old wedding dress

What can I do with my old wedding dress?

After months of flipping through bridal magazines and Pinterest and trying on gowns, you have finally found your dream wedding dress. On your wedding day, you looked like you’d just come out of a fairy tale walking down the aisle, your mom and dad cried, your husband swooned, and your friends couldn’t hold back the compliments. But now, as the wedding is over and it’s time to go back to reality – what do you do with your wedding dress?

Whether you’ve just celebrated your own wedding day or your daughter’s, you may be left with one souvenir you don’t need to hold on to the dress. Here’s how to recycle, reuse, or donate your wedding dress, which is a much greener option than keeping it in a bag in the back of your closet for the next 20 years and hoping someone, someday will wear it again.

Whether you want to keep it forever, give it a new purpose, or sell it to recover from blowing your budget, here are some things you can do:

With the average wedding dress hovering around $1,500, according to TheKnot.com, it seems like just a teeny bit of a waste to wear all that lace and beading exactly once and then stash it in a box for decades. But that’s what most brides do, even though there are some much better ways to reuse, repurpose or recycle a wedding gown.

Sell Your Wedding Dress

Your wedding dress may not be just another piece of fabric, but some brides are just not that emotionally attached to it. If you are a girl that prefers looking into the future than looking back, it might be a good idea to sell your bridal gown. Selling your wedding dress is a great way to recoup some money after your wedding. Your first instinct might tell you to list it on eBay or Craigslist, but we suggest that you take a look at some of the websites specialized in selling used wedding dresses like stillwhite.com or Preowned wedding dresses. These sellers make it easy for you to list it online, where thousands of potential brides have access to it.

Earn some extra cash. There’s always eBay, of course, but there are also several online niche markets for buying and selling wedding gowns (not to mention those bridesmaids’ dresses that never, ever make plausible cocktail-party dresses). Sites like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com and Tradesy.com act as go-betweens to help brides make back at least some of that $1,500. The level of involvement and cost to the seller varies by site. Tradesy, for instance, handles details like returns and payments in return for an 11.9% cut of the price.

Donate it

Many non-profit organizations accept wedding dress donations. Brides Across America can pass on your precious wedding gown to a military bride in need. Brides for a Cause will take your wedding dress, sell it and use the proceeds to raise money for various causes. You can always look for local organizations that help brides-to-be undergoing financial hardship. You’ll make a difference, feel great, and you will have another awesome story about your wedding to tell your grand-kids.

Give it away. If you’re feeling charitable, there are numerous options for donating a wedding dress. For example, BridesAcrossAmerica.com collects dresses for giveaways to military brides; AdornedinGrace.org sells donated dresses at a discount and funnels the proceeds toward charities that help sex trafficking victims. If you don’t want the hassle of sending your dress somewhere, check with your local thrift store to see if they take wedding dress donations (many do, but this fluctuates based on demand and need in your area). If you itemize your taxes, get a receipt so you can deduct the donation. Alternately, you could reach out to a local community theatre or high school drama department and see if they could use the dress in an upcoming production.

Repurpose a Wedding Dress

Your wedding gown is probably the most amazing (and the most expensive) dress you have ever owned, so why wear it just once. If it’s a two-piece, you can pair a bodice with a different skirt from your everyday wardrobe and rock this chic ensemble. If your wedding dress has a long tulle skirt, you can pair it with a colourful top, and a leather jacket to get a completely different look. In some cases, you can even cut it, dye it and turn it into a beautiful party dress that you would be able to wear for different occasions. If you are one of those brides that donned a simple gown, you can even stylize it with non-bridal accessories and wear it as it is. Here is how one woman turned her wedding gown into a beautiful cocktail dress she wore for her and her husband’s anniversary.

Keepsakes Made From Wedding Dresses

The chances are that your wedding gown has a lot of fabric, which can be used to make lots of different things – from christening outfits for your kids to pillows for your bedroom, a quilt or purse or a tote bag. There are so many wonderful ideas for turning your bridal gown into something else, and if you happen to love some DIY-ing and arts & crafts, you will be very excited about these projects.

Take It From Day To Night

Who says you can’t wear your wedding dress again? You may not wear it in its entirety, but you can still wear it as clothing like, say, in the form of lingerie. For a fun gift to your husband, have the material turned into a set of custom lingerie. This would make an ideal surprise for a second honeymoon or as an anniversary gift. Better than most lingerie, you are sure to get a perfect fit out of it since the set was tailor-made for you. Since most wedding gowns are white and either has some sort of satin material or a lace overlay, the material from your dress will make the perfect candidate for a lingerie set. You may choose to incorporate some beadwork or rhinestones from your dress on the straps to give it an extra special touch. Another idea is to add some coloured detailing, such as ribbons, in the colours of your wedding.

Turn It Into Christmas Decorations

If you love decorating, but prefer not having your dress out all year long, another option is to make Christmas decorations. Since your dress already has a nice circular skirt, it will be easy to convert the bottom part into a tree skirt. So easy in fact, that little or no sewing is required. After all, you already have the bottom hemline.

Another option, or one in addition to the tree skirt, is to take some of your favourite parts of the dress and turn them into an ornament. This is a great way to show off all the details from your dress. You can even use some of the trim to create a ribbon for hanging the ornament.

A Christmas stocking is yet another way to show off your wedding dress during the holidays. Decorate the front however you like it with lace, sequins, or anything else from your dress. You can also add extra embellishments like colourful beads or monogrammed names of your family members.

Create A Christening Gown

You don’t always have to wait until your future children get married before you share a piece of your wedding gown. Just like silk and lace in white lends itself to an easy transition into lingerie, it just as easily can be transformed into a christening gown for your future children. You will likely save the outfit your child wears to his or her baby dedication anyway, so why not make it extra special by making the gown from a keepsake piece? This could be used for generations to create a memorable tradition for your family. Instead of just using the dress, you can also incorporate the veil. Most wedding veils are naturally about the same length as a christening gown. If you are specifically making the gown for a baby girl, go ahead and add all the beads and rhinestones you want as well.

Create A Photo Album Or Wedding Card Keepsake Book

One of the most memorable aspects of a wedding is the photos. From bridal portraits, photos of the wedding party to that picture of the couple first laid eyes on one another to those candid shots during the ceremony and reception, everyone loves to cherish those memories forever. For that reason, it only makes sense that brides should choose a memorable way to store and showcase their photos. A cool way to showcase the dress not only in photos but also in real life is to embellish the photo album with some of the material from your wedding gown.

Choose some of your favourite parts from the dress and cut them out. Then, use them to cover a photo album. Another option is to use some material to cover a binder or folder and use it to store all the cards you received from guests. After all, you should have plenty of material to do both.

Make A Throw Pillow

Another easy way to put your dress on permanent display is to cut up parts of it and then use the material to make a beautiful throw pillow. You could even make an entire set of throw pillows if you used the entire dress. Mix and match the parts of the gown on various pillows to create coordinating designs. A good idea for using all the material is to choose from your favourite parts—a beaded back or a jewelled neckline—to decorate the front of the pillow, and save the plain white fabric for the back. You could even add other materials of different colours and textures to give the pillows a more contemporary design. Then, choose when and where to display the pillows, or put them up as gifts to give your future children. Imagine your child using one as the ring pillow in his or her own wedding years down the road.

Create A Patchwork Quilt

If you love the pillow idea but want to use more of your gown, then turn it into a patchwork quilt. A quilt is good for incorporating more memorable elements from your wedding as well. You can even add in items like handkerchiefs used by your parents or grandparents during the wedding and even some material from the tie or shirt your husband wore during the ceremony. Pieces of the mother’s gowns would look nice, too, if they are willing to give them up or at least cut off a portion. With today’s technology, you can also have photos printed on fabric. This will allow you to showcase some of your favourite memories among the other elements. After the quilt is finished, you can display it on a wall in your home or keep it out on the bed in a spare room.

Tote It Wherever You Go

Some brides love their wedding dress so much that they wish they could have it with them all of the time. There just may be a solution to that problem, and one that is also very practical. All you need to do is turn your dress into a tote bag or purse. If your dress is more casual, you can use it as an everyday tote bag. If it is more elegant, then turn it into an evening handbag. You can use flat, plain material, or go for more decorative designs by adding in some of the lace or beads from your gown. Another cool idea for elegant bags would be to use a necklace as the handle maybe. It could be one that you wore at your wedding or one that belonged to someone in your family and that holds special meaning to you.

Make other clothes out of it

Pinterest has a satiny profusion of dresses that have been chopped, lopped and stitched into articles of clothing that won’t attract stares if you wear them on the bus: Take several inches off the hem of a floor-length gown and dye it to create a cocktail dress, turn the bottom half into a skirt or the top half into a dressy blouse or bustier. Even if you can barely sew on a button, don’t dismiss the idea. A local tailoring shop might be able to handle the project, or you can hit Etsy, which has a bevy of sellers who repurpose wedding gowns into other items.

Turn it into a unique keepsake

Most wedding gowns are made up of so much material that the possibilities for repurposing are pretty far-reaching: You can do —or have someone else do for you— anything from using some of the material to make a christening gown if kids are in your future, to fashioning a decorative object like a pillow or Christmas tree skirt, to turning it into an accessory like a clutch or evening bag. If your dress had a long train, you could probably do a couple of these.

Wear it as a costume

If you’re not the sentimental type, probably the most fun you can have with your wedding dress after the reception is to wear it to a zombie walk like a zombie bride costume (or make it’s the starting point for a Bride of Frankenstein costume if playing undead isn’t your thing). There’s something strangely satisfying about being able to wear your wedding dress without worrying about spills, dirt, rips or other damage so adorn it and yourself with some fake blood, accessorize with a bouquet of dead flowers and go to town.

Wedding Dress Preservation

Ultimately, you might just want to keep your wedding dress and cherish it as a reminder of a magical day you and your significant other pledged your eternal love to each other. Zipping it into a plastic bag and hiding it in the back of your closet is not the best idea, as it is made from delicate fabric that does not handle the test of time well. To make sure that your gorgeous gown stays in pristine condition for the future generation, you need to have it treated professionally. It is not just dry cleaning, and wedding gown preservation begins with an experienced specialist’s assessment. The specialist will create a unique plan according to the fabric, details and stitching, unavoidable stains and possible rips and tears. To make it easier and more convenient, some companies are offering mail-away services. They will send you a mailing kit with instructions and have it back to you within six to eight weeks.

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