You probably tried on dozens of wedding gowns before you picked the dream dress that made your special day just perfect! But after the wedding ends you find yourself left with a dress you can never wear again. Whether you want to keep your dress or sell it, you can find out what to do with old wedding dresses in this handy guide!
Popular things to do with an old wedding dress include selling or donating the dress to charity. Other options include upcycling the gown into evening wear or children’s clothing. Creating keepsakes and decorative items such as quilts, holiday ornaments, album covers, or throw pillows also preserve the memory of the dress.
In this article, you will find seventeen popular ideas for things to do with an old wedding dress. You will also find tips on typical pricing for used wedding dresses. Finally, you will learn how to cut up your dress if you choose to recycle it.
- What To Do With Old Wedding Dress: 17 Ideas
- How Much Can I Sell My Wedding Dress For?
- How to Cut Up a Wedding Dress to Upcycle It
What To Do With Old Wedding Dress: 17 Ideas
You can find many different uses for an old wedding dress, including making some money off it or turning it into a special memory. You can reuse your dress in such wildly different ways as repurposing it into a christening gown or using it for a zombie wedding party!
After all the excitement of a wedding, you probably want time to relax and begin your married life together with your special someone. But first, you often find yourself left with a lot of post-wedding clean-up, such as writing thank-you cards and figuring out what to do with your dress!
If you want to pass on your dress to someone else, consider selling, renting, or donating your gown.
If you have a hard time thinking about giving up the beautiful gown, you spent so much time and money getting just right, you may want to consider various methods for memorializing it. These include options like turning it into keepsakes, artwork, or fun things for your new home, such as quilts or pillows.
Finally, you can also find plenty of good reasons to keep your dress, such as wearing it again for a special occasion or even trashing it at a festive “trash the dress” or “zombie wedding” party!
If you embrace the Marie Kondo philosophy that your dress had its season and brought you joy, you may feel ready to let it go. In this case, you can easily find many worthy organizations willing to take your wedding gown and pass it along to another woman who may not have the means to purchase a brand-new dress for her own special day!
Donating your dress is a generous way to pass on some of the joy you found during your own wedding, but you should note that many charities do ask that you have the gown professionally cleaned first. I’m sure you can understand why if you think back to the lively dance routine you may have had during your wedding reception!
If you’re in a hurry, you can always just swing by a Goodwill or Salvation Army dropbox. But if you want to put a little more thought into the destination of your special gown, you can select an organization that works specifically on getting wedding dresses to women who need them.
Several organizations resell wedding gowns at very low costs to help new brides and send the proceeds to a specific charity. For example, Adorned in Grace uses all proceeds to help fight against human trafficking. Other organizations may raise funds for a hospital to support young mothers and many other worthy causes.
You can also find organizations that provide dresses to women in special circumstances, such as women in the military or women who have experienced a serious illness. A couple of these include Brides Across America to support military wives or women in the military and Wish Upon a Wedding Dress which provides dresses to women going through a difficult health crisis.
On a more somber note, you can also find organizations that use the fabric and lace from donated wedding gowns to make burial dresses for infants. This very thoughtful charity can help provide a tiny bit of peace to a grieving family during an incredibly difficult time. Several nonprofit organizations that provide this service include The Angel Gown and Newborns in Need.
For many women, a wedding dress is the most costly garment you will ever buy! This is a huge investment in making yourself feel special and beautiful on such an important day, but you may feel like you can’t just give away the dress after spending so much money on it. The good news is that you can easily find many simple ways to sell your wedding dress and get back a portion of its cost!
You may even find that you can sell your dress for up to 50% of its original value. That said, this does depend on many factors. To boost your chance for a quick sale, make sure you have your gown professionally cleaned and take great photos to post if you plan to sell it online.
Nearly Newlywed partners with the huge wedding website The Knot and is one of the most trendy places to buy or sell a luxury or designer gown online. The site charges a $25 listing fee and a 40% commission on the final sale. That said, the company makes the sale super easy and handles things like providing shipping labels to you.
Wedding Bee has an old-school, simple website, but the site does not charge any listing fees or commissions! You can use this website very much like Craigslist to post your gown in a classified-style column and wait for responses. Make sure you include details about the brand or designer and include eye-catching photos to make your dress stand out from the crowd!
You can also post your dress on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace if you want a more low-key sale experience. Local brick-and-mortar locations such as consignment stores sometimes take wedding gowns, but they will earn a commission on the sale.
3. Upcycle to Wear
One of the most fun things to do with your wedding gown is to upcycle it into another kind of dress to wear again!
If you like to sew, you could turn your gown into a lacy sundress, a silky kimono, evening wear, or a cocktail dress for another special occasion. Cutting apart and re-sewing such a fancy garment does take a certain level of skill, though, so if you want some tips, check out the section on how to upcycle your dress later in this article!
Alternatively, you can easily find companies that handle the upcycling process for you. For instance, Unbox the Dress lets you choose an item from an extensive gallery, such as a day dress or a child’s christening gown. Then you ship in your dress and professional tailors remake it for you!
4. Upcycle as Kid Clothing
If you have a little one on the way or plan to have children in the future, you may want to consider turning a section of your wedding dress into a christening gown or first communion dress for your baby. Other fun options include lacy headbands for a baby girl or a special silky blanket for a newborn.
This does require some sewing skill, but the cool thing about upcycling a grown-up dress into child clothes is that you will easily have enough fabric because child clothes are so much smaller! Plus, this is a lovely way to pass along the importance of your wedding to the next generation.
If you want to turn a profit on your wedding dress, you may want to consider renting it out. This gives you a continuing stream of income instead of a one-time sale! Of course, the trade-off is that you do have to put in some time managing the renting process.
You can easily find several companies to help you get into the rental process. These include Rent My Dress and Borrowing Magnolia, which offer a forum like AirBnB to post your dress. It then gets bookings just like a vacation rental, except these bookings allows customers to rent your wedding gown for a set amount of time.
6. Dye It
If you want to wear your dress again for a non-wedding occasion, you may want to lose the white and bring on some vibrant shades of color! In this case, you can try dying your dress. This way, you can turn your wedding gown into a fashionable red evening gown or a bold blue sundress if you want!
Here is the catch: many modern wedding dresses are made out of 100% synthetic fabric such as polyester satin. Synthetic fabric is not very easy to re-dye, though you can sometimes accomplish this by using a product called Disperse dyes.
The bottom line is that if you want to dye your dress, you will need to pick a dye that works specifically on the kind of fabric your dress is made of.
Carefully cleaning and packing away a wedding dress will preserve it in pristine condition for years to come. For previous generations, preserving a wedding dress was often the only method of choice. This made sense because mothers would often pass down a dress to a daughter, who would make some alterations and then wear the same gown!
Today, this is much less likely to happen. But that doesn’t mean you should not keep your dress! If you feel a strong emotional attachment to this very special gown, you may want to store it away in a safe, preserved environment so that you can take it out to look at or to wear again later.
To preserve your dress, you will first need to take it to a professional specializing in cleaning wedding gowns. Some dry cleaners offer this service. It’s important to get the gown cleaned right after the wedding so that sweat and food stains do not set in and ruin the delicate fabric.
Next, you will need to seal up your dress in an air-tight container to prevent oxidization. This is like rusting but involves the damage air can do to fabric!
Finally, your dress will stay perfect for the longest time possible if you store it in a cool, dry place that is not damp.
Wedding dresses are works of art involving elegant design, intricate detail, and hours of specialized labor! Because of this, some brides opt to display their dress after the big day for a permanent reminder of the beautiful gown.
Some of the simplest ways to display your dress include framing just the bodice, along with a portion of the veil and accessories such as headbands or special gloves. Another popular display method is to cut a square out of the dress, highlighting the lace, buttons, or other key elements, and frame just that square of fabric.
If you want to put the whole dress on display, you can also order specialty shadow boxes for dresses that frame the whole gown! This is a costly choice but will look fabulous in your bedroom, or perhaps in your closet if you have a giant walk-in closet!
One of the most thoughtful ways to repurpose your old wedding dress is to turn it into keepsakes. You can do this for yourself, or as gifts for parents and family members to help them remember the big day.
You can get as creative as you want with this! Creating a memory quilt out of the dress is very popular. So is making lace-filled glass Christmas ornaments or even heirlooms for future weddings such as a ring bearer’s pillow, a ribbon for a bouquet, or a garter!
If you like to craft, you can easily make your own keepsakes. Or you can have a professional perform this service for you by sending the fabric from your wedding gown into places such as Once Upon a Time Creations, which will make the keepsakes for you!
If you like the thought of having your wedding dress around to enjoy in your home, you may want to consider turning some of the fabric into a home decor item such as a decorative pillow. Fancy throw pillows look great with the lace or ribbons from your dress as a finishing touch!
Plus, even if you don’t do a lot of sewing, you can still easily stitch together a square pillow cover.
One very special way to reuse your wedding dress is to turn it into handmade gifts for the people you love.
You could make satin teddy bears for the children who served as your flower girls and ring bearers. You could make small jewelry-holder drawstring pouches for the ladies who were your bridesmaids. You could make special Christmas ornaments out of fabric hearts for your parents, grandparents, or other family members.
Monogrammed handkerchiefs could make a lovely gift for men or women. You could even make padded clothes hangers with pretty rosettes or ribbons from your dress attached!
If you want to keep the idea of your dress with you without actually saving the whole gown, why not make an elegant trinket such as a necklace or a pair of earrings out of it?
With a few basic craft supplies, you could create dangly lace earrings stiffened with fabric glue. You could insert a tiny circle of satin or lace from your dress inside a snap-shut glass pendant. If you have great crafting skills, you could also use resin to encase a bit of lace or fabric to make lovely jewelry!
If you have no jewelry-making experience, you can find many artists on Etsy who offer to make the jewelry for you–all you have to do is mail in part of your dress!
13. Hand Bag
Another thoughtful way to keep your wedding fresh in your memory is to make a handbag or clutch purse out of lace and fabric. You put so much thought and care into choosing every detail of your wedding gown–why not keep some of those lovely details with you for years to come?
You can make a simple beach-bag style handbag quite easily yourself. Or hire a professional to turn your dress into a purse if you prefer! Etsy shops like After the Knot specialize in this service.
14. Album Cover
What better way to remember all the fun of your wedding than to use your dress as an album cover for wedding photos? You can make one for yourself or craft a special album as a keepsake for the members of your bridal party!
This idea is especially nice because you get the sensory memory of touching the fabric of your dress as you open the album and then pictures inside to bring back the events of the day!
15. Keep as Costume
If you like the idea of a more whimsical purpose for your old wedding dress, try turning it into a costume! You can simply store the gown away and let your children play dress-up once in a while, or you can save it to use as part of an original costume for yourself.
What about saving it for Halloween next year? You could turn yourself into the Bride of Frankenstein. Or you could dress up as a renaissance princess or even turn yourself into Cinderella or Glenda the Good Witch.
If you have a background in theater, you could also consider donating your gown to a community theater. Many theaters have a wardrobe master who could alter your dress into all kinds of different costume-related uses!
16. Keep for Special Occasion
You may think you will only ever have one chance to wear your wedding dress on the day of your wedding. But if you like big romantic gestures, you could save your dress to wear again on a super-special occasion!
You could have a special, romantic night with your significant other on your first anniversary. Wear your gown to a candle-lit dinner as a reminder of your love!
Or you could save your dress for a much longer time. Pull it out of storage for a “renewing your vows” ceremony on your twenty-fifth or even fiftieth anniversary!
17. Trash It
If the very idea of trashing your gorgeous gown makes you flinch, you may want to skip this section! But some brides do enjoy the cathartic relief of trashing a wedding gown as a fun “trash the dress” party after the wedding is over. This usually involves throwing paint or tomatoes or something splashy onto the dress!
If you like the idea of a themed party using your dress as the centerpiece, you could also host a “zombie wedding” party. Invite guests to come wearing their own wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, or formalwear–and their best zombie makeup, of course!
How Much Can I Sell My Wedding Dress For?
Many factors determine the selling price for your used wedding dress, including its age, designer or brand, and condition. An almost-new wedding dress that is less than two years old in perfect condition may sell for as much as 50-60% of its original price. You may even get as much as 60-70% of the original price if you have a designer gown!
But suppose you want to sell your mother’s old wedding dress. Or, on a sadder note, what if you got divorced and no longer want the memories inspired by keeping your wedding dress around? In these cases, you may not get as much of the original price back because your older dress is probably not in the current style trends–though sometimes vintage styles come back into vogue, so you never know!
One of the quickest ways to find a price point for your particular dress is to look on eBay or Etsy for similar dresses that have the same age, style, and brand as your dress. This gives you a fair idea of what your dress will sell for if you decide to post it for sale.
If all that seems too ambiguous, you can also try a free wedding dress price calculator online like this one.
No matter the age of your dress, you can increase your odds of a good sale by having your dress professionally cleaned. You can also get a good photographer to stage photos of the gown before posting it online.
How to Cut Up a Wedding Dress to Upcycle It
The key to cutting up your wedding dress to upcycle it is to maintain the key elements of the gown as you take it apart. Here are some tips to help you through this process:
- Before you begin, map out which decorative elements you want to keep intact. For example, do you want to frame the back of the lace-up bodice in a shadow box? If so, don’t cut apart that section; just cut around it so that you can place it in a frame to hang on your wall!
- Use a seam ripper to remove the stitching that holds the gown together. If you have the patience for this slow process, you will end up with all the original sections of your dress in large pieces. Alternatively, you can use sharp sewing scissors and simply cut very close to the seams to preserve the biggest sections of fabric.
- Think about the shape of the item you plan to make. If you want to make a bouquet wrapper, you will need a long ribbon of fabric, for example, but if you want to make a first communion dress, you will need quite a lot of fabric in large sections.
- If you plan to make something quite small such as pieces of jewelry from some of the lace, you may find that you can remove lace, ribbon, or other decorative elements without cutting up the dress at all. In this case, you still have the gown to upcycle in other ways!
You can repurpose your old wedding dress in many different ways. If you want to keep your gown, you can preserve and store it or turn it into many different kinds of gifts and keepsakes such as teddy bears, baby dresses, or memory quilts. You can make money off your dress by renting or selling it, or you can donate it to a worthy charity.
Ultimately, there are endless things you can do with your old wedding dress. Some methods keep your wedding gown close at hand for years to come, such as displaying the whole gown in a giant shadowbox. Others allow you to have another fun experience with your dress, such as hosting a “trash the dress” party!
Have you decided it is time to decide what to do with your old wedding dress? Do you plan to keep it or upcycle it? Leave a comment below to let us know!