeves and high neckline from the gown.

Rather than preserving the original lace on the bodice, James used modern lace she had in her shop to better fit with Redding’s vision.

The floral lace sat atop sheer fabric, flowing onto the straps covering Redding’s shoulders.

James also had to dye the additional lace to ensure it matched the original dress.
A bride and groom look at each other in front of a mansion.
James dyed the lace. Yours Truly Media
As Redding told Insider, the original dress was off-white, but the scrap lace James used to create the bodice was stark white.

“She ended up dyeing the lace with tea to make it a bit darker,” Redding said. “She rebuilt the whole bodice.”

The updated dress had a new back, but the original skirt remained intact.
A bride looks over her shoulder in her wedding dress.
Redding didn’t change the skirt. Yours Truly Media
The skirt was covered in lace from the ’80s, and Redding also requested James keep the original scalloped train intact.

The train became her favorite part of the gown.

“The train is what was really gorgeous,” she said. “They don’t make dresses like that anymore. It was really cool to be able to preserve that vintagey part of it.”

She did change the top of the back of the dress though, turning it into a deep V that was surrounded by more see-through fabric and lace. It mirrored the front of the dress.

James charged Redding just $US1,800 ($AU2,566) to transform the gown.

Redding paired the dress with a floor-length veil.
A bride looks over her shoulder while posing in front of a mansion.
A floor-length veil completed the look. Yours Truly Media
“It was just a plain white veil, because the dress was so intricate that I didn’t want the veil to take away from that,” Redding said.

She bought it from Etsy.

Redding wore her hair in a simple updo, and she had a soft glam makeup look.

“I don’t wear a lot of makeup in my everyday life, so I didn’t want to look completely different from how I normally look,” she said. “I wanted to look like myself.”

K. Lynn Artistry did Redding’s hair and makeup.

James dyed Redding’s wedding shoes as well.
A mother helps a bride put on her shoes.
The shoes were originally white. Yours Truly Media
Just like the scrap lace, Redding’s beaded Betsey Johnson high heels were white.

James dyed them so they would match her dress.

The dress wasn’t ready until just two days before Redding said ‘I do.’
A bride looks down wearing her wedding dress and holding a bouquet.
Remaking the dress was a process. Yours Truly Media
Although James was able to create the dress Redding hoped to wear, it wasn’t easy to rebuild the dress.

Originally, James thought Redding and her mother wanted to preserve the original lace all over the dress, but Redding was hoping for a more modern look.

Redding came in for an appointment in August — just a month before her wedding — and the dress didn’t look right.

James told her to come back the next day, and she worked through the night to transform the dress. Overnight, she got the idea to use new, dyed lace on sheer fabric for the bodice, which she showed to Redding the next day.

“She had done all of this magic on the dress, and it looked so good,” Redding said. “So from there, it was just a mad dash. I didn’t see my final dress until two days before the wedding.”

“It was perfect,” Redding said of the final look.
A bride and groom leave their wedding ceremony.
She loved the updated gown. Yours Truly Media
“It was exactly how I envisioned it,” Redding told Insider. 

“I had an inspiration picture that I’d sent [James], and it looked better than the inspiration picture,” she went on to say. “I was really happy.”

Redding’s mother loved the gown’s transformation.
A bride and her mother lean their heads together.
Redding and her mother at the wedding. Yours Truly Media
“She was really excited,” Redding said of her mom’s reaction to the dress. “She was also just relieved that it worked out and it looked good.”

“At the wedding, she was telling everyone, ‘Yeah, that’s my dress,'” Redding said. “She was really proud.”

Wekon-Kemeni didn’t see Redding’s dress until the ceremony.
A groom smiles as his bride walks towards him during their wedding ceremony.
They didn’t do a first look. Yours Truly Media
“He loved it,” Redding said of her husband’s reaction to the dress. “I don’t know if he necessarily appreciated that it was hand-sewn by a tailor, but he loved it.”

“He thought it was really pretty,” she added.

Wekon-Kemeni wore a patterned tuxedo jacket to the wedding.
A groom and his groomsmen walk together wearing tuxedos.
Wekon-Kemeni wore a patterned tuxedo. Yours Truly Media
He and Redding wanted to ensure he stood out from the groomsmen on the wedding day.

So Wekon-Kemeni wore a black-and-gray patterned jacket, while his groomsmen wore traditional black jackets.

Redding and Wekon-Kemeni said ‘I do’ in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.
A bride and groom kiss at the end of their wedding altar in front of a mansion.
The ceremony was outdoors. Yours Truly Media
They got married at the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center.

They said their vows outside on the lawn.

House of Bash planned the event, providing the flowers and decor, while Grace Mae from Yours Truly Media was their photographer. Paper Daisies provided their stationery. 

They said their vows together during their ceremony.
A side-by-side of a bride and groom saying their vows and kissing during their wedding ceremony.
They personalized the ceremony. Yours Truly Media
Wekon-Kemeni and Redding were married by their friend Donovan Livingston.

“We wanted some traditional aspects, but we wanted him to modernize it a little bit to make sure that we were equals,” Redding said of her and Wekon-Kemeni’s approach to their vows.

“I definitely wanted to make sure that the religious thread was still there, because those are things that are important to both of us and to our families, but we also wanted to make it our own,” she added.

The couple ended up speaking their vows in unison, sending the message that they were true partners from the moment they said ‘I do.’

The couple’s reception took place inside a ballroom at the Swan House.
A bride and groom dance during their wedding reception.
The couple during their first dance. Yours Truly Media
Affairs to Remember catered the event, and Rach Makes Cakes provided the wedding cake.

She also made the couple a University of Miami-themed groom’s cake to honor their alma mater.

Wekon-Kemeni and Redding also served Krispy Kreme doughnuts as a late-night snack.

Redding said one of her favorite moments of the day was taking photos with her bridesmaids.
A bride walks with her bridesmaids in front of a mansion.
Redding appreciated spending time with her bridesmaids. Yours Truly Media
The bridal party took photos in front of the Swan House before the ceremony, and Redding said she valued the downtime with her bridesmaids.

“I thought that was really fun,” Redding said, adding that each of her bridesmaids played an integral role in the day, from getting ready with her to toasting her at the reception.

The whole day felt more special because she wore her mom’s dress, as Redding told Insider.
A bride and her mother look at each other on her wedding day.
Wearing her mom’s dress was special. Yours Truly Media
“I couldn’t have imagined wearing anything else,” Redding said of her dress.

“I think it was just so much more meaningful to know that my mom and my aunt wore it,” she went on to say. “I’m very grateful we were able to do that.”

“You can’t buy a dress like that,” she added, especially for the price that James offers.

“She was amazing,” Redding said of the seamstress.

She plans to get her dress preserved so her children can wear it someday if they want.

Redding thinks it’s important to have a clear vision if you’re updating an heirloom dress.
A bride and groom kiss in front of a mansion.
Redding advises coming prepared to bridal appointments. Yours Truly Media
“Know what you want,” she said. “Look at inspiration pictures and have a clear idea that you can present.”

“I think our saving grace was having that picture we kept referring back to,” she added. “Sometimes the way you relay your vision may not be how the designer is receiving it.”

Having an image you can both circle back to can ensure the dress turns out how you want, as Redding told Insider.

Redding also said it’s important to start the alterations process early.
A bride poses in her wedding dress in a black and white photo.
Alterations can take a long time. Yours Truly Media
“We started about a year in advance, and honestly we needed every ounce of that year,” Redding said.

“Everyone’s getting married right now,” she added. “Most designers are still super busy. You want to give yourself that time.”

She also encourages brides to be flexible throughout the alterations process.

“It may not be exactly how you envisioned it or exactly the inspiration picture, but having that collaboration with your designer in order to ultimately get what you want” is key, Redding said.

Redding said she loves that she and Wekon-Kemeni are true partners.
A bride and groom smile on their wedding day.
They’re equals. Yours Truly Media
“I think our wedding represented that we’re both equals,” she said. “That can sometimes be really hard to find, where you feel valued and you feel like your opinion carries as much weight. You feel like there’s someone that listens to you and considers your perspective in different situations.”

“I think that’s something he’s very good at,” she said of Wekon-Kemeni. “He’s a very good listener and wants our marriage to be very equitable.”

“I didn’t feel like I had to give up my independence to be married,” Redding added.

“He’s just the kindest person ever,” she said of her husband.
A bride and groom kiss in front of a mansion.
Redding loves Wekon-Kemeni’s kindness. Yours Truly Media
“He’s so kind, so smart, so cute,” she said. “He literally plays with kids all day and makes them feel better.”

“I feel like I have someone who’s supporting me in whatever I want to do,” Redding said.

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If you are in the process of shopping for your wedding dress or have photos from when you shopped and want to talk to Insider for a story, get in touch at [email protected].