10 Ways to Repurpose a Wedding Dress

posted by Andrea | 04/29/2016
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wedding dress

May is often considered the start of “wedding season” here in West Michigan — so since May is almost here, I thought it might be fun to share this updated version of a post I wrote 5 years ago.

Plus, Dave and I will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary in June — TEN YEARS! — so it only seemed fitting to share TEN ways to repurpose a wedding dress!

For starters, I should probably tell you what I did with MY wedding dress…

I chopped it up!

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Yes, you read that correctly… I cut all the fabric off the skirt and put it in a small vacuum-seal bag to save for later. (Read more about my decision in this post.)

Wedding-Dress-in-Bag

I remember feeling slightly hesitant as I made the first cut into my dress — but it was honestly so freeing to get the dress out of our extra closet and to know that I would eventually do something useful with the fabric.

As some of you know, I ended up using some of the fabric to make a super-cute baptism outfit for Simon — and ended up using the same outfit for James.

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I am SO thrilled with how the outfit turned out — and that I got to use it more than once. This one outfit made it worth cutting up my wedding dress; I still hope to use the fabric for other “projects” in the future.

A little more about MY dress:

My dress was very plain — it didn’t have any lace, beads, or other decorative trim, so it was very easy to cut up and get long panels of silky fabric.

Even still, some of you might be wondering why I would cut up such a precious keepsake (or such an expensive purchase).

Yes, I understand my decision might sound hasty or ridiculous; but keep in mind, I am NOT a sentimental person — especially when it comes to stuff. I don’t like extra stuff sitting around my house, so there was no way I would ever want to store my dress for the next 50 years. It was either donate it, or cut it up and repurpose it into something useful — I chose the second option.

Also, my dress was $90 from the clearance rack 🙂

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As I mentioned above, I am very happy with my decision to cut up the fabric from my dress; however, since I know many of you would not be willing to do this, I thought I’d share a few more ideas of ways to repurpose or reuse your wedding dress (many of which were suggestions from you, back in the comment section of the post I wrote years ago).

wedding dress

1. Sell it.

If your dress is a style that is still somewhat fashionable right now, there’s a chance you might be able to sell it via Craigslist, Facebook garage sales, Ebay, a consignment shop, etc.

I would highly recommend setting a VERY reasonable price though. Even if you paid several hundred dollars for a dress, I don’t know many brides who would be willing to pay even a few hundred for a used dress.

Also, I know there are consignment shops who sell bridesmaid and flower girl dresses too — so you might be able to make some money back for the rest of your wedding party as well.

2. Give it away.

If I didn’t have plans to make the baptism outfit, I most definitely would have donated my dress.

Obviously, not everyone could simply give their wedding dress away, but I always see wedding dresses at thrift stores and secondhand stores, and I just think it would be such a blessing for someone on a limited budget to be able to wear a great dress (preferably while it’s still in style!)

3. Donate it to raise money for a cause.

I received several comments from women who had donated their dresses to raise money for cancer or another great cause.

It sounds like there are different organizations like these in every state, so if you’re interested, just do a quick Google search for places to donate wedding dresses in your area.

4. Donate it to the Mary Madeline Project.

Speaking of donating, the Mary Madeline Project has been suggested to me over and over and over again by blog readers.

The Mary Madeline Project doesn’t use the dresses to raise money for a specific cause; instead, volunteers use wedding dress fabric to make itty-bitty burial outfits for stillborn babies.

I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be in that situation, but I’m sure the last thing on those parent’s minds is finding an outfit to bury their baby in. I know this ministry is meaningful and important to SO many families — it would be a great use for your old wedding dress.

5. Make another wedding, rehearsal dinner, or prom dress.

I know of people who have used parts of their dress to make prom dresses for their daughters — or even wedding dresses for their daughters.

I’ve also seen a trend of girls altering their mom’s wedding dresses and wearing them as a “rehearsal dinner dress” — how cool is that!

6. Use the fabric to make anything.

As I mentioned above, I used my wedding dress fabric to make a baptism outfit for Simon and James. However, baptism outfits aren’t the only thing you can make with wedding dress fabric.

Consider anything and everything from pillows, hankies, and garters (potentially for future children’s weddings) to photo album covers, Christmas ornaments, baby quilts, doll clothes, stuffed animals, Christmas tree skirts, or decorative pillows in your own home.

Seriously, just search Pinterest for “ways to repurpose a wedding dress” and you will be amazed at how creative some people are!

7. Do a “trash the dress” photo shoot.

The “trash the dress” photo shoots became popular a few years after my wedding (and after I had already cut my dress into pieces). I have several friends who have done these photo shoots and they all turned out really great.

I actually know of wedding photographers who offer a trash the dress photo shoot as part of the wedding package if the bride is interested. That might be something to ask about if you, or someone you know, is getting married this summer!

8. Let your kids use it to play dress-up.

This is another great idea if you’re not quite ready to get rid of your dress but want to do something useful with it. What little girl wouldn’t love to play around with her mom’s wedding dress?

I have actually thought about making Nora a mini dress (or even just a skirt) with the materials left over from my dress, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet! Maybe this summer… maybe 🙂

9. Wear it for a Halloween or costume party.

I know SO many women who have worn their wedding dress multiple times for Halloween, costume parties, mystery dinners, etc. How fun!

10. Use it as a photo prop for newborn photos.

For those of you who just can’t bare to see your dress trashed or cut up or used for play or donated, you can keep it in your closet and use it as a nice white fluffy backdrop for future newborn photos (this looks especially cool if you have a poofy dress).

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These are just a few ideas I’ve had (and that I’ve heard from some of my readers); I’m sure there are many more!

Do you have any creative ways to repurpose a wedding dress?

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51 comments

  1. Kimberly

    07/16/2016

    Hi, I am getting married in October 2016. I have accumulated 5 X wedding dresses. 4 of which I will not be wearing. (A local thrift store was going out of business and had each of the dresses marked at $5) My thoughts at that time were ” I could decorate the wedding somehow with them”. Long, long trains on each with lots of fabric and sequins and pearls. Any creative ideas you may have for my dresses to add to my “barn wedding” decor?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Kimberly — congrats on the upcoming wedding! and wow, a dress for $5!

    In my opinion, long trains, sequins, and pearls don’t exactly scream “rustic barn wedding” to me — so I’d probably just donate those dresses back to another thrift store so another bride can find a great deal. Then maybe do something a little more rustic for your own decor.

    That’s just my 2 cents though — I’m sure it will be great no matter what you do 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. Elizabeth Roberts

    05/26/2016

    Hello!

    When it comes to donating wedding dresses, I am all for it. However, only within reason(s).

    For one, there are many young ladies across the United States who can not afford even a thrift store wedding dress. In my area, a person can not find a decent wedding dress for a low price even at a thrift store. From time to time, I look at the prices and I have yet, to find a dress below $79 and even those have been walked on, trampled on, which has black marks on the train and front of the skirt. Thrift stores simply do not take care of bridal and formal wear.

    There are many other ideas, in which are not listed that can be done with wedding dresses. And I believe the perfect solution would be to donate a wedding gown to a bride in the area who would love having just a wedding dress and a simple veil.

    There is an organization who collects formals such as prom dresses to donate to girls who would not otherwise have a prom dress to wear to their proms. I think this is a great idea.
    If I had space in my home, I would start an organization in which to collect wedding dresses to give to those future brides, who otherwise could not afford a thrift store find.

    Another idea was when my youngest niece got married, my sister took the lining of her wedding dress, and made a beautiful wedding bouquet and several other accessories. I am thinking it was a mother of the bride hankie and a wedding garter.

    Since I am a professional seamstress, a friend of mine wanted something to be done with her wedding dress, since she did not have any daughters. Of course, later in years, her niece wore her wedding veil. Anyway, she had me make several shapes of pillows. The pillow shapes ranged from square, round, heart, and a bolster also. The square pillow actually the bodice of her wedding dress which had the bridal buttons and zipper. The other pillows were cut out accordingly to the lace appliques of the dress. There was fabric leftover, which she kept to make something special from when the time came.

    As for cutting out wedding dresses for burial of infants, I totally disagree with this idea only unless the gowns have been damaged in some way where nothing can be done with them otherwise. Certainly, I am not trying to sound like a “negative Nancy” but these women have done nothing but begged for the wedding gowns I have listed on eBay. They have done this same thing to other ladies I know on eBay. This is totally wrong. People on eBay who sell items such as wedding dresses, are not selling them because they have nothing better to do. Sellers are selling them because this is partly our livelihood.

    I receive at least 1-2 messages a month from one of these organizations on eBay. This really does get tiring and old after awhile when you have to get telling them, the same answers over and over again.

    No, I am not bitter, angry, mean, or rude. I just feel there are other young ladies who deserve a chance at having a donated dress for their wedding, instead of these organizations getting the dresses to cut up for burial clothing.

    So, my suggestion is, for those ladies who read my comment, that if anyone is interested in donating their wedding dresses to a worthy cause, the best worthy cause is to find a future bride in their communities who deserves a wedding dress just like anyone else.

    Note! I am not ranting! Only suggesting!!

    [Reply]

  3. Erin

    04/29/2016

    My dress sat in a bag for a few years. I donated it to a lady who is a NICU nurse at the hospital I had my children at (and my husband and I were born at). She made them into outfits for the children who didn’t make it out of the NICU. 🙁 I was lucky enough to pick a plain dress that had a lace, beaded “overcoat” type of thing that was/is beautiful! I saved that part and it’s easily stored. I’ll offer it to my daughter if she gets married. It would make a nice piece of a veil or a decoration in her bouquet or something, if she chooses. Good times as always, Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That’s great that you could donate your dress Erin! And I’m sure your daughter will find some use for the beaded part of your dress (even if she’s not sentimental!)

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  4. Lea

    04/29/2016

    A friend of mine used her dress to make a first communion dress for her daughter.

    It turned out beautiful!

    Lea

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    Andrea Reply:

    that’s a great idea too!

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    Elizabeth Roberts Reply:

    Excellent Idea!!

    [Reply]

  5. Debbie

    04/29/2016

    Another place that takes wedding gowns to make into burial outfits is Angel Gowns. I think they have groups in different cities, so I would just google angel gowns in your city and a group might come up.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Debbie!

    [Reply]

  6. Melinda

    04/29/2016

    We are in the process of planning our daughter’s wedding right now, which is in 4 weeks. I am sentimental so I hung onto my wedding dress, plus I loved it so much! I never knew what to do with it though, but my wheels started turning once our daughter recently got engaged.

    I never wanted to push any part of my wedding dress onto our daughter, so when the wedding planning started, I told her that I still had my dress to if she wanted to use any part of it, but that I didn’t want her to feel obligated in any way to use it. She was thrilled! So far, I’ve made a brand new veil for her out of my old veil, I’m going to be making her garter out of my dress, and our daughter had another cool idea for the pearls on my dress. She suggested that we buy a glass locket for each of us, then put some of the pearls from my dress in the lockets and some of the Swarovski crystals I used to make her veil in the lockets too. We will each wear those lockets on her wedding day. Normally you probably wouldn’t do something like the lockets unless your mom has passed on, but it meant a whole lot to me that she wanted to do it even though I’d be there with her. The lockets turned out really cool too. They look like a very expensive piece of jewelry and we paid less than $5 for each one. I’d post a photo if I could figure it out. LOL

    We’ve moved a lot over the past 35 years, and there were many times when I asked myself why I keep lugging my wedding dress around with us. 35 years later I found out why. The things we did with my dress for her wedding have been priceless.

    Thank you Andrea for this very timely posting! Some great ideas have already been posted for those that are sentimental or not.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is so cool Melinda! I’m glad your daughter was able to use some of your dress — and the lockets sound really fun and unique!

    Congrats to the soon-to-be newlyweds!

    [Reply]

  7. Ann

    04/29/2016

    Fun post and good ideas! I use my wedding dress as a bedroom wall decoration. It has very simple lines, doesn’t take up a lot of space and is such a sweet sentimental reminder to my husband and I. Our little ones have started asking about it too and it’s fun sharing our wedding story with them 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well that’s a new one — do you literally just having it hanging on the wall? Or is it on a mannequin?

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    Ann Reply:

    Lol, a mannequin would be way creepy for me! It’s just on a nice looking clothes hanger hanging on the top of a door post but a nail or hook would work too.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — OK, well I like the idea of it hanging on the wall much better than a mannequin!

    [Reply]

  8. Kim

    04/29/2016

    I have three girls and when my youngest is older (she’s only one now) I plan to get pictures taken of the three girls playing dress up in my gown. We’ll see if I have the guts to part with it after that. I love your idea of cutting it up for projects!

    [Reply]

  9. Jen T

    04/29/2016

    Just an FYI…the Mary Madeline Project doesn’t have enough seamstresses and hasn’t been accepting dresses for quite some time

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh shoot — I just went to the website last week and thought it said that they were still accepting dresses. Bummer!

    I’m guessing there are similar programs available though (hopefully!)

    [Reply]

  10. Lauren

    04/29/2016

    My niece just got married in my dress a few weeks ago. My girls are still small, and I figured my dress would be very outdated by the time that they would be able to wear it. (It’s almost 13 years old anyway) Our niece didn’t have a huge wedding budget, so it was neat to be able to help her in that way.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    WHAT! That’s so cool!

    [Reply]

  11. Angela

    02/27/2015

    No photos on my blog but I put my daughter in my dress for cute kid photos and put my son in my husband’s army greens (or was it dress blues?!) Cutest photos ever. My daughter looks so perfectly angelic and my son so dashing and handsome. I could probably toss my gown and not care but I have a second daughter who I want to do the same photo shoot with.. and what happens if I have more kids after that? I am very cautious about clutter, as I type this I am sitting down from moving a lot of crap and furniture to the garage to get rid of lol. The dress is probably the one cluttery thing I would easily let go but I see full reason why to save it. My husband is keeping his dress uniform so I guess that will probably encourage me to keep my own. I do love the traveling dress and burial outfit for babies though. I would do those 2. Not to mention the trash the dress photo shoots. I find it to be a very selfish and indulging good time!

    For moms out there with older daughters, I wanted to wear my mother’s veil for my wedding and she was surprised because many daughters don’t choose to do so. She didn’t have it for me to wear but I wouldn’t push my old outdated fashion on my daughters when they got married, either. Lovely thoughts!!!

    [Reply]

  12. Tracy

    02/10/2013

    Thank you – I am recently divorced, and trying to find something positive to do with the twisting of painful and happy memories my wedding dress brings. The Mary Madeline Project really touched my heart, as I had a dear friend lose a full term child, and know remember well the difficulty they had in choosing an outfit for the funeral service. NILMDTS was not available to them, but a wonderful local photographer took precious photos of baby Alexa, that they treasure.

    I would never have thought of this, nor found the Mary Madeline Project, without your post. Life is full of amazing twists, that bring us exactly what we need, when we need it. Thank you again.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Tracy — SO glad you were able to donate your wedding dress to such a worth-while cause!

    [Reply]

  13. Demaroge

    11/20/2012

    Wow! Love the tree skirt idea! … stockings, too????

    [Reply]

  14. Becky

    10/20/2012

    these are some incredible ideas!! my wedding dress is… at my moms house!!! in a completely different state from me 🙂 to be fair, we moved before she could get it preserved in a box for me. lol. i dont think i could ever cut mine or change it too much. its so sentimental to me, and i know for my mom too. her wedding dress (which i would have loved to have a chance at altering and wearing for my own wedding if i had been small enough) had been destroyed when i was a little girl. darn hurricanes. it got destroyed along with a bunch of our clothes and linens from water leaks and flooding. so i dont think her or i is quite ready to donate it or cut up a wedding dress anytime soon. lol

    [Reply]

  15. Janet

    09/17/2012

    Great ideas! I’ve just found out that my mother’s dress was made into a Christmas tree skirt for her church! My mother died at 48 (20 years ago), I need to see if her dress is still being used at that church, it would be neat to show it to my kids.
    My dress went to a thrift store.

    [Reply]

  16. Kristina

    09/15/2012

    I just bought my wedding dress last week. I now know exactly what I need to do with it after; my fiance had a brother die just hours after birth. My dress is going to the Mary Madeline Project. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    [Reply]

  17. Amy C

    08/15/2012

    I have been trying to figure out what I want to do with my wedding dress. I really like some of these ideas. The Mary Madeline Project is an idea that hits very close to home for me. I can relate to losing babies because I lost my two babies due to miscarriages. Now, I can not have any because I had to have a full hysterectomy because of health problems that nearly took my life. Thank you for the ideas!

    [Reply]

  18. Debra

    07/08/2012

    A local seamstress made my wedding dress into my granddaughter’s flower girl dress for our daughter’s wedding. Loved it!

    [Reply]

  19. wiebke

    07/02/2012

    Hello Andrea and all the other ladies,
    i am very impressed about all of these ideas!!! My dress was weared by a bachelorette party, but they have to cut it in two peaces because the bachelorett was pregnant already ;-). Bbut no doubt it was fun to see her choosen the weddingdress than a pyjama. That was one of a couple of exercises she had to do on the party.
    Many Greetings fromwiebke, germany

    [Reply]

  20. Valerie

    06/09/2012

    We used my mom’s dress that was faded in a few spots (plus it didn’t fit me) to make a special guest signature “book” at my wedding. We cut her dress in squares and had fabric pens so the guests could leave special messages for us. I plan on having the squares made into a quilt with the colors of my wedding.

    [Reply]

    Deanna Cowsert Reply:

    I love this ideal!!! I have 3 sons so Im trying to do something with my dress that I could share with all 3. My oldest just got engaged so Im ready to start!! I would love any suggestions.

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    Melissa A Reply:

    you could make pieces of it in to pocket squares for your son’s to wear. Small enough to keep and leaves enough dress to make other things as well if you wanted.

    I put my wedding dress (I only paid $250 used in 1996 from a consignment shop) on craigslist and a woman picked it up with plans to make doll clothes out of it. I was just glad not to store it anymore, it was starting to rust. And we’ll celebrate 20 years in a couple weeks.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    love this idea Melissa, thanks for sharing!

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  21. Karin A

    04/22/2012

    Find a kid with a dollhouse and let the kid cut it up to make fancy tablecloths/curtains/doll clothes.

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  22. Maudy Paden

    04/05/2012

    I provide a wedding dress repurposing service and have descriptions and pics on my website. Take a look and get some more ideas. http://www.sewingbymaudy.com, thanks for looking.

    [Reply]

  23. shelia

    03/08/2012

    I donated my wedding dress to a shop here in Portland, Oregon! It’s called Adorned in Grace. They sell donated dresses that are drastically marked down from their retail price. The money earned from sales goes to an organization called Door to Grace. This group is working towards awareness and building safe houses for young women who are wanting to get out of sex trafficking right here in Portland. My dress sold for $700! it was a blessing to be able to help in such a way. Especially because my wedding dress was given to me. I don’t even miss the dress 🙂

    [Reply]

  24. Michele

    03/08/2012

    I would like to use my wedding dress to make a baptism outfit/dress for our little ones in the family. This could be passed down, year after year.

    [Reply]

  25. DeAnna

    02/19/2012

    I donated mine to a local college. The photography department needed one for the students to learn wedding photography.

    [Reply]

  26. Jo Ann Knowles

    01/05/2012

    Right after my daughter selected her wedding gown I started wondering what I should do with my own. I figured my grandchildren couldplay dress up with it when a friend suggested I use part of it to make jewelry pouches for the bridesmaids. I loved the idea. While I had it out, my daughter tried it on. She actually loved it and is having it shortened to above the knee and will wear it to her rehearsal and dinner afterward. This gives me the opportunity to make the pouches, her garter, a drawstring purse for her to carry on her wedding day and still have her wear my dress!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — that’s so great that your daughter figured out a way to wear your dress! And I also love the idea of making drawstring purses out of the extra material!

    [Reply]

  27. Heather

    11/09/2011

    HI Andrea! I have been a long time reader & just came across this post again today. I wanted to share with you what I did with my wedding dress this week: http://www.pinfluence.com/2011/11/07/the-princess-brides/

    [Reply]

  28. sarah

    09/30/2011

    Ok so I was poking around on the new and updated website and I found this gem of a post. To say that I love this is an understatement! I think we are all way too precious about out wedding dresses, I mean we wear it ONCE and generally that day is so well photographed – it’s not like you can forget what it looked like. Although my disclaimer is – if it came to you as an heirloom that’s different and of course if it’s a Vera Wang 🙂 . I had a client who appreciated this wedding dress re-use it notion too and asked me to chop her wedding dress and we turned it into a beautiful duvet for her bed her dress was not traditional white or cream it was more a burgundy wine colour. Mine’s (Yes I made it) ready and waiting for inspiration/time to hit me. My sister’s dress had red wine poured all over it so I can’t wait to get my hands on that one too, (Yes I made that one too it was a fabulous Amsale knock off, I had to re-make it when she dropped soooooooo much weight and when I got to the UK to find out our trans Atlantic measurement sessions didn’t go so well). Now I have ideas for that one but she has to ship it to me so they may just stay ideas.
    I can’t wait to see the baptisim outfit you make.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — you sound like an extremely talented seamstress Sarah! How cool that you made your wedding dress and your sister’s!

    I’m sure you’ll come up with something super creative for both your dresses — and I LOVE the duvet cover idea too!

    [Reply]

  29. Jesika

    08/20/2011

    My sister and I sat down and made our Christmas Tree skirts from them!!! I love when I pull it out every Christmas it puts an instant smile on my face and I always feel the need to go and kiss my husband!!! :o)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    so sweet! I don’t miss my dress at all, and I can’t wait to use the fabric to make a baptism outfit for our little girl

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    Ann Reply:

    I also made tree skirts from the poofy bridesmaid dresses i’v worn. With the more slender dresses i’v made table runners. Bridal dresses also make beautiful decorative pillow cases.

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  30. Mandy

    07/17/2011

    My mom made my garter out of her old wedding dress; I loved it! 🙂

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  31. Betsy (Eco-novice)

    04/26/2011

    Great ideas! Mine is hanging in my closet. A very gifted seamstress friend made it for me (we picked out the thai silk together in LA’s garment district). It is so original and yet classic and wonderful. I don’t think I could ever cut it up. I guess I’m hoping some niece or daughter will want to wear it.

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  32. Jessica

    04/25/2011

    Yep! Mine is still at my mom’s house. I have visions of wearing it again for a vow renewal ceremony. We’ll see.

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