No One Can Replace Choir’s Volunteer of 45 Years
Choir Seamstress Retires after 45 Years
How do you find 210 matching dresses for the women in The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square? How do you find a supplier that makes sizes 2 to 30? And what about alternations? The answer is simple: you can’t. You have to make them yourself.
For 45 years, diminutive Peggy Becker sat down at her sewing machine and stitched dresses for women in the Choir. When the Choir was performing in Boston for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, Peggy, who had professional sewing experience, came to help with adjustments needed for some of the women’s “store bought” blue suits. She stayed for four and a half decades.
In her tenure as head seamstress for the Choir with a few helpers picked up along the way, Peggy made the fuchsia, the aqua, the blue, the cream, the raspberry, the turquoise, the lilac, the rose, and the purple dresses and the black sequined tops. The whole wardrobe. She quit counting how many dresses or alterations years ago but do the math: nine dresses times 210 singers plus plenty of extras for new members.
She was always busy. When others offered to stitch some of the dresses she would reply, “No. If I make them, they will all look the same.” So, she worked in cramped quarters in the basement of the Tabernacle--they call it “the dungeon”--and worked long hours at home. She redyed cloth when shipments didn’t match the intended color. She made patterns, relined dresses when fabric wore out, stitched sequin ribbons on by hand, raised and dropped hems, took in seams, and let them out, and recruited Choir staff to stuff shoulder pads when she couldn’t do one more thing. At one point, under a tight deadline, her daughter Daunna tied her to the chair for additional support to her back injured years before. She has let someone else cut the cloth according to the pattern and had her two fellow seamstresses make some of the skirts.
The fuchsia, the first dress she made for the Choir, is probably her favorite. It was created for the Choir tour of Russia and has been, if the Choir has one, the signature dress. President Gordon B. Hinckley used to say when asking the Choir to sing at a function, “Have them wear the red dress.” Actually, it is fuchsia. There are things she likes about all of the dresses whether it’s the way they drape, the color, the design at the neckline which is important on camera, or the weight of the fabric which makes the sewing easier.
How long does it take to introduce a new dress to the wardrobe? Once it is designed and the fabric and color have been cleared by the camera people, it takes about 5 months, says Valorie Jensen, wardrobe manager for the women. But Peggy was fast. “She could put a lapped zipper in a dress in about 30 seconds. It was an amazing thing to see,” Valorie says. Peggy did all the blue dresses for the 2002 Winter Olympics in four months. The fabric came in late, and it wasn’t the weight they expected, but Peggy just went to work. The dress has been a favorite.
Peggy never wanted to retire from her service in the Choir. Finally, in October 2021, representatives from the Choir visited her at home to bring her retirement plaque with the special inscription “2,000 Dresses.” She quietly, adeptly, and admirably made such a difference to the Choir, the tours, the broadcasts, and the concerts. “No one can replace her,” Valorie says. “She was simply amazing.”
Editor’s Note: Peggy Becker passed away quietly at home on Monday, November 8 as this article was being prepared for publication. Her funeral arrangements are pending.