The Power of Characters’ Memories

Recently the ARGO independent bookshop on Ste. Catherine St. in Montreal held a writers’ workshop.  One exercise included drafting a character’s memory. Revelation! It’s rather like an actor’s asking questions to prepare for a role, e.g., what would this  character’s best/worst childhood memory be? 

Think about your own choice!

Here is the result for Inma (Inmaculada), a heroine in ONE DRESS, ONE DAY. Ideally it occurs in the plot very early in the morning after a tiring nighttime bus ride back to Barcelona from an encounter with her ex-lover, Rubio.

“She [Inma] saw a fine bouquet on the doorstep of her apartment. Its cellophane and ribbons shimmered in the dim corridor.  This mysterious extravagant gesture startled her.  Who had left the flowers? Flattered then fearful, she paused remembering the sweet clover, violets and dandelions that she would pick on the way home from school. Her mother always took them with a smile.  Somehow this floral offering felt different. With no note, no fragrance it felt fake, too fancy, not fresh from the field or from the heart.”



If treasured, preserved; if cursed, stolen?

Recently, a magazine editor wrote: Today’s brides have plenty of options for what to do with their dress. Some donate or sell their gown, others repurpose the garment into lingerie or cocktail attire, and others ‘trash it’ at a ‘wild and wet’  photo shoot. Many brides, however, want to hang on to that dress that represents so much love, happiness and celebration.

As a formal bridal wear model, I shudder to think of a gown trashed or destroyed. Perhaps an ugly divorce might justify that treatment years later, though.

What  really happens to a used wedding gown?
If rental, returned. If treasured, preserved.
If cursed, stolen?

Mine was stolen (after the ceremony), but I intended to have it altered to wear at least part of it again. I never got to the preservation stage but always wondered about it. My tale of a stolen gown is not the practical process described herein.

Tradition and Superstition

My mother’s very ‘Princess Grace of Monaco’ wedding gown dated from the mid-fifties.  A practical woman, she did have the skirt removed from the bodice and used the lace bolero separately. This was a glamorous side of my mother’s life that I rarely ever saw. She was my ‘mum’ not a lady out on the town. Nevertheless, that gown’s remnants remained stored in a wardrobe bag alongside an apricot bridesmaid’s gown. The scent of mothballs overlaid with dust from electric baseboards and a touch of cedar pervaded the decayed lace.

As a child, I would beg her to let me try on these frocks, hidden away in a closet. She let me play dress-up with a few pieces. Never the wedding dress, though.  Celtic superstition and sentimental pride of ownership may have played a role.

A family friend’s young bride paid a small fortune to have her gown preserved.  Her idea was to create an heirloom.  Fortunately, the couple were blessed with two daughters.  Question:  Who gets the gown? Both?  This starts to sound like Biblical arguments over inheritance.

What is wedding dress preservation?

Sounds simple but the answer is not.  One thing for sure:  NOT SIMPLE DRY CLEANING

A wedding dress is usually carefully designed and extremely delicate, and can’t be cleaned like any old dress. Wedding dress cleaning and preservation is key to making sure the dress lasts a lifetime.

Gown preservation begins with an experienced specialist’s assessment and then a unique treatment plan according to the dress’s fabric, stitching and details, and analyzes stains along the hem  (essentially unavoidable on a ground-grazing ensemble) plus the entire gown.

Whether it’s for sentimental value or the possibility of passing it down to your future daughter, preserving your wedding dress is the best way to retain its color, fabric and shape. it’s easier than ever, now in fact there are even wedding gown preservation kits like the one from Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot. This detailed DIY includes an insurance option.


Preservation refers to the special cleaning and packaging techniques. One key point is to ensure the removal of all the stains, including  hidden ones containing sugar that turn brown over time. This is a big and serious business. There is are various agencies, like the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists in the USA. Similar groups exist in other cities, provinces or countries.

Everyone agrees that you can usually wait until after the honeymoon to take your dress to a preservationist, but remember it’s better to take your gown in while the stains are fresh and not set in (especially if it’s stained with mud or red wine). if you wait years, your gown will need restoration rather than just cleaning!

Finding a Preservationist

Before choosing a preservationist, do a little detective work before the wedding. That way, if your dress is stained badly or damaged on your wedding day, a family or bridal party member can take your dress to the preservationist while you’re on your honeymoon. Ask friends and family, bridal shops or your wedding consultant for preservationist referrals.

A wedding dress is often one of the most important clothing purchases that a young woman makes.  One Montreal wedding boutique advertises preservation as a selling feature. This reminds me of fur storage.  People forget that a fine mink or other animal needs to be maintained in different conditions than your hall closet.

Overall, it’s not really difficult to maintain the quality of your wedding dress. In fact, my mother’s gown hanging from special ribbons in a cloth bag at the back of  a dark closet was not so bad. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind when it comes to hanging, storing, and cleaning the dress. Much depends on your lifestyle, and intentions, e .g. souvenir in the attic  or heirloom to a daughter.

Hanging the Gown Right

Wedding dress materials aren’t known for their strength and durability. Rips, split seams and/or other damage can be easily avoided by simply hanging your dress properly. Hanging a wedding dress is different from hanging a regular dress. The weight of the wedding dress can easily rip or tear if used on a regular hanger. Instead, small loops of fabric sewn into the interior of the dress should be used to hang the gown safely. These loops are placed on the strongest seams in the gown. These offer sufficient support for the weight of the gown and avoid any possible damages.

Cleaning the Dress

Before picking a dry cleaner, make sure that  all of their clients’ clothes are processed on site and that they do their work by hand instead of using an automated system. Try to narrow down your search to dry cleaners specialized in wedding dresses. They will be more familiar with the material especially if it’s intricately designed with beads or gems.

Take a few minutes to learn about the options and check local suppliers first before your decide who to trust with your wedding gown. Bridal boutiques usually are run by experienced owners who have seen a few weddings and can guide you.

Here are the three basic options with their respective benefits:

Sealing Benefits

  • May be acid-free environment (check for lignin-free)
  • Easily stored
  • Protected from dust and light

Boxing Benefits

  • May be acid-free environment (check for lignin-free )
  • Easily stored
  • Protected from dust and light
  • Can be inspected and admired
  • Can be refolded periodically

Bagging Benefits

  • Acid-free environment
  • Easily stored
  • Protected from dust and light
  • Most easily inspected and admired
  • Does not need refolding
  • No permanent creasing
  • Best air circulation
  • Needs minimal maintenance








Arriving by Taxi at the Grand Hotel

Setting:  San Sebastián or Donostia (Basque) lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay 20 km (12 miles) from the French border in the Basque Autonomous Community (Spain) Locals call themselves donostiarra (singular),  in Spanish and Basque.

A small city, it remains one of Spain’s most famous tourist destinations. San Sebastián,  was the European Capital of Culture in 2016. Events such as the eponymous international film festival (October) have given it an international dimension. Pedro Almodóvar just participated in the 2018 edition.

One of the port city’s landmarks is the Maria Cristina hotel, a five-star masterpiece that knew the mystery of Mata Hari and the Hollywood glamour of Elizabeth Taylor.

In One Dress, One Day, the jilted heroine, Inma, decides to travel there by bus from Barcelona. Quite a hike but she is determined to confront her politician-lover Gustavo Rubio, who is attending an emergency meeting at one of the most glamorous grand hotels in town.

Always a stand-out, Inma knows her arriving late  without luggage looks suspicious. She has just had a brush at the bus terminal with starchy Doña Alfonsa. Here is what follows:

“Aware of the older woman’s disapproval, Inma hurried out onto a side street where she intended to hail a cab quickly and reach the María Cristina Hotel before midnight. Obviously this had to be the PSOE’s meeting place. The taxi left her unceremoniously at the impressive staircase of the grand hotel. Inma did not wish to make a splash anyway.  Keenly aware of her surroundings, she strode up to the brass-framed revolving doors with as much confidence as possible.”