Open thread: What to do with my dress after the wedding?

Updated Nov 18 2015
Dresses on Us
Thanks to Offbeat Bride 2dBride for uploading this fabulous photo to the Flickr pool.

I'm making my own wedding dress… and I just don't know what I'm going to do with it afterwards. If it was going to be a shop bought dress, I wouldn't have an issue selling it, but because of the amount of work that I'd be putting into it, I think it'd feel a bit odd to sell it… but on the other hand I think it'd feel odd to just keep it boxed up somewhere.I'm basically wondering what you will be doing with your dress after your weddings are over and done with. Keeping it? Selling it? Trashing it? Is it something you intend to wear time and time again?


I love this question! I rounded up some of my favorite ideas, beyond just "boxing it and saving it for later."

  1. Hem it and turn it into a shorter cocktail dress.
  2. Dye it.
  3. Donate it to a charity like Brides Against Breast Cancer.
  4. Frame a piece of it, especially a section that shows off the custom work.
  5. Turn it into a costume for either Halloween or Comic Con.
  6. One Offbeat Bride reader explained, "I'll use the fabric to make a tallis (prayer shawl) for me and for my Hub. I'll get the part with bling on it, he'll get the plain white part. There should be enough to go around. And it would be a fun (but expensive) way to have memories of the day that we could wear every sabbath."
  7. Turn it into a quilt. Another reader said, "I was thinking that what I'd do is cut it up with other old and special clothes (the shirt I wore the day my fiance and I started dating, and other sappy and sentimental things) and turn them all into a quilt that we could keep on our bed or I could make a small one for each child we eventually have."
  8. A third reader had a similar idea, "I plan on saving it and having a baby blanket made out of the material for each child that we have (hopefully two). I didn't wanna just keep it in the attic and didn't think I'd wanna part with it either so this idea hit me in the face one day as a way to (pardon the oncoming mush fest) wrap our babies in our love."
  9. Make art with it. Wear it for a trash the dress, or rock the dress session, or a photo project a la Sonya Naumann's 1000 dollar dress.
  10. Turn it into art with a wedding dress painting.
  11. Use it to cover your wedding album.
  12. Turn it into a pillow case (this was suggested by my husband who spent our wedding night sleeping on my raw silk wedding dress — he slept like a baby.)

Now on to you guys… any more ideas on things you could do with your dress after the wedding?

  1. Hmmm… for floor-length dresses like mine was, you could do a combo – have it hemmed into a cocktail dress and make sure the seamstress gives you back the hemmed off bits to use for pillowcases (love that idea) or quilt squares etc.

  2. I plan to wear it again.

    It's maybe a bit easier with mine because it's dark blue and was supposed to be an evening dress anyway but you could always dye a white dress.

    I'm not sure when exactly I'll wear it because I'm not generally a formal function type of person, but you never know (and this way if it does happen I don't have to shell out another £100 for an outfit). If all else fails maybe I'll throw my own formal party as an excuse. 😀

    • I lost a lot of weight during my divorce, so I gave the dress to a professional costume designer friend (who is the size i used to be)to destroy and use for a post apocalyptic event. She did all this amazing work to it and then gave it back for my very own trashed dress photoshoot. (don't know if I'm going post apocalyptic or zombie,yet) She insisted because I never even had many photos of the wedding.

      I just didn't think I'd be doing an engagement shoot before my apocalyptic dress shoot!

    • My mother went through a nasty divorce, so I plan to wear her dress at my 'afterparty' for paintball! Even if a couple splits, there may have been many awesome things that happened because of the joining. For example, my mom was glad to have had me!

  3. my mother paid for my dress and insisted it be re-wearable. I have had my dress for 27 years now, I can say that I wore it to two other events (very plain silk dress) with different accessories. it hasn't fit for quite a while now, so although it hangs in the closet, I did offer it to my new DIL to remake any way she would like for her wedding. when she declined the offer, I planned my own redesign and can't wait to see how it turns out!

    • My mom kept her dress (from 1970!), and I'm taking it from her, but it isn't re-wearable due to yellowing around the neck. She just wants to avoid sending it to the landfill, so I am working with a clothing designer I like (she sells at boutiques and craft shows) to design and use the material in my dress! Plus, I'll experiment with any leftover scraps in my decor. I plan and hope that MY resulting dress is going to be super fun and unique (with color accents), so that I can wear it to other things in the future without too much de-fancifying, if that makes sense. If people can just let go of the dress _remaining_ a dress, and make it into other meaningful and useful items, I think that will help avoid all these "it's been in a box for 25 yrs and I don't know what to do with it" issues!

      • There are ways to remove the yellowing. If you wish to keep it and rewear it, get ahold of someone who works with vintage clothing. Yellowing is a concern that they have to deal with on a fairly frequent basis and they should have tips and tricks to remove it.

  4. My dress is a historically accurate green colonial dress circa 1774,and as a rein-actor I'm going to use it as a ball gown for future reenacting events. The traditional dress is was never in the cards for me, in part because the wedding is also colonial themed and it would have just looked wrong.

    It also has a corset back so if we have kids I can even wear it then, which I had put in at the last minute when I remembered we intended on have a couple down the road. Figured it wouldn't hurt the think ahead.

  5. I have NO IDEA what to do with mine. It's been sitting in my closet in it's bag for the last 6 months. I thought about getting it hemmed but the bust is very wedding-ish so it'll just look silly.

    I'm considering getting it cleaned and then put it in a consignment shop. Or maybe I'll do what my mom did and keep it to put in a dress-up box (I wish my mom kept her's in good condition, it was so 70s flower child I would've worn it for my wedding!).

  6. My partner and I will be wearing white cotton sundresses. After our honeymoon we are going to have a dye battle (with limited colors). We both love tie dye, so we thought it would be a great "trash the dress" event that will result in dresses that we will wear again.

    • Similarly, I posted my first wedding dress on reddit under a giveaway or assistance subreddit. I met a lovely girl on the other side of my state who was just my size and delivered it to her in person. Before I gave it away, I had a reddit alien logo tag sewed inside the dress. I hope the reddit wedding dress is still making the rounds, this was back in 2010.

  7. If you're religious (and especially if your dress is white), maybe you could turn your dress into a child's outfit for a christening, First Communion, or other coming-of-age event.

    You could use some small pieces to make fabric mats for wedding/family photos.

    Sew scraps into fabric flowers for a bouquet, hair band, etc.

    • I saved the scraps from making my sister-in-law's wedding dress to make a christening gown for her future kid(s).

      • Our christening gown started out as my great grandmother's wedding dress. It was re-made into my Nanna's first communion dress, then re-made into a christening gown that my dad, his sisters, my sisters and all my cousins, and now my nephew have worn. It's so completely woven into my family's history – 5 generations and counting!

        • That's what I'm doing with my grandmother's wedding gown. My aunt and my mother wore it so my cousin (so close its scary) are making a Christening/photo gown for our children. I'll probably turn my own wedding dress into a nice quilt.

    • I totally meant to use the leftover fabric from my dress to make the outfit for my son's bris. At least, that was my thought when I got married. I totally forgot about it while I was pregnant 😛

    • My grandmother turned my dress into a Christening gown for either a girl or boy. The outer sheer layer unbuttons and comes completely off the dress if a boy were to wear it, leaving it entirely plain, white satin. She even made a girl's bonnet, and a boy's cap for it as well. So far, our 3 daughters have worn it – and one of these days I plan on cross-stitching their first & last initials along with the year they were baptized, on the inside of the dress somewhere. I hope it becomes a keepsake to pass through the generations.

  8. I'll be able to wear mine again, it's just a cute short red dress, we bought it at a cute little boutique 🙂

  9. But what do you do if it's already been like 9 or 10 years? I don't have any consignment shops in my area (Alaska) that will take them, and that Brides against Breast Cancer place only wants them from 2005 and more current. Mine was in 2001 and it was a very traditional style (long sleeved, more ball gown-ish, not frou-frou-y). I've had mine in it's box since after my wedding, and have tried to sell it before and got no takers. My older daughter (she's 7) said she wants to wear it when she gets married (awww how cute) but of course she could change her mind by then. It would help if I had no qualms about cutting things up I think.

    • Laurel, tons of the ideas in the post are relevant to older dresses. There's no time-limit on framing, hemming, quilting, art-making, etc.

    • Depending on your budget you could frame the whole dress and hang it in your bedroom. Or hang your dress up from a lovely hook on a fabulous hanger. Another option is to combine the two ideas by hanging an empty frame on the wall then hanging the dress on the hanger inside the frame. Maybe your daughter will not change her mind.

    • I'm in the same boat, Laurel. Mine is 12 years old and still hanging in my closet. If I could fit into it again I'd love to do a trash the dress session. It might be fun to have it altered to fit now and do that. Then I'd love to have a sketch made of it … and perhaps into the dress up bin? Halloween costume every year? I'm inspired to have some fun with it, for sure!!

    • Long sleeved wedding dresses are currently difficult to find in most mainstream stores. I'm currently looking for a wedding dress with sleeves, and they are really difficult to find. I bet if you put it up for sale online, someone would buy it from you.

    • i dunno… i feel that your daughter might find that a nice gesture. I always dreamed of having my moms. unfortunately we couldn't, but i wish i could have. It would be cheaper to fix up another dress than to buy a brand new one. Keep it, since she says she wants it now!

      • I personally would keep it and get it packaged away safely. As a tip from a vintage dress seller who I've followed for a while's site said, make sure that you pull it out once a year to check it and make sure its still good, ie. give it an airing. Then repackage it and store. That way your daughter can have it if she still wants it and can fit it when she gets older, and if not, then perhaps HER daughters/granddaughters might want it.

  10. For our renaissance/privateer/whatever wedding, my dress came in 5 parts (bodice, shift, crinoline, underskirt, overskirt). I have already re-worn my several times, once as a full ensemble, and several times as individual pieces.

    I think it would be neat to have a traditional dress separated into two parts – keep the bodice as a shirt/top, and then use the skirt for crafting or preserving. Good luck with whatever you choose to do 🙂

    • Same here! (mine was more goth/punk/victorian but same idea). Modular is definitely they way to go for maximum rewearability. It's only been 5 weeks and I've already worn the underskirt once and the corset twice. I want to make some minor modifications to the petticoat and overskirt before I wear them again but nothing that will affect the overall design – just need to make them a little more durable and practical.

  11. I'm in the same boat since I'm making mine too. It is about 85% tulle so I can't exactly do anything with it, plus there's no way I could bring myself to cut it up. Since I don't have the heart to harm one of my finest creations (two, actually) they'll stay in one piece. The reception dress is easy to take care of, but with around 50 yards of tulle, the ceremony dress is too poofy to not be boxed up. Oh well.

  12. I don't have mine yet, so it seems a little early, but I am already considering having it shortened, and framing a square of material from the bottom… will let you know after next August or so!!!

  13. I've also heard of people turning their wedding dress into a Christening/Baptism gown or outfit for their child.

    You might be able to make a new family heirloom out of scraps…Maybe make Christmas ornaments or incorporate pieces into a scrapbook or shadowbox.

    I think it would neat to put a piece in some sort of a see-through container & give it to your spouse to carry around as a reminder. It would also be a cool thing to lend to friends & family who are marrying to give them 'luck'.

    My main suggestion is to hold off a bit (maybe give it a year), so you have enough time to decide what you want to do with it. It would be really awful to do something drastic & then change your mind (or come up with a better idea!)

  14. If I can bring myself to cut it up, i'll use it to make a replica dress for one of the dolls I make. That way I can always keep it with me in convenient 30cm size!

  15. My wedding dress from my second wedding was turned into crafts project, it was a simple satin ivory dress with white lace top. I turned it into and angel for my christmas tree (topper) every year and the rest was turned into a tree skirt for the tree as well. I lost the tree skirt but still have that beautiful angel. I actually use her year round for display and put on tree at christmas time. Even though Im divorced I enjoy my angel because I created something positive out of a bad situation.

  16. I'm doing Brides Against Breast Cancer. Not only is it a wonderful cause, but I feel a lot better about spending $700 on it! My mom is going to hate the idea (she's a sappy hoarder type), but I don't care. It seems beautiful and right to me.

    • My mom about had a fit when I told her I was donating mine. She kept going on and on about my hypothetical future daughter wanting it. I said A-I don't plan on having kids B-I didn't wear your wedding dress because its 20 years out of date, what's going to happen in another 20 C-Its going to be loved by someone else, how can that be a bad thing?!

  17. I currently have mine in the closet in a bag, but I'm planning on wearing it again-there's an annual party in our group known as the Snooty Food party, where we dress up in the fanciest stuff we have (tiaras recommended, for example), and have ridiculous food as a potluck. Last year I went LBD and ridiculous jewelry. This year? Woo, wedding dress!

    Give yourself a reason to wear it again, if it makes you happy.

  18. My cousin had hers preserved, and 'rents' it out to brides. She lends it to them for free (if she knows them), as long as they agree to have it drycleaned and re-preserved before they return it to her. However, you could rent it out for cheap and make your money back on it and help other brides save some money as well. She's already rented it out 10 times and it's only been 5 years since the wedding.

  19. When I was an au pair in France, my au pair mother had her wedding dress in her room on a simple mannequin (similar to the ones that a seamstress would use). The rest of her room was very simplistic, so it was a great centrepiece to her room.

  20. Mine can't be hemmed (the cut and style just wouldn't allow for that) and there are a lot of things I can't do with it because the raw silk is dyed very deeply and even after dry cleaning still runs a bit – so pillows would stain our cheeks! (Oils and sweat from my skin on our wedding day meant that when I finally peeled it off, I was fuchsia-colored all over).

    I'm going to eventually get the obi train cut so it doesn't trail and have that section turned into a wall hanging, and I hope that someday I'll have reason to wear the entire dress again to a formal occasion. I haven't been to one in years, but someday…

  21. my dress is just back in the dress back, needing to be drycleaned (I MUST get round to doing it)
    However as I made my own dress I have left over fabric and I'm going to make a cover for our wedding album from it.

    here's a few more ideas for wedding dresses tho

    or a gorgeous idea I saw on pinterest was to save your dress and photograph your daughter in it every year 🙂

  22. Donating to charities is nice. There is also one that donates whole weddings to terminal patients so they can marry their loves in the ceremony they never thought they could have- very bitter-sweet, but there are many many charities that do these things.

  23. This is a really great post! My wedding dress is actually a prom dress, so I had always assumed I would just take it to a consignment shop afterward… but now I really like the idea of using it for decor. It would make some really nice pillows! I hope I can find someone who will do things like that for me since I can't sew!

  24. My sister and I have a really similar sense of style and we're about the same size so she's going to wear mine when she gets married. (She's not engaged yet but she wants to get married someday) It's a super fancy dress… not something you could really repurpose so we'll probably donate it after that.

  25. Mine will be a burgundy Renaissance dress. We actively attend renaissance faires and once a year a local venue (same place I am getting married at!) holds a venetian carnivale so I will definitely be able to wear it over and over again. Back will corset like with a modesty panel so if my weight flucuates it will be no problem! 🙂

  26. I know of a couple that got dressed up in their wedding clothes every anniversary and went out to dinner, dancing, etc. They got a huge positive response from people. Last I read the bride had worn her dress 6 times, LOL. It's a great way to keep the memories going.

  27. Oooh! I thought that looked familiar-turns out it was my post!

    We're 2 months post-wedding now and after a bit of a dress related cooling off period I think I'll be adding more embroidery and possibly some beading or similar to make it a bit less wedding-y and turn it into a display piece in its own right-possibly for framing or keeping on a manequin dependant on availibility of space when I'm done.

  28. A few things I've heard of which I love and will definitely consider:
    – Have a bride party. Some women have a party with their girlfriends and everyone comes in their wedding dress, eats cake and has a ball in an entirely girly sort of way. It's not for everyone but it's totally indulgent and fluffy and sometimes that's really fun.
    – Another woman I know plans to wear it on her anniversary and her little girls know the importance of the anniversary for her and her husband as a result.

  29. What a fabulous post!! OMG!

    If you don't have an idea for your dress, and want to see it be useful to someone, consider donating (or selling) your dress to a local designer or dressmaker!

    One of the best things about creating new wedding dress designs from sustainable materials is that I get to take pre-worn wedding dresses and give them another chance down the aisle, as it were. I love love love working with reclaimed fabrics because they are eco-friendly in that they don't use up more resources. And I consider even the silk cruelty-free, since it's already been used once. No new silkworms are harmed in the making!

    And we've been offering the 'shorten your dress to cocktail length' and 'create a christening gown from your wedding dress' service to our bridal clients for years. Why just use a gorgeous dress once? Why let it hang around, taking up space in the closet? Don't waste it! Re-claim it!

    ::scampers off to play with pretty pretty once-wed silk::

  30. A local wedding shop in my town participates with a charity that supplies dresses to Haitian brides. Because different styles go over better in different cultures, some styles that would be considered less-than-current in the US may be fine in other places.

  31. I intend to rewear mine…just not conventionally. When I bought my dress, it made me feel so good that I wanted to wear it all the time. So my plan is to wear it whenever I'm having a lousy day or am mad at my FH. I told him that he'll know I've been having a rough day if he comes home to me wearing my wedding dress & drinking a glass of wine.

  32. My grandma had cut the top off hers and ten added a red velvet bodice top and used it for an evening gown

    My mom then pilfered the left over lace for her wedding dress

    When my day comes itll be a costume wedding so anything goes

  33. I definitely love the idea of donating dresses and I'd love to be able to donate the dress my mom is making for me, but I don't think most donation groups take handmade dresses. =(

  34. i have mine boxed because i am a hoarder, but a woman i know made hers into a quilt. she also used other fabric, because the dress wasn't enough on it's own, but she worked the lovely lace and silk from her dress into the most gorgeous and functional heirloom.

  35. My dress is not white, so I am going to either cut off the train or hem it to tea length and wear it again. And I am stoked.

    • Yep! I did this with mine and was able to wear it as maid of honor in my friend's wedding a few months later. Now it's too big for me so I am contemplating what to do next.

  36. I donated my wedding dress to young military brides with BRIDES ACROSS AMERICA

    My husband is an officer and makes a decent salary, unlike some young enlisted guys, some of whom make as little as $20,000/year. That, plus possibly moving, being long-distance…a lot of military brides aren't able to make their dream weddings happen. Our base happened to have a drive the week after I got back from the honeymoon!

  37. I am planning on keeping my dress and storing it properly so that it stays in good shape. Hopefully sometime in the future it will be listed as vintage mint 😀 I figure that even if my daughter doesn't want to wear it, her daughter or her granddaughters might.

  38. I went the costume/con route. So far, I have worn my dress to Dragon*Con twice, for a paid gig as a Fairy Princess, and to a Masquerade Ball. I would love to let my sister or (hypothetical) daughter wear it, but I'm so small that I don't know if it will ever fit anyone else. It's too beautiful to dismantle though (plus I know how much effort went into making it) and too expensive to sit in a box. So a life of cons and costumes it is! Plus, I really love being able to say that I went moshing at a Mindless Self Indulgence concert in my wedding dress 😀

  39. At my wedding I wore a dress I already owned – I wore it at a formal event in college. For the wedding I had it shortened. A few months later I attended a formal work event and wore the wedding dress again. I'd absolutely wear it to another formal event in the future!

  40. For me, my Fiance and I decided we are having 1 month anniversaries, and wear our clothes then, just dinner, just the two of us, in our own apartment, after we get married on December 22nd. Plus I get a reception the next day, so it's not a one day dress. Don't know if I will wear the skirt for the open house. Mine is a custom made three piece, to be worn again, so I don't have the same issue…I will probably wear the jacket, with some black nice shirt underneath it more times then the satin top or skirt, but I certainly think, wearing it on your one month, 2 month, 3 month anniversary would keep some sparkle alive in your marriage. At least until you find, you do not fit in it any more. When that times come, I am framing the dress. Just framing it and displaying it, I think that would be best for me.

  41. I recently attended a Zombie Walk to raise canned goods for a local charity. I tore up my wedding dress, doused it with blood and wore it as a zombie bride. My husband went as a zombie groom. We had so many compliments that night and had so many people asking for pictures it was amazing! Originally I didn't know what I wanted to do, but we got married a week before (a Halloween/Masquerade theme) so it was just after the wedding, it fit in our theme and it was for charity! =)

  42. We are having a Celtic Medieval theme wedding…so we will both be wearing our outfits again for Renaissance Faires we attend 😀

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