I Love My Tree Skirt: A case for repurposing your wedding gown

I love my tree skirt made by
Just for You

As Christmas approaches, I have the joy of decorating my tree. My tree skirt was made from the hem of my wedding gown.

My Mother’s Gown

When I got married, I wanted to wear my mother’s gown. Alas, that was not to be. I’m about 6″ taller and of a more “solid” build… Even adding gussets wouldn’t have made her beautiful 1950 satin gown look flattering on me… 
Reminiscing about this gets me thinking about the fate of wedding gowns after the big day! So, while I’m reminiscing, I’ll offer some options for what is probably the most sentimental garment you will ever wear:
• Hang it in the back of your closet…indefinitely. 

Heritage Garment

This is what I did for the first eight years- seriously. I know this isn’t usually considered an “official” option, but after the wedding, a bride might not want to make another wedding related decision for a while.
Pros: This is the lowest stress option. The only action it requires is putting the dress it on the hanger after your wedding. (Don’t keep your dress in a dry-cleaning bag, it can mildew.) If you haven’t decided what you want to do with it, this usually doesn’t rule out other options!
Cons: It could get eaten by moths, stains may set in, it could get damaged, it takes up space that you might have other uses for. You probably won’t be able to sell since the fashion won’t be current after a year.

Lake Mills Cleaners

Have it professionally cleaned and preserved. This is what my mother did- and it almost worked out!
Pros: Passing your wedding gown through the generations can be a beautiful, sentimental memento. Any parent would cry seeing their daughter wearing the heirloom dress on her wedding day. Having your gown professionally cleaned will remove any hidden stains that may show up with time and preserve your gown for your future daughter to wear.

Heirloom Textile Art

Cons: There’s no guarantee you will have a daughter. If you do have a daughter, there’s no guarantee she will want to wear your wedding gown. If she wants to wear your gown, there’s no guarantee it will fit her…(harumph). 

The Patchwork Bear

Sell it
Pros: Okay, the pros are obviou$.  You may have some visions of paying off some wedding debt, or at least making back some of what you spent on your gown. Here are some resources: Just for You in Verona, does bridal consignment. On line, look at PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, e-bay and Craigslist

Custom Apparel by
 Kay Warnke

Cons: It might not be as easy you think, and it could be a drawn-out process if your gown doesn’t sell. The website, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com says about 40% of their gowns sell on their site.  If you don’t have that kind of energy right after your wedding, you can sell it through a consignment shop.  Most consignment shops will only take the current fashion, and they have to take their cut which will decrease your profit!  You probably won’t get quite as much for selling your gown as you hoped. 
Donate it
Pros: You get the large gown out of the closet with minimal fuss or stress.  Someone else gets to wear it!
Cons: This isn’t a good option for you if you’re sentimental about your gown. Imagine going to a halloween party and seeing someone wearing your wedding gown… and they’ve slashed the skirt… and dyed it purple. For some of my more offbeat sisters, this might actually go in the “Pros” column, but probably not for most.

Make or have heirloom items made from the fabric! 
Just for You
This is my favorite option! I had a tree skirt made from the hem of my gown.  It’s beautiful! I hope to have other items made as I decide what I want done. “Just For You” in Verona made my beautiful tree skirt. Some items you can have made are tree skirts, ornaments, doll dresses, stuffed toys, christening gowns, hankies, stockings, decorative pillows and quilts!
Pros: You can enjoy your beautiful gown as often as you use the heirloom items. If you have more than one child, you can have several things made and they can each have something. The gown doesn’t become a white elephant taking up space either in a box or hanging in your closet.
Cons: Once you start cutting up your gown, there’s no going back. You can’t buy it back, get it out of the box or let your daughter wear it. 

5 Responses to I Love My Tree Skirt: A case for repurposing your wedding gown
  1. Peggy Latta
    December 20, 2010 | 4:08 pm

    Thank you for including my stockings in this post. My business, Heirloom Textile Art, restyles vintage and family textiles into a variety of products. I also create Replica Miniature Wedding Gowns as keepsakes for brides of all ages. The miniatures are a beautiful way to remember that special day, everyday. I invite your readers to join me on Facebook.
    Happy Holidays!
    Peggy Latta

  2. Kay Warnke
    December 22, 2010 | 11:54 am

    What an interesting post! Thank you for including my bassinet picture and a link to my website. It never ceases to amaze me the ideas that people come up with for creating new items. I love the Christmas tree skirt!! Other items I've made from wedding gowns are: bridal hankies, ring bearer pillows, garters, baptismal gowns and hats, communion dresses and bride's handbags. It's a wonderful way to preserve a precious memory.

    Kay Warnke

  3. Marilee
    December 22, 2010 | 1:00 pm

    Kay and Peggy,
    Thank you so much for letting me use your images! You both create beautiful keepsakes.

  4. Kathy Wright
    December 29, 2010 | 4:09 pm

    Hi Marilee,

    You have some good suggestions here. Brides do have a lot of options. However, some wedding gowns can get very soiled, especially if they had an outdoor wedding. Some brides may not believe their dress can never be clean enough to be used in any way. I want to assure those brides that most dresses can be cleaned again. In fact, the picture you included from our website (Heritage Garment Preservation) shows a very soiled wedding gown. This is an actual photo of a gown we received from a customer that had so much mildew that it looked almost hopeless. The gown was put away in a plastic bridal bag while muddy after a wet, outdoor wedding, and left there for years. Fortunately, we were able to get the mud and mildew removed and the dress restored to perfect condition.

    But, in truth, the sooner the better, for cleaning that wedding gown. Don't put it off too long.

  5. Marilee
    December 30, 2010 | 9:50 am

    Thanks Kathy! I think it's AMAZING you could get that gown clean. People should definitely check out your website to see the miracles you can work on a soiled gown. Your blog is pretty impressive too!