Lauren Hodgins remembers first seeing the brocade gown when she was a little girl, living on a farm outside of Craven, Sask.
The formal gown was kept safely inside a garment bag, stored in a closet at her parent’s home. It hadn’t been worn for six decades, not since her grandmother Phyllis Schwann dazzled in it back in the 60’s. Hodgins said the dress was one of many that her grandfather had custom-made for her grandmother. Dr. Paul Schwann, who passed away in 1974, was a pioneer in sports medicine in Saskatchewan. The two would attend countless formal events together.
The more than 50-year-old gown still has the label “Original ElizabethAnn Gowns” stitched neatly into one of the seams.
Love at first sight
The first time that Hodgins tried on the dress at the age of 12, she was instantly in love and immediately got the idea to wear it to her first formal event, her high school prom.
“When I first saw it something kind of clicked. It was so stunning I knew I wanted to wear it,” said Hodgins, now 18 years old and a Grade 12 student at Dr. Martin Leboldus High School in Regina.
“There’s so much sentiment with it. It was really special.”
Phyllis Schwann died in 2018, but was excited for her granddaughter’s plans to alter and wear the gown to prom.
And then COVID-19 put a damper of in person gatherings, and any plans for any sort of graduation ceremony were uncertain. Hodgins started sketching out her designs of how she would like the dress to look anyway, in hopes that she got the chance to wear it to prom. Since it was perfectly preserved over the years, all that needed to be done were alternations.
Some serious alterations however, since Hodgins is 5’11” tall without heels and her grandmother was 5’4”.
A local designer comes to the rescue
Hodgins contacted Regina-based designer Dean Renwick to help.
“We got a phone call from a young lady who said she had her grandmother’s dress … and she brought in this beautiful, beautiful 1960s style brocade. And it’s in a beautiful seafoam green,” Renwick said.
“The minute we saw it, we’re like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but let’s do it.'”
Both Renwick and Hodgins wanted to keep the dress true to its original design, but they needed to make significant alterations so that it was proportionate with Hodgins body and height. That meant trying to find material to match the decades-old fabric during a pandemic.
After several alterations and fittings coupled with a week of eight-hour days, the updated gown was complete. He also discreetly sewed his own label in, opposite of the original ElizabethAnn label, celebrating the collaboration spawn out of a granddaughters love, of two designers bridging six decades.
“I love it. I love it. I love how it looks on her. I like the fact that she carries herself beautifully in it. She’s styling her hair and her jewellery exactly how it should be,” Renwick said.
“I think from top to bottom it looks exquisite.”
Hodgins said the completed dress is perfect.
“It feels almost regal. It reminds me a lot of my grandma. She held herself in a very regal way and was always quite lady-like.”
Read the full story at CBC News.