Tradition dictates that a bridal gown is stored after the wedding and preserved for future generations – preferably one’s own daughter or other close family member – for a sentimental touch on an unknown day somewhere down the line. However, in 2017, it’s safe to say that such traditions are not as common, given the many factors that would normally play a role in the decision to ‘save’ the dress.
To begin with, the fashion cycle is so fast nowadays, that styles and trends come and go before you can blink. In short… Thirty years from now, your daughter probably won’t wantto wear your strapless mermaid gown with a sweetheart neckline, the same way you probably weren’t too thrilled being offered your mum or aunt’s puffy sleeves from the eighties. Wedding style has also become much more relaxed in the past decade, and this – paired with ongoing advancements in fabric technology – would probably play a major role in what future brides want to wear.
Secondly, there are economic and societal factors that contribute to whether it would be sensible to save your gown for decades, or a sentimental waste of time. Nowadays, a lot of people aren’t getting married until much later on in life, if at all. If your daughter chooses to marry further into her thirties, she may not even be the same size as you were when you married in your twenties. Because of the huge financial burden of executing a wedding, many couples are opting for much simpler events with smaller numbers, preferring to save for a down payment on a home or using those would-be expenses to travel together after tying the knot. Even in today’s economy, a lot of brides simply don’t have the space available to store large items such as a wedding gown for an unknown period of time.
So what can you do after the ‘I do’?
Thankfully, there are more options available today than ever before.
Photography: Julie Charlett Photography
Many brides are choosing chic, wearable gowns these days that can easily be re-styled and re-worn at another event in the not-too-distant future. The style of your gown may not even say ‘bride’ anymore with a few minor adjustments. For example, if you opted for a simple, classic look without any embellishment such as lace or beading, consider dyeing your dress for a radical change on a garment you already knowlooks good on you. Consult a professional to see what your options are when it comes to dyeing or customizing your gown – perhaps you now want to add a more decorative element to a simple gown to turn it into a showpiece for a special event. Or just switch up the accessories altogether and create a completely different look from the one you embodied on your wedding day.
If you had a larger or fancier gown, consider repurposing parts of the gown, perhaps for more than one outfit, so you can really get your money’s worth out of it. Think about changing the length, removing any embellishment that may be on it to create a different look, and even reusing the embellishment somewhere else altogether. One option I offer my custom brides is to use piece of the lace or other fabric from their gown to make the christening gown when baby comes along – it has sentimental value, is likely to happen within a shorter time frame than waiting to pass on the dress, and it’s also much easier to store a baby’s gown after the event! This is particularly special when the wedding gown has been custom made, as every aspect of the process has catered to a specific individual and keeps the family cycle in mind when the wedding is done.
Photography: Sam Jackson Photography
Chop It Up!
If your gown has a lot of fabric, take it to a good technician and see if you can create something new altogether. Chances are you may not have to pay as much, as you would be providing the raw materials for the technician to work with. Of course, this would be completely dependent on their abilities and the style of the dress. Perhaps you could remove the skirt and keep the top of the dress – I had one bride change her ball gown into two separate pieces to create different outfits altogether – or change the skirt length into a party dress. Another of my brides turned her mermaid gown into the perfect lace pencil dress for an all-white party by chopping off the flared skirt at the bottom of the dress.
I would also suggest multi-repurposing: turn a ball gown into a tea-length dress for a garden party or special daytime event, and then chop it some more for a short party dress, switching up other elements throughout the bodice or adding a jacket or other accessories to change the look altogether. Get as much use out of it as you can while it still fits!
Photography: Damian Luk Pat Photography
Quite a few brides are now opting to ‘trash the dress’; either at the wedding or in a photo shoot afterwards. This is a fun way to make some memories one last time with your gown before you get rid of it altogether, either with your entire bridal party, just the groom, or all by yourself. Personally, I think this is a great way to close a chapter if you have been saving your dress all these years and things unfortunately didn’t work out so ‘happily ever after’… who says you can’t celebrate at this stage as well and start afresh once you ‘trash the dress’?
Photography: Joel Hinkson Fine Art Photography
Pass It On!
All things being said, there is still something beautiful about being able to lend or give your dress to someone who can feel as beautiful in it as you did. You don’t have to keep your dress forever in the hopes that you can pass it on someday… why not pass it on right away? Consider any one of your friends or family members who would appreciate the gesture (and financial relief!) of having a beautiful gown ready and waiting, without the stress that gown shopping entails, especially if they loved what you wore. After all, how wonderful would it be to share a gown with your sister or best friend and create even more great memories together in this next stage of life? It may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely a thought!
Photography: Bain Photography
You can’t go wrong with donating a special item to someone who may not be able to afford such extravagance for her big day. There are great options and organizations out there who will take your gown and make sure it ends up where it counts, giving you the satisfaction of paying it forward after living it up on your wedding day. There are many options available as to where you can send your dress, so it’s up to you to decide which cause you’d like to assist with by doing that. I’m particularly fond of the Angle Gown program, which turns donated gowns into beautiful burial gowns for babies who have sadly passed away during their time in hospital. Wish Upon A Wedding is another organization, which provides wedding attire for brides and grooms who are terminally ill. While some of the options may not be local, it may well be worth your time to research what you feel would be the next best home for your special item.
Photography: Julie Charlett Photography
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Darcel de Vlugt
Darcel de Vlugt is a writer, editor, artist and designer for custom womenswear pieces for red carpet, bridal and special occasions.