Wedding gown mix-up inspires search for owner

Barbara Violette of Orland found another bride’s wedding dress in a preservation box that she’s been carrying around for 32 years as her own. She’d love to get the dress returned to its owner. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

ORLAND — After Barbara Violette’s wedding on June 6, 1987, she had Gold Star Cleaners in Ellsworth clean and preserve her wedding dress.

The dress was wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and carefully boxed up.

Violette opened the box this week for the first time in 32 years only to find another bride’s dress inside.

“I’m looking for the girl to give her the dress back,” said the Stonington native who now lives in Orland.

Violette has two grown sons. One lives in Bangor. The other lives in Nevada and is engaged.

She opened the dress box this month because she wanted to use a bit of lace from her wedding dress to sew onto her older son’s tie when he gets married.

The dress in the box and Violette’s original wedding dress do look similar — both feature the puffy sleeves popular in the 1980s. But, it’s definitely another woman’s dress in the box.

Violette, at 5-foot-10, is statuesque. The dress in her possession was made for a diminutive bride.

The longtime Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School teacher said she’s fine with not having her own wedding gown.

“It’s OK,” she said. “He divorced me.” That was 10 years ago.

The wrong wedding dress was spread out Monday in the living room of the home she shares with her new husband of one year, Rob Violette. Rob’s a good sport, she said.

Eric Pooler, owner of Gold Star Cleaners, said he hopes that whoever owned the dress will see this article.

“The owner of the wedding gown could be anywhere in the U.S.,” Pooler said.

Pooler explained that then and now Gold Star ships wedding dresses to businesses that specialize in preservation.

Thirty years ago his business shipped gowns to a Texas company for preservation. Today the gowns go to a New York preservationist.

Each dress is mailed in a box by itself with the proper paperwork, Pooler said.

“Obviously they didn’t put the right one on the right box.”

The Texas business is now closed.

“There’s no way to get records,” Pooler said.

When wedding dresses are preserved, they are wrapped in acid-free tissue and placed in boxes where the oxygen has been replaced with nitrogen, according to That treatment prevents aging and discoloration of the fabric.

It works. The dress that Violette unpackaged this week still has a bright white hue.

“Wedding gown specialists recommend that you never break the seal, and if you do, that you should have it preserved and sealed back up again,” stated.

Violette is not the only bride to open the box and find the wrong dress.

A woman named Christine Besso who married in May of 1990 opened up her dress box in May only to find some other bride’s dress inside, according to Philadelphia Magazine. Besso was sad because her daughter is getting married and Besso wanted to give the dress to her.

If you recognize the dress Violette has as your own, contact reporter Jennifer Osborn at [email protected]

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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