Six weddings and a dress

RICHARD BATSON Smiling bride Charlotte Middleton looked stunning in her shimmering wedding dress - even though it is “sixth hand” and first walked down the aisle nearly 100 years ago.

RICHARD BATSON

Smiling bride Charlotte Middleton looked stunning in her shimmering wedding dress - even though it is “sixth hand” and first walked down the aisle nearly 100 years ago.

For the glorious gown is an heirloom worn by five other members of her family over the ages in marriages spanning the Atlantic and featuring a famous television actor.

And even though the dress figures in family albums it was still a surprise for bridegroom Mark Sisson as he tied the knot in the chapel of North Norfolk school where he met his future wife.


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The chiffon, satin, silk and pearl dress made its debut in the United States in 1910 when Charlotte's great grandmother, Pauline Fithian, a member of a family

of early English settlers, married a well-known English spa

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flower and bow-decked Presbyterian church in Oregon before heading back to England to set up home.

Twenty five years later, her daughter borrowed it for her wedding, and over the years it has emerged from its box in the loft at regular intervals.

And it has undergone minor adaptations and been accessorised with different adornments, as other family members got hitched.

They include Pauline's grand-daughter, Sally Green who wore it in 1963 when she married young actor Geoffrey Palmer, whose hangdog face has gone on to be a familiar sight in comedies including Butterflies, Fairly Secret Army and As Time Goes By.

She and her sister, Jane, who also wore the dress, were at the weekend wedding when it made its latest appearance.

Newly-wed Charlotte, who married at Gresham's School chapel on Saturday, said: “Mum gave me a free choice about whether to have a new dress or use the family one.

“We shook it out, had a look at it and I decided it was something I wanted to do.”

The dress had to be lengthened as Charlotte is the tallest bride to date, undergo some minor repairs and all the pearls were removed, cleaned and replaced by Norwich business Camilla's Brides.

Charlotte, who runs a wine shop, and chartered accountant Mark, both 27, live in Kent, but decided to marry in the school chapel where they met as students in 1998.

She had a fresh veil as her “something new” but the dress was the “something old” and “something borrowed”.

And her cousins, Sally and Jane, chorused “It looks much better on you.”

Mum Lucy Middleton, of Mundesley, who wore the dress at her wedding in 1975, said hand-me-downs were more common at the time of its second outing in 1935.

But she was pleased it was still being used today.

Following its latest appearance, and with other potential brides in the family, the dress will not be shoved back in the attic but is being careful stored in acid-free paper ready for its next outing.

Mrs Middleton added: “It should last another 100 years.”

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