She stored her wedding dress for 30 years. It belonged to a stranger the whole time

When Mary Larner-Pardy opened up the box storing her wedding dress for the last three decades, she was hoping to try it on again and show it off to her daughters.

But as she pulled the swaths of white fabric out, she knew instantly something was amiss.

“It wasn’t my dress,” she said.

Larner-Pardy was married in 1989, and her dress captured the era’s trends, with a train, long sleeves and a laced, high neckline.

The dress she was holding had no shortage of 80s puff and pomp, but with so many slightly different details, there was no mixing it up with the one from her memory.

“It was a beautiful gown, but it wasn’t my dress,” she told CBC Radio’s Weekend AM.

“My heart sank to start with. Because here I was, excited, I mean, it was my 30th [anniversary], probably lost a little weight, might be able to just try it on and show my daughters, but to no avail.”

Larner-Pardy remains optimistic her wedding dress is somewhere in Newfoundland, stored in someone else’s home. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Drycleaning mix up

Both dresses did have something in common: they were stored using a preservation process known as heirlooming, wherein a drycleaner packages up clothing in an air-sealed box.

Larner-Pardy remembers having doubts when she had her dress heirloomed for $100, not long after her wedding day.

Larner-Pardy remains hopeful her dress will be discovered, stored in some other bride’s closet. (Submitted by Mary Larner-Pardy)

“When I picked up my dress, it was in a box with no window in it at all, it was inside a plastic bag, and every seam and anything that was opened was taped on the box, and then the plastic that it was in was taped as well,” she said

“I remember saying, ‘Well, how do you know it’s your dress in the box?’ And the answer was, ‘Well, you could always open it,’ but then you’d be breaking the seal.”

Since that completely defeated the purpose, she opted to trust that it was her dress inside, rather than undoing the sealing process that had just been done to preserve it over the decades.

Shortly after Larner-Pardy discovered the mix up, she called the drycleaner who processed her dress — still in business decades later — and explained the situation.

Larner-Pardy said the manager was upset about what had happened to her, but, after a fire destroyed the shop’s previous location, there were no records to look through.

Check your dress

Larner-Pardy knew she wasn’t the only woman in Newfoundland and Labrador to discover she had been lovingly storing someone else’s wedding dress.

When she realized what had happened, she recalled a news story from 2017 about a woman in Southern Harbour who went through the exact same thing.

I’d strongly recommend that they have a peek at what’s in that box.– Mary Larner-Pardy

“I called her immediately when I saw this dress, thinking, ‘What’s the chances that maybe it might be her dress?'” Larner-Pardy said.

“It wasn’t her dress, but it’s so funny that, here’s her and I, with two dresses that don’t belong to us, which means that there’s two other people out there somewhere who have dresses that don’t belong to them, either.”

The mystery dress has a much longer train than Larner-Pardy’s. (Submitted by Mary Larner-Pardy)

At the very least, Larner-Pardy suspects her dress is being stored somewhere nearby.

“There’s probably a possibility then that the dress is still on the island — that’s the wonderful thing about living on an island,” she said.

While her 30th wedding anniversary has come and gone, and dreams of putting on her wedding dress again were dashed, Larner-Pardy remains hopeful that other 80s brides celebrating milestone anniversaries will start opening their heirloom boxes.

And maybe, given her story, they might be inclined to open them a little sooner.

“I’d strongly recommend that they have a peek at what’s in that box, just to verify that it is their dress. And who knows, maybe they have mine, I may have their dress.”