BRENTWOOD, Tenn. -- After 26 years of storing her wedding gown under the bed, wrapped up in protective layers of cardboard boxes, cellophane and plastic, Kim Jones gave in to her daughter's pleas to show her the dress.
But what should have been a special bonding moment between mother and daughter last month in their Georgia home instead turned to shock, which then led to a deeper mystery.
The two were getting sentimental and taking photos of the moment, when Emily Jones, a freshman in college, noticed something peculiar.
"Mama, I didn't know your wedding dress had (long) sleeves," she said as she held the newly unwrapped dress aloft.
"It doesn't," said her mother as both gazed at what were clearly long sleeves attached to the gown.
The garment that had been stored under her bed for a quarter of a century wasn't Kim Jones' wedding dress at all.
"We screamed in horror and just about died," Kim Jones said.
Soon after the Oct. 25, 1986, wedding at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., Kim Jones' mother took the dress to White Way Cleaners in nearby Brentwood, Tenn., to have it cleaned and preserved.
The family was cautioned that taking the dress out of the bags and boxes could lead to fabric deterioration and fading.
The outer and inner boxes in the set-up had clear heart-shaped windows so viewers could glimpse the contents. The dresses had similar beading, so those looking through the windows didn't suspect that something was amiss.
Now the family, which lived in Franklin, Tenn., for a number of years before moving to Georgia, is trying to find the original dress, with only a few clues available. The outer box had a laundry ticket with two tracking numbers that match Jones' original ticket, but the inner box had a laundry ticket that is one number off from the other two.
The family can't check with the original cleaners because it's no longer in business.
Kim Jones imagines another mom out there who also may be frantically searching for her wedding dress for her own daughter or might not even know that she, too, has the wrong dress under her bed or in her closet.
In particular, Emily wants her mother's dress back because she hopes to wear it in her own wedding some day.
"As the only girl in the family, this is the one thing that my mother had for me. She took the time to keep it and preserve it. And to find out that it wasn't hers after all these years was very disappointing," she said.
By BONNIE BURCH