"I think traditions are fading in today’s families, and you just have to keep them going."

By Michelle Darrisaw
August 15, 2017
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Like mother, like daughter. It’s a sentiment echoed by these three women: Jody Gleason, Anne Reynolds, and Joyce Johnston. The trio lives near West Palm Beach and have been best friends for more than 40 years. Like most besties, admittedly, they share everything—specifically, one little blue dress.

But this isn't just any old dress. "The little blue dress," as the three gal pals call it, is a special garment seamed with a storied past and crafted with an emotional bond. It has tied this group of Southern women and their children and grandchildren together for more than 35 years, primarily because it’s the same blue shift each of them have dressed their daughters and granddaughters in for the first day of school.

Joyce Johnston’s mother initially purchased the dress at a Polly Flinders store in Lantana, Florida, in 1981 for Johnston’s daughter, Nicole, to wear to school. Back then, the smocked dress with its peter pan collar, subtle floral print, and fancy embroidery cost less than $10.

"My mother was always a snazzy dresser so she bought this dress and gave it to Nicole to wear on her first day of school," Johnston told ABC News.

The dress was then handed down to Gleason to pass on to her daughter, Colleen, to wear on her first day of school. Colleen is now 35 and just received her doctorate degree.

"It was just a cute dress and she looked cute in it so I had Colleen wear it on her first day of school in 1987," Gleason said.

Once Colleen outgrew the dress, Gleason passed it on to Reynolds, who dressed her daughter Allison, now 31, in the blue frock for her first day of school in 1990.

"We were friends that shared everything—child care, outgrown clothes," said Reynolds. "At this point, Colleen had worn the dress and the logical thing was to pass it down to Allison, who is a few years younger."

Now that they’re daughters are grown and in their 30s, Johnston, Gleason, and Reynolds, have carried on the tradition with their grandchildren, with Johnston’s granddaughter, Katie, wearing it last in 2014. Today, the blue dress, has found its way back home to Johnston’s closet, where she hopes her grandson, Andrew, can keep the stylish ritual going for his future daughter.

"My mother would be so proud of her dress," Johnston said. "She would never have thought the dress would go through so many hands. She would just say, 'How cute is that?'"

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It’s nice to see something as simple as a dress spark a family tradition, dating all the way back to the 1980s and still going strong today. Not to mention, the dress has spanned several generations and is at the center of a decades-long friendship.