Martha Trucker always dreamed of wearing a classic white dress on her wedding day. But when she was getting married in 1952, she was prevented from entering a bridal shop because of her race.
As a black woman in Birmingham, Alabama, she was forbidden to try on the dress of her dreams: an embroidered white dress with a lace top and long sleeves. Back then, “I wasn’t even thinking about buying a wedding dress because I knew I couldn’t go into the store,” said Trucker, now 94.
There were no black bridal shops in the city, she said, and white retail store owners didn’t allow black people to try on clothes. “If you bought something you had to go to the basement and get used things,” she said.
Jim Crow laws in Birmingham also prohibited her from being served in the same restaurant or traveling in the same vehicle as white people. Blacks were also prohibited from playing games like checkers with white people.
Trucker and her husband were married in a simple ceremony in the pastor’s house. Not having had a wedding or traditional dress has been a sore point since then. “It’s always saddened me because I felt like I should have been able to wear it if I wanted to,” she said.
But recently, Trucker’s wish to wear a wedding dress finally came true, when her family took her to a bridal shop for her long-awaited dress fitting almost 70 years after her wedding day.
The idea came from her granddaughter, Angela Strozier, 46, when they were watching the 1988 movie, “A Prince in New York.” During the wedding scene, Trucker, who has four children, eleven grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson, turned to her granddaughter and said, “I’ve always wanted to wear a wedding dress. I’ve been waiting a long time since I got married.”
Strozier has heard stories about the racism and ridicule her grandparents had to endure, but as of yet, she was unaware that her grandmother never had a chance to try on a wedding dress, simply because she was black.
“It’s a terrible reason she couldn’t,” Strozier said. “It impacted me and motivated me to achieve it.”
After Trucker made that comment about longing to wear a wedding dress, Strozier booked an appointment at David’s Bridal in Hoover, Alabama, for a dress fitting. She described her grandmother as “a giver” who has dedicated her life to defending the right to vote. In 1963, Trucker became a poll worker, a duty she proudly held until after the 2020 election, which she decided would be her last season.
While caring for her children, Trucker worked as a housekeeper for several years, as well as in a nutrition department at a high school, before she retired in the mid-1970s. She also taught singing classes and was in various gospel groups throughout her life. She is currently the oldest member of the choir at her church.
Trucker is a huge sports fan too, especially a basketball fan, her favorite NBA player is Stephen Curry. She said that she has never missed a party for her children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.
“She’s a hero,” Strozier said, “Whatever she says she wants to do, we’ll try to do it for her.”
The appointment to the bridal shop was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on July 3, and before taking her grandmother to the store, Strozier had lunch with her and arranged to have her makeup done.
By the time they arrived at David’s Bridal, Trucker felt like a radiant bride-to-be, she said. “I was very excited,” she added.
Mary Adams, a wedding stylist at David’s Bridal, gave Tucker a tour of the store and chatted with her about what she had in mind for her dream dress. Although it was clear that Tucker would not buy a dress, Adams said she took the selection process seriously like any bride.
“When I heard her story, everything became more special,” said the 28-year-old Adams. ” Being a young black woman, I felt sorry that she did not get the experience that every young woman expects: her wedding day.”
The opportunity to help Tucker fulfill her old wish, she said, was “an honor.”
Shortly after the appointment, Trucker pointed to a particular dress on a mannequin and enthusiastically declared, “That dress has my name on it.” When she came out of the dressing rooms, she was wearing the V-neck dress, sparkling sequin lace, sheer sleeves, and crystal beads at the waist. “My dream came true,” she said.
Both her family and friends gathered around. “She came out and the tears started,” Strozier recalled. “I thought she looked like a doll. She smiled really big and made my heart smile. It was a priceless experience ”.
“Everyone was amazed. It was a precious moment,” echoed Erica Trucker, 36, one of Trucker’s granddaughters who attended the appointment. “Every part of me was happy that she was happy. I know what it means to her, and that’s why it meant a lot to me.”
The bridal shop staff said the experience was deeply moving, and memorable, for them too. “She was absolutely stunning,” Adams said. “The whole store lit up,” she added.
But no one was more delighted than Trucker, who tried on a second dress in a similar style and even put on a garter.
“It made me feel like a real bride. I wish I had been in that dress when I got married,” said Trucker, whose husband passed away in 1975.” I wish he could have seen me in it.”
However, she decided that it is better late than never. “I always said that before I left this world, I was going to wear a wedding dress,” Trucker said. “And I’m glad I did”.