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What to do with an old wedding dress?

About once a year, when I was little, all the stars would align and my Mum would be in the right mood for the wedding dress. She would disappear up to her room and return back downstairs holding a big dove grey box. We never knew where she kept the box; we couldn’t see it in my parents bedroom or in her wardrobe. It seemed to mysteriously and magically appear on special evenings.

My sister and I would sit and watch as she slowly lifted the lid to reveal the swirls of lace underneath. The dress was folded and my Mum would bend down and lift the whole dress up in one fell swoop. We were mesmerised.

As young girls, this was the most elaborate, delicate piece of clothing we had ever seen. It was like suddenly glimpsing another world and we always knew that the dress was stashed away waiting for us.

By the time my sister and I were teenagers, however, we had grown much taller than our mother and we realised- the dress wouldn’t fit.

At first, we were devastated, then we figured out that we could buy more wedding dresses and obviously that cheered us up.

Now that I’m older and I’ve seen lots of weddings and, inevitably, a few divorces, I understand that wedding dresses can mean many different things. Some grow to become magical mementoes, some painful reminders, and some just take up too much space in a busy, full life.

We’ve kept my Mum’s wedding dress because, despite its diminutive size, it is a lovely symbol of their nearly forty year marriage.

However, for whatever reason, it is possible that your bedroom holds a wedding dress that you no longer know what to do with.

Here are some ideas for what you can do with that old wedding dress:

Donate the dress

Help grieving parents: donate your dress to Angel Gowns (US) or through Sands (UK) so that it can be used to make special burial gowns for parents who have lost a baby.

Help couples who are dealing with serious and terminal illness: donate your dress to Wish Upon a Wedding (USA) or Wish for a Wedding (UK) who provide dresses for brides facing life-altering circumstances like serious illness.

Help military brides: donate your dress to Brides Across America who help military brides and first responder brides to find dresses as way to support and thank service men and women.

Help local and national charities: ask at your local wedding dress shops, many of them offer a service where they resell donated dresses and donate the proceeds to various charities.

Alter the dress

Have you considered dyeing it? It totally depends on the style of the dress, but it could look amazing as a black dress, or a dark red maybe? We’d suggest NOT doing it yourself, unless you have a lot of experience dyeing fabric or you really don’t mind how it turns out! (This bride tried it herself.)

Or having it shortened/altered so that you can wear it as a cocktail dress?

The best place to start is at a bridal shop, so either go back to where you bought the dress or ask at a local bridal shop, they should be able to recommend a dyeing service and professional alterations.

A few tips for dyeing: Dry clean the dress first, then the dye will take hold better and any stains will be removed before they alter the dye. Check that the fabric of your dress can be dyed, not all fabrics can- polyester and lace, for example, are difficult to dye. Finally, remember that any beading or other embellishments may stay white, so make sure you are prepared for this and it won’t ruin the look of the dress.

A few tips for alterations: If you had alterations done to your wedding dress before the big event, then you’ll know that it’s a process that requires a few fittings. Firstly, it’s best to visit the tailor in person and put the dress on so that you can discuss what you would like altered and they can pin the fabric and take exact measurements. Then you need to go back after they’ve altered the dress so that you can have a final fitting before they finish off the changes. If you have any doubts or little niggles, the final fitting is the time to voice them! After that, it can be very difficult to backtrack, especially if you fabric or details removed. Now is not the time to be shy.

To find a talented tailor, ask for a recommendation from a bridal shop or have a look for recommendations on wedding sites- The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Rock’n’Roll Bride and Ruffled have helpful info and forums.

Don’t forget to bring accessories when you visit the tailor for your fittings- what underwear and shoes might you wear with the new dress? These extra details will help you to decide if altering the dress is the right choice.

Finally, time your alterations well- there’s no point having alterations done if you think you will gain or lose weight in the next few months.

Sell the dress

Thanks to the internet and the entrepreneurial spirit of its users, there are a multitude of online resources if you decide that you want to sell a wedding dress.

A few tips: most of the bigger sites charge a fee or take a commission to list your dress, so if you decide to list your dress on a few sites, remember to take into account the cost of the listing fees or commission. If you want to avoid paying a fee, then you can try your dress on Gumtree or Preloved (UK) who offer free listings.

The other important factor is the resale price. As you would expect, second hand wedding dresses sell for 25 to 50% less than new ones, especially because they often require expensive postage, dry cleaning and alterations before they can be used again. With this in mind, it’s important to be realistic about how much you can sell your dress for, most second hand dresses sell for about half what they cost new, especially if they are an unusual size, damaged in any way or a lesser known designer. Unless your dress is vintage and/or particularly sought after then you should be realistic about how much money you can get back from the sale.

Having said that, there’s no harm trying a higher price and then reducing it if it doesn’t sell at first! Someone may fall in love with it and see it as a bargain. And make sure to upload the very best photos you can, particularly ones with someone wearing the dress if possible.

  1. PreOwnedWeddingDresses– Worldwide, Listing fee $25, no commission
  2. StillWhite– Worldwide, Listing fee $20/£17, no commission
  3. OnceWed– Worldwide, Listing fee $19.95, no commission, they also offer the option of advertising your dress on their social media if you’re selling it for over $1500 and have some good photos.
  4. Tradesy– Worldwide, No Listing fee, 14.9% commission, they also send you a free postage box to package up your dress.
  5. Ebay– Worldwide, No Listing fee (depending on your choices), 10% commission up to a maximum of $750
  6. Gumtree– Free listings, because of the huge quantity of listings on Gumtree it might take longer to sell your dress and you might not be able to sell it for as much money.

A quick plea from Wonky Peach- please DON’T ‘Trash the Dress’!

Although we understand that it must feel amazing, and liberating, to destroy your dress and get some really memorable photos in the meantime…it seems like such a waste for a few moments of fun. If you don’t feel that attached to the dress, that’s great, but we’re sure that someone would really appreciate it, so consider donating it instead.

Also this!! If you do decide to trash the dress, then please be careful! A wet wedding dress is very heavy.

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