by Julia Baker
WHEN Marnie Leahy stepped out in a vintage gown at Miles debutante ball on Saturday night everyone let out a collective gasp.
The 17-year-old is the third generation of women in her family to wear the mint-condition debutante gown, worn by her mother and grandmother to make their debuts.
Her grandmother, Marie Gore, first wore the dress in Chinchilla in 1961 followed by Marnie's mother, Polly Leahy, more than 20 years later in 1988.
"I made my debut here in Chinchilla in the town hall, which was the old soldiers hall, and there was no cement or anything out the front of the hall and the dirt was about that deep so my cousin, John Bender, picked me up and carried me in," Mrs Gore said.
The dress was created by local seamstress Rita French, who still lives in Chinchilla, for a local bride and consists of a satin petticoat, a three-layered tulle skirt worn over a hoop, a gathered tulle overlay with hand-sewn flowers and a bodice of guipure lace.
"She made it for a lady who was getting married and the husband was working on the railway with my dad, so this man came out and said to me 'I hear you're making your debut' and he said 'have you got a dress?'... that was the start of it and then I wrapped it in a flannelette sheet and put it in a port and carried it around with me for years," Mrs Gore said.
"Someone said to me 'the tulle must be rotten by now' but it isn't and when I was sewing the flowers back on to the tulle the other day my hands were so sore."
Mrs Gore said the dress was a "show stopper" and that it was "absolutely wonderful" her grand-daughter had carried on the tradition and chosen to wear the dress to her debutante ball.
"She tried it on and it fitted like a glove except for the petticoat, so all I had to do was let it out at the waist a bit," she said.
"Payton, Marnie's younger sister, she gave Marnie a lecture the other night about roughing up the dress because she wants to wear it yet."
Miss Leahy said she didn't know her grandmother had kept the dress until it came time for her to choose a debutante gown.
"To be honest when Mum said 'you can wear my dress'... I was like 'it's going to be really old' because I hadn't seen it. Then I tried it on and I was in love with it," she said.
"I felt very special, everyone was coming up and saying it was so pretty."