It’s Not Just The Dress-It’s The Story!

This dress has an amazing story! A story that must be told, preserved, and shared. I’m grateful I get to share it!…

The dress that goes with the story

THE 1917-1918 FLU

From 1917 to 1918, the flu spread at epidemic proportions and many that became infected died. Helen Chandler Hyer was one of those who caught the flu during these years, and she survived, but not without devastating, long-lasting effects. The high fever that Helen acquired during the flu damaged the motor control part of her brain and triggered an unknown disease at the time that we now know as Parkinson’s Disease. She was only in her twenties when she began experiencing symptoms.

Helen Chandler Hyer


Parkinson’s Disease, at that time, didn’t even have a name–and those who developed the condition (as many did after that flu epidemic) suffered without modern medicines or medical treatments to ease the symptoms. For those of us who know someone we love that has, or is struggling with Parkinson’s Disease, we know how devastating and debilitating the effects of this disease can be. I personally can not image what Helen may have endured during those years, but she didn’t bear her burdens alone. She had a lovely companion who did everything he could to not only make her feel comfortable, but also feel beautiful and loved as every wife and mother would desire!


Doris and Helen pictured during their engagement before marriage.

Helen’s husband always made sure she was cared for. The stories passed on by her children tell a beautiful tale of endearing love! Helen’s daughter often tells stories of her father, Doris Dodd Hyer, and how he had a beautiful tenor voice. Doris would often sing love songs to Helen. In romantic gestures, Doris and Helen found ways to express their tender love between one another. They both loved to dance, and so Doris would put the record player on and place Helen’s feet on top of his, and then he would whirl Helen around the room, dancing to their favorite songs. Doris always made sure Helen’s hair was styled, and he would buy her the most beautiful dresses to make her feel special. I can imagine how meaningful these acts of love were to Helen throughout the years.


One of the Many Dresses Purchased By Doris for Helen Chandler Hyer

Whenever the family would go visit Helen’s mother, Doris would take Helen shopping downtown with their daughters to buy her and the girls a new dress– and it was only the best dresses for his beautiful Helen! The dress store they would shop at was in Ogden, Utah, and it was called L. R. Samuels. Helen and Doris even bought their daughter, Helen (the younger), dresses when they would go shopping. It was a family affair! The dress pictured above is one of those dresses that he purchased for Helen Sr.. It is a family heirloom!


Hand Beaded Collar and Fabric Covered Buttons, 1950’s Family Heirloom

When my grandmother gave me this dress! We just cried and hugged each other!   Don’t get me wrong, the dress is stunning!  It’s a beautiful piece art from a beautiful time in history.  A time when details were made by hand, and now, fast forward to the present, this dress is a family heirloom, not just because it is beautiful, but because of the story behind it.  


My Grandmother, Helen May Hyer Chambers

This dress belonged to my grandmother’s mother, Helen Chandler Hyer—who I never knew, and she passed it on to her own daughter, who was named Helen after her. Helen (the younger) was an onlooker and observer throughout those years that her mother battled Parkinson’s Disease in their home. She is the one passing these memories on to her posterity–the very acts of love she witnessed between her mother and father!


Me pictured with my Grandma Helen May Hyer Chambers

You see, I’m not even related to my own grandmother Helen (Helen May Hyer Chambers pictured above) by blood.  I gratefully, inherited her through my step-dad’s line when he married my mom, and although we are not related by blood,  we are bonded in so many other ways. By our love for sewing, our love for things old yet timeless, our love for cooking, and even more so, our love for each other! We all know we were meant to be family.   God has his hand in everything!  


So I am the lucky one! I understand why we keep treasures! I understand why we pass heirlooms from generation to generation! I understand the memories and love stories woven into these treasures just like the beautiful woven threads of the fabric of this dress. I understand the energy that accompanies these treasures. It’s all found in the story! It’s not just the dress, it’s the story!


Hyer Family Left to Right: Karlene, Doris (Father), Dale, Helen (Mother), Helen (Daughter), and Nancy (infant). Brother Ken is not pictured. He was born in 1945.