Grandma Mason's Dress

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Nancy Opal Watkins was born on March 2, 1888, in Fulton County Ohio. Some time during her first year she was given a red dress with a white lace collar. She's pictured in the center of the photo above, with sister Ethel and brother Earl, probably late in 1888 or early 1889.

In 1913 she married George Mason, and gave birth to two sons and four daughters. Some time around 1932, when the youngest daughter was about four, someone came up with the idea of photographing the daughter wearing her mother's dress (the other girls were too old to fit by this time).

Eventually six of Opal's seven granddaughters, as well as many great granddaughters and great great granddaughters posed in the dress, mostly when they were too young to resist and still the right age to wear a "baby" dress.

The dress has been worn by a pair of twins (Patti & Mary), and by the two female members of a set of triplets (Marcy and Melody). Pictures have been taken everywhere from Ohio to Michigan to California to Oregon and probably other states. 

After a century and more of travel across country, the dress has become too fragile for extensive handling, and it's questionable whether the tradition can be extended to another generation. At the very least, the girls will have to travel to the dress, instead of the other way around.

In 2018 granddaughter Nancy Drefke Teets framed the dress and hung it above her fireplace. (See photo link at bottom of page.)

(We're still trying to track down photos of several members of later generations.)

--Dick Estel, January 2008

Click photo for a larger view
Mother, Daughter, Dress
Ethel, Opal and Earl Watkins Alice June Mason, about 1932 The dress in 2004
Linda Estel, 1944 Nancy Drefke, 1949 Diane Hall, 1950
Mary Leary, 1950 Patti Leary, 1950 Katie Leary, 1957
Great Granddaughters
Teri Estel, 1965 Jennifer Estel, 1967 Becky Davenport, 1970
Molly Teets
Molly Teets, 1971 Marcy Teets, 1975 Melody Teets, 1975
Ishbel Hall, about 1977 Anna Hall, 1984 Shauna Leary, 1989
Kristen Elston     
  Kristen Elston, 1977 Elizabeth Defilio, probably 1990   
Great Great Granddaughters
Kaia Lane, probably 2002   Maddison Davenport, 1996 Sofia Davis, 2002

From top: June, Opal, Nancy, Linda, Patti, Mary, Katie, Teri, Jennifer, Diane

  The dress in retirement Composite created with scissors and film in the 1960s  


All photos copyright 2002-2018 by Dick Estel. Reproduction without permission prohibited.

Updated December 17, 2018