My Dress Made from Magic: Remembering Priscilla of Boston

I was a Priscilla bride. As you may know Priscilla of Boston, which has been producing gorgeous wedding dresses for 65 years, will close forever next week on December 31st.  The news was announced in August, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about honoring my Priscilla experience on my blog.  I thought the best way to do this was to share an email I wrote to friends right after I bought my wedding dress from Priscilla’s in January 2010. Here it is:

You know the show Say Yes to the Dress? Well, even if you don’t, you’ll know how people say, “When I put on my wedding dress I just knew it was for me… I cried…”

I never had that.

In fact, I thought those people who did were a little titched. The only reaction I worried about having was Carrie’s in Sex and the City when she is supposed to marry Aiden, has a panic attack in her wedding dress, and Miranda has to rip her out of it.

I bought a dress, for super cheap, nine months before my wedding date mainly to halt a sort of sad and depressing shopping experience. Don’t get me wrong, shopping is normally my thing, but I found wedding dress shopping with dresses that don’t actually fit you very confusing and not so fun. I never loved that other dress, but I figured I would only wear it for a few hours.

Lately, I’d been feeling bad about that dress for a few reasons (namely that it will live on forever in the form of pictures and, since I am walking by myself down the long aisle at Memorial Church, I was worried I wouldn’t “stand out” enough all by my lonesome).  So, whenever I read a bridal magazine, I would check out the dress pics, only oh-so-casually.  But nothing tickled  my fancy, so I let it go.

Until, it did. And then I fell hard. Very hard. It was a new dress from Priscilla of Boston. So new it wasn’t even on their website yet. I saw it advertised in one magazine, then two, then three. By the third time I saw it, I cried. No joke, I cried (granted I was a little emotional while planning a wedding, but still!). John knew I didn’t feel great in my dress and he saw me get so worked up, so we talked about it on Sunday and he convinced me I should at least try it on, otherwise, I would always wonder.  He told me, “You deserve to feel beautiful on our wedding day, so if you really want it, we will find a way to make it happen.” You see, I knew my (suddenly) dream dress would not be cheap. But the man of my dreams is totally priceless, clearly.

I found the dress on the Internet. I stared at it. I refreshed. It was like a boy I had a crush on– I kept looking at the picture. And every time I did, my hardened little bridal heart skipped a beat.

So I called the store in Boston on Boylston Street. They said they had it in. They promised me they wouldn’t tempt me with the forbidden fruit (which I had already named, YES I NAMED MY DRESS, “Hilary Grace”) unless they could guarantee it would be in for May 15th. I made an appointment for the next morning at 11 am. I fretted and giddily refreshed some more and hoped it would transform me into a beautiful bride.

I woke up with knots in my stomach. As I approached the store, I saw it in the window. My eyes teared. I’m not kidding! I got up there and a sweet bridal consultant got me in the dress. I cried. A lot. She had to bring me tissues. Embarrassing! They brought people out– no one had seen the dress on before! I told them I felt like a bride for the first time.

In short, I bought my dress, which I say is made from magic. It is made from magic because it makes me feel beautiful, and pretty, and reminds me that I am marrying the best guy in the world for me. I told John I never wanted to take the dress off, that I would even clean the house it in. He told me I couldn’t clean the house in it, because we are selling it after the wedding, especially since demand will be high for this new-ish design. He’s still John, the practical economist, and I love him for that.

On my wedding day, May 15, 2010, I still felt like the dress made me magical.  Here’s a shot of me clearly seeing myself transform into a bride:

My bridal transformation

I don’t think I will ever feel that beautiful again!

Our favorite wedding picture (and there were many amazing shots thanks to the extraordinary Michael O’Bryon!)

I’m just sad that other brides won’t have the chance to get their own Priscilla creation in the future.

Walking toward Sever Hall right after wedding ceremony

Postscript: I did sell the dress, within a few months of our wedding. While I loved it, I knew I would never wear it again (not even to clean the house in) and I honestly wanted to pass on some good bridal karma. Plus, John would have nagged me… I don’t regret selling the dress at all, though I saved my veil in case anyone from the next generation wants to wear it someday.

[For more pictures from our wedding day, if you’re interested, our wedding was featured on Weddingbee, the *only* bridal website I read while wedding planning. Love! Click here to see us as part of their “Real Wedding” series. Also, I can’t recommend our photographer, Michael O’Bryon highly enough!]



  1. You are such a beautiful bride! Thank you for sharing your wedding with Weddingbee, and the kind words about the site too. 🙂 We loved your submission!

    • Aww, thanks, Cathleya (or Mrs. Penguin!)! I am currently in my 39th week of pregnancy, so it is fun/scary to remember a different time in life. 🙂

  2. Mary Johnson, Mimi Dalaly, Barbara Joseph Jones and 4 others like this.

    Hilary Levey Friedman Thanks, KBM! Hope you made it to Jersey safely.
    Thursday at 4:16pm · Like
    Alexis Spiro Bailey This made me cry just reading about you falling in love with your dress!!
    Thursday at 4:22pm · Like
    Celia Jones My dress is also Priscilla of Boston and I love it for its beauty and simplicity. I’m so sad they are closing.
    Thursday at 4:26pm · Like
    Suzanne Pomey Love this post!
    Thursday at 4:27pm · Like
    Hilary Levey Friedman Celia, glad you get to be a Priscilla bride! 🙂 Hope everyone gets to feel special on their wedding day (or another important day).
    Thursday at 4:29pm · Like · 1
    Hilary Levey Friedman Thanks, Alexis, that means a lot to me!! Suz, go find your dream dress!
    Thursday at 4:29pm · Like
    David Johnson Hilary, I read the weddingbee page you linked, and I cannot tell you how much I grinned at having a Gary Becker reading at your wedding. Simply fabulous. Also, you would have looked gorgeous in any dress, but I’m glad you found one that made you feel exceptionally special!
    Thursday at 10:04pm · Like
    Hilary Levey Friedman David- Thanks so much! It was hard for my sociologist advisor to read the Becker, but it was perfect for us. 🙂 Let me know if you ever make it to this coast soon!
    Thursday at 10:19pm · Like
    Michael O’Bryon Sometime the dress makes the day… in this case the bride made the dress and the day….not every bride can wear a great dress as elegantly as Hilary did…
    Thursday at 10:48pm · Unlike · 2
    Hilary Levey Friedman MOB- You spoil me!
    Thursday at 10:50pm · Like · 1
    Emily Kluczynski Guy NO WAY!!! Priscilla of Boston is CLOSING?!?!?
    Yesterday at 12:02am · Like
    Tagliaferro Donna Amazing pic of you
    Yesterday at 7:29am · Like

  3. Reading this warmed my heart. On a sad day, you reminded many why we all worked so hard and loved what we did. Some may say that we just made expensive dresses… we knew it was more. You are the perfect example of what we strove for… to provide you with the perfect outward expression of how you felt and who you were that day, that moment. You should know this story is circulating around those who worked for the company. Yes, we are sad we lost our jobs; but we are broken hearted to know we will no longer have the privilege of helping women like yourself realize how beautiful they are.
    Thanks for a lovely memory! I’ll never forget it…
    -former buyer at Priscilla of Boston

    • Lisa- Thanks for your message– and for reading!
      I am sure it is a very sad time, so I am glad you all know how much what you did meant to me and many others.

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