Heirloom dress still serves 69 years later

‘It deserves a pat on the back’ 


Madeline Johnson on her wedding day to Joseph Fabiano on February 14, 1942.

When Linda Mazur and her family toured Italy in 2000, she picked up some shoes and a jacket. She should have bought a dress. The last one the family purchased from that country has served through four family weddings and is still beautiful 69 years later.

There is a mystery behind the family wedding gown that will probably never be solved. When Joseph Fabiano came to the United States as an Italian immigrant and proposed to Madeline Johnson, his father back in the old country—also named Joseph Fabiano—commissioned an extravagant and beautiful wedding gown for his future daughter-in-law. Back then, the $250 cost of the dress, and extra expense to have it shipped to America, as the story goes, was an expensive, perhaps even extravagant gift.

“She probably had no idea what a big deal that dress was,” said daughter Linda Mazur today of the gown, made from yards and yards of Italian lace and satin with a thousand buttons down the back. Her mother, Madeline Johnson, married Joseph Fabiano on February 14, 1942, somewhere in Detroit (if anyone can tell from the photo where it was taken, she would love to know).

Delores Johnson is married in the same dress as her sister. She married Walter Mikulski on September 27, 1947.

Five years later Madeline’s sister, Delores, wore the gown on her special day as she married Walter Mikulski on September 27, 1947, also somewhere in Detroit. The dress was professionally preserved and packed away from the damaging elements of air and light. Thirty-three years later when Linda Fabiano unpacked the dress, it looked as lovely as the day it was completed.

“My mother was all of 90 pounds when she was married,” laughed Mazur.

She wanted to wear the dress on her wedding

day when she married Cary Mazur on August 18, 1978. The gown was a little tight, so she had it altered somewhat and the dress served for the third time here in Michigan.

This year, the daughter of Linda and Cary, Missy Mazur, also wanted to wear the dress. Linda took it to Pam Mauric of the Red Flannel Factory in Cedar Springs where alterations were again made.

“She reused every stitch of the fabric,” said Linda of Mauric’s creative use of the material.

When the dress served its fourth bride at Thousand Oaks Country Club on August 19, 2011, it was 69

years old.

Linda Fabiano becomes Mrs. Cary Mazur on August 18, 1978.

“I think it deserves a pat on the back,” said Linda.

Mazur said she once joked to her children that if they all had anniversaries in the same month, they could celebrate with a visit to Italy, where the family name has a long, rich history.

“I think I am going to have to pay for those words,” she said, noting that both Missy and her son married in the same month as their parents. He was married August 14, 2010, without the dress.

In her trip in 2000, a trip of memories following her father’s death, Mazur said she found the country and its residents charming and generous. They found a Fabiano Vineyard that she believes is owned by her grandfather’s descendents. Traces of her grandmother’s family were also discovered today. She calls the two-week vacation “the best trip I ever had.”

The trip the wedding gown reportedly had from Italy to America is the mystery behind the story. According to auctioneer Jack Robillard—recently featured in the Squire with a mystery of his own involving a skeleton in an attic—the simple story couldn’t have happened that way.

Missy Mazur wears the family dress as she marries John Shaird on August 19, 2011.

“Mussolini the dictator was in power in Italy in 1942,” he said. “We were at war with Italy and there was an embargo.”

Robillard said the value of the dress is in the memories and the history. The story of the dress’s journey to America adds to the appeal. He said the dress could be valued at as much as $400 or $500 at auction, and the mystery of its voyage from Italy to Michigan is a stumper.

“Mussolini was a good friend of Hitler’s,” Robillard noted.

Robillard speculated that the dress could have been shipped to a country friendly with Italy or at least neutral and then to the United States.

“They are all gone now, so there is no way to ask those family questions,” Mazur said.

She has had Sheldon Cleaners preserve and store the family dress again so it may be available for more brides of the Fabiano line, but no new weddings are planned any time soon. In the future for the family? Probably a trip to Italy, and if it happens, it will be

in August.

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