The Literal Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress

Maggie Parker
The family has worn the same dress in photos for generations. (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)
The family has worn the same dress in photos for generations. (Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

For a family in Minnesota, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants vibe is going strong — except for this group, it’s a dress.

Aubrey Brandt recently became the 17th girl in her family to wear the same red-and-green plaid dress for her elementary school photo. The tradition is more than 50 years old, but somehow the dress has held up (clearly, clothing production was of higher quality before fast fashion came along).

In 1965, Jan Parker purchased the dress her oldest daughter, Diana, wore for picture day. A year later, the dress was handed down to Diana’s younger sister Lana for her school photo, according to local news channel WUSA 9. “Well, red is my favorite color, so I’d have been happy wearing red,” said Lana Sheforgen.

The six Parker sisters who started the red plaid dress family tradition. (L-R) Sarah Brandt, Corinne Sjoberg, Liza Parker, Lynelle Parker, Lana Sheforgen, Diana Orr. (Photo: Chad Nelson, KARE 11)
The six Parker sisters who started the red plaid dress family tradition. (L-R) Sarah Brandt, Corinne Sjoberg, Liza Parker, Lynelle Parker, Lana Sheforgen, Diana Orr. (Photo: Chad Nelson, KARE 11)

When the third sister, Lynelle, reached first grade, she knew her turn was coming, and “it felt pretty special,” she said.

By that time, Jan was sure the dress had run its course, “because a boy was supposed to come along,” she said. Instead, a fourth sister, Liza, arrived, followed by two more sisters, Corinne and Sarah. And, you guessed it, each of them wore the same red-and-green dress for their school photos.

And the ritual didn’t die with them; as soon as grandchildren came along, the dress was passed down. “It’s representative of our family and how close we’ve stayed,” says Keri Parker, a member of the second generation to wear the dress for picture day.

Jan Parker holds the dress worn for elementary school photos by 17 of her daughters and granddaughters. (Photo: Chad Nelson, KARE 11)
Jan Parker holds the dress worn for elementary school photos by 17 of her daughters and granddaughters. (Photo: Chad Nelson, KARE 11)

Fifty years later, the dress has managed to fit everyone who has stepped into it — just like in the books and movies about a pair of jeans — and it is in remarkably good condition. When Sarah’s oldest daughter ripped the hem, Sarah and her mother simply repaired it with two-sided tape.

Fashion tape: a girl’s — or large family who insists on passing down the same dress over and over again — best friend.

Right, Diana Orr was 5 years old when she became the first member of the Parker family to wear the dress. Left, 6-year-old Aubrey Brandt poses in the same red dress worn for school photos by girls in her family since 1965. (Photo Courtesy of KARE 11/Parker family/Lifetouch)
Right, Diana Orr was 5 years old when she became the first member of the Parker family to wear the dress. Left, 6-year-old Aubrey Brandt poses in the same red dress worn for school photos by girls in her family since 1965. (Photo Courtesy of KARE 11/Parker family/Lifetouch)

However, when it was Aubrey’s turn, she wasn’t as excited as the rest of the girls. “She likes playing with the boys out in the dirt,” her mother said. So she was reluctant to don the frock. “Nope, I’m not wearing that thing,” Aubrey told her mom. Like any determined mom, Sarah bribed her (with monster-truck tickets) and the 6-year-old was in the dress and in front of the camera. Although, she was the first girl to get creative with her outfit, adding a baseball cap and pants. It seems Aubrey is the daring one in the family when it comes to her look.

Jan Parker, surrounded by 17 daughters and granddaughters who have worn the same red plaid dress for their elementary school photos. (Photo: Chad Nelson, KARE 11)
Jan Parker, surrounded by 17 daughters and granddaughters who have worn the same red plaid dress for their elementary school photos. (Photo: Chad Nelson, KARE 11)

And Aubrey will hardly be the last to wear the dress. Keri, one of Aubrey’s cousins, already has a baby girl and plans to carry on the tradition to the next generation. “As long as the dress holds up, I think the tradition will,” Keri said.

Clearly, clothing has more power than we think. Not only did a pair of pants bond a bunch of fictional characters and help the actresses who played them become friends IRL, it has created an unbreakable link in this family. Or, as Keri said, “Just a small thing that ties us all together.”

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