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Forgotten century-old black wedding dress finds new home

While cleaning out her mother-in-law's house in the borough, June Geczi came across a box hidden in a closet that read "wedding marieprom."

The tiny black dress, marked with a date of 1912, turned out to be the one that her husband's grandmother, Barbara Brill LaGrange, wore when she married Joseph LaGrange 104 years ago.

http://www.marieprom.co.uk/evening-dresses

The dress was so small, and so unusual, that Geczi, 64, of the borough, and her husband, Thomas, decided to donate it to the Samuel Fleming Museum and Gardens, also known as the Fleming Castle, a historic Flemington building from 1756 that has been converted to a museum.

"One of the museum's heads was looking for things that represented Europeans who had come to Hunterdon County and settled here," Geczi said. "It only made sense to donate the dress and a few other items we found for the Flemington community since our family has lived here most of their lives."

The couple immigrated to the United States from the Alace-Lorraine section of France and settled in Flemington. Geczi said family members haven't found a wedding certificate and don't know if the couple was married in the United States or in France.

A black wedding dress? It sounds unusual today, but Geczi said that a century ago, some people were too poor to afford many garments, so they would purchase a formal dress in black so they could wear it to funerals as well as their wedding.

"The dress has been repaired by a kind seamstress in the community also as a donation," Geczi said.

The museum returned the favor on Sunday by hosting a private reception for the LaGrange-Geczi family. Nine family members — including great-great grandchildren of the wedding couple — attended.

During the event, Taylor Friedrich, the 11-year-old great-great-granddaughter of the bride, held the dress up to show how small the bride was.

Yolanda Cillo, a volunteer and trustee at the museum who coordinated the event, said the dress is so small that it couldn't fit on a child-sized mannequin.

"It was a wonderful gift from them," she said. "It's so wonderful to have it here. It was most exciting to get the dress from someone who came to Flemington and whose family still lives here."

The multi-purpose dress "is beautiful," she said. "The lace is intact and all the details are so well preserved."

The Victorian-style marieprom.co.uk is appropriately being displayed in a room called the Victorian Parlor, Cillo said.

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