By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
FAIRFIELD — More than a decade ago, Karen Crossland converted her wedding dress into a baptismal gown for her first grandchild.
“Many years ago, I had read in a farm magazine about a lady doing this and apparently the thought stayed with me,” Crossland said. “When our daughter-in-law was expecting our first grandchild, I asked her, ‘If I had my wedding dress made into a baptismal gown, could we use it for the baby’s baptismal outfit?’ She was agreeable and thus began a wonderful tradition.”
Seven more grandchildren have come along since then and all have worn the converted gown.
“We know how special it is for all of the kids to receive this important sacrament (baptism) while wearing something that means so much to their grandmother,” said Crossland’s daughter, Joni Fleig. “It’s an added blessing!”
On June 18, 1976, Karen married her husband, Neil, at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Liberty, Illinois. She wore a white gown of chiffon, nylon and lace. They later moved to Fairfield and began attending St. Mary Parish. Karen serves the Fairfield parish as director of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
While anticipating the birth of her grandson Jack, who was born in 2008, Karen entrusted parishioner and friend, the late Teresa Mottet, to convert the beloved dress into a baptismal outfit. “She was an amazing seamstress,” Karen said of Teresa. “She made many banners for the church, and I believe she even gifted some priests with vestments.”
Teresa was hesitant at first, Karen recalled. “She said it took her a couple of attempts before she could cut into the dress and she had to keep reminding herself, ‘This is what Karen wants!’” It was perhaps a little easier for Karen, as the dress no longer fit.
The resulting baptismal gown had puffy sleeves and multiple layers, much like the gown of origin. Teresa also made a bonnet, hat and a jacket from the wedding dress fabric.
Teresa’s role in creation of the baptismal gown “makes it even more special for me,” Karen said. Teresa passed away in 2018 at the age of 89.
Once Karen’s children were done having babies — or so they thought — they gave the baptismal gown back to Crossland in a keepsake shadow box. “It was the best Christmas gift I ever received,” she said. About a year later, she pulled the dress out of the box for the baptism of a new grandchild, Maxwell.
Daughter Joni isn’t sure the grandchildren are old enough to appreciate the significance of the gown yet, “but I know it will be something meaningful to them when they get a little older.”