Submitted by: Kathleen Vescio Rosella
Ancestor / Family Name: Evelyn Brusco and Thomas Vescio
Ancestral Town: Feroleto Antico, CZ, CAL
My parents, Thomas Vescio and Evelyn Brusco, were married on February 24, 1938 at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in the Hill District Section of Pittsburgh, PA. St. Peter’s Church was one of the Italian Churches in Pittsburgh.
My mother’s wedding dress is the centerpiece of this Italian American story. As we know, FAMILY is at the heart of all Italian endeavors. It was no different for my mother. Once her engagement was announced, the family activities began. Evelyn was marrying a “business man” so everything had to be perfect and elegant.
Thomas Vescio was born in the commune of Feroleto Antico, Catanzaro, Calabria. He had come to this country as a sixteen year old tailor. He worked at his profession for a few years. He purchased three businesses, a button covering business, a felt lettering business and a monogram company. He combined these three businesses into Brady Felt Products Company. He then proceeded to promote Brady Felt as the place the high school, colleges, and elementary schools should go to for their sporting team’s emblems. He visited the sporting-goods stores on lower Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh carrying a sample case with him showing what different styles he could make. He carried that sample case everywhere he went. Soon he would have forty women sewing for him in the school season. Thomas was quite the gentleman so the FAMILY had to have a very special display for their daughter’s special day.
Evelyn’s sister, Ida, was called on to make the wedding dress. Of course, we had the usual family bakers getting to work early, but THE DRESS was of the most importance.
The bridal gown, although relatively plain, had one hundred thirty two satin buttons down the front and sixteen buttons on each sleeve! The loops for the one hundred sixty-four buttons were all hand sewn by Ida. The neckline had a series of satin loops that were handmade. They were connected to the dress with tiny embroidery stitches. The hem was hand rolled and sewn by Cousin Jean as were the tiny embroidery stitches.
Unlike other little girls who played dress-up in their mother’s gown, I did not see my mother’s dress until I was a college graduate. My father’s brother, Salvatore, had a daughter in Feroleto, Italy who was getting married. Salvatore asked if his daughter, Catherine, could wear Evelyn’s dress. The gown was sent to Italy. We never saw it again.
Many years later in the 1960’s, a young couple came to visit Tom and Evelyn. They had come to thank Tom for providing work for his wife at Tom’s business. They brought some homemade wine and sopressata to show their appreciation. In conversation, the young woman said “Would you like to see my wedding picture?” Evelyn looked at the photo in surprise and then explained loudly, “You are wearing my wedding dress!” The woman said “Oh, no. I received it from a friend.” Evelyn promptly pulled out her wedding picture and showed it to the young woman. “My sister made that dress for me,” she said. Of course, the embarrassed lady returned Evelyn’s dress minus the veil. Finally, after twenty-six years I was able to see my mother’s wedding gown!
We kept the gown in a box for many years. When the Heinz History Center was planning an Italian-American Exhibit, my mother and I decided to donate the dress to the museum.
A few years later, the museum had an exhibit of wedding dresses worn by Pittsburgh’s women. My mother’s dress was included in the exhibit. Because of the journey to Italy and back, they named the gown, THE “ETERNAL” WEDDING DRESS.