From the Archives ~ Day 294 The Wedding Dress

Me in my wedding dress 26 years after the event.

Me in my wedding dress 26 years after the event.

This week Cindy sent me a link to an article for Friday’s Favourites. It is an article about what to do with your old wedding dress. Cindy had written a post about this subject back in 2010 so I thought I would share that with you today to get you thinking about the subject ahead of Friday.

I have to admit I still have my wedding dress which I only retrieved from my mother-in-law’s house last year. I tried it on at the time but of course it didn’t fit as our wedding was 26 years ago. I am glad to say that it did however come close to fitting. It really is time that I figured out what to do with it. So, on the strength of these two articles, I took the drastic step of putting it in the washing machine today on a gentle cycle in an attempt to clean the yellowed marks off of it. I am working on the idea that it will either come clean, stay stained rendering it useless to donate to charity or washing will destroy it and my problem of what to do with it will be solved. I will let you know on Friday the result of that endeavour.

For now please enjoy this post from the archives.

A guest post by: Cindy Bogard

Colleen asked me to write another guest post, and I was not filled with inspiration, so I polled my friends: What would you like to read about? Sentimental clutter was the most popular answer, and one that Colleen has tackled numerous times. But there was also a challenge, specifically the sentimental clutter of The Wedding Dress, big, bulky, and probably never to be worn again. What to do with The Dress?

So I polled my friends again: What did you do with your dress? The unanimous answer – I still have itor once, my parent has it.

I have mine, which I still think is beautiful 13 years later. It’s hermetically sealed in a gigantic box and is in the top of one of the closets. This particular shelf is rather hard to reach, so the only things that would ever be placed on it are long-term storage items. I have enough storage room in the house, so it stays. Ironically, I do not enjoy looking at it. There is a big oval on the top of the box, and the dress is laid out beautifully, but something about it reminds me of looking into a coffin, so it kind of creeps me out. Weird, I know. However, since I told my daughters I was going to write this post, they’ve been clamoring to see my dress, so I am vowing here, before all of you, that I will pull it out and actually look at it soon.

While we like to think that our dress will be worn by a relative, most likely only a piece of it, such as the veil will make a second trip down the aisle. Accepting this notion, some women have cut up their dresses and given them new life as christening gowns or flower girl dresses. One woman I found on the Internet lets her children play dress up with it. I wouldn’t even let my children play dress up with the cocktail dress that I wore to my first wedding, so I know there’s no chance of them prancing around in the traditional gown I wore when I married their father.

In addition to keeping the dress, there are a couple of other possibilities for it. The first, of course, is to sell it. However, this needs to be done in the first couple of years, because no matter how classic we believe our dress is, styles change, and it likely won’t be sellable after 4 or 5 years.

The other option is to donate it. That I was able to discover, there is only one nation-wide charity in the U.S. that takes wedding dresses,  Brides Against Breast Cancer (, but even they won’t take gowns older than 2005.

But back to keeping the dress. I thought my girlfriends had interesting things to say about their gowns and their choices:

One of my friends despises her dress, but she still won’t part with it. Here’s what she wrote: Anyway, I have dragged the dress across the country four times. But I never throw it out because it’s a piece of history, if you will: a tangible remnant of my past that the kids can explore or chuck. So far my daughter agrees with me that the dress is pretty putrid. But she always says that she’d like to use parts of it for her gown. So who knows? Maybe butt bows will come back in style — and if they do, I’m ready!

Initially, this friend’s dress was saved by her mother, who later mailed it to her. I think it speaks to the feeling of intrinsic importance that we place on our gowns: By “mailed” I’m being literal: She just slapped some stamps on the hermetically sealed boxes –no wrapping, no insurance, no anything!– and sent ‘em US Mail. When they arrived, our mail carrier –who was a woman– knocked on our door and proceeded to berate me for 15-minutes about the “irresponsibility of sending something as precious as a wedding gown” in such a manner.

Another friend said: My husband wanted to know why I was keeping it recently and I didn’t have a very good answer. It seemed like bad luck to get rid of it or something.

This friend’s husband is with the U.S. State Department, and they move around the world every two years. While she did not keep her dress, her father cannot part with it, and it lives at his house. (And, as you will read, she’s a natural declutterer): So interesting that everyone who answered has kept their wedding dresses! I’m surprised. Maybe because I move so often, I just can’t keep stuff. I cried the day we had to sell my grand piano, and I think that was the day I learned not to develop an emotional connection to “things.” I haven’t looked back since, and now I am queen of “get rid of.” The only things I would hate to lose are my scrapbooks. In contrast, everything my parents purchased was to last a lifetime (actually several generations’ lifetimes). I think it may be something about that  generation, or perhaps growing up in the Depression. I now can’t imagine living that way, with all that stuff piling up!

In the end, though, I think this friend said it best: Every so often I think I should sell it just to make space but you know, I’ve got SO MANY worthless things that could be gotten rid of, I am keeping the dress.

Well said! – Declutter what is not precious, so you have room to save what is.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an item of clothing that no longer fits but you have kept just in case you return to that size.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Transient Stuff Much of what comes into my home these days is transient. Aside from groceries much of what does come in is free, secondhand, or both. And I have to say it makes it a whole lot easier to […]
  • Coming full circle ~ By Nicole V He awoke with a start, his heart pounding from the strange dreams that he’d had. He had no idea how long he’d slept. The inky darkness stretched all around him … and the silence, the […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Thankfully I don’t have a wedding dress to worry about. Not that I would–worry I mean. When I got old enough to make a decision about my Mom’s wedding dress I told her I thought we should give it away. We gave it to a local theater group. They were excited to get it because it was one that could be used for many eras as it was rather classic. They eventually dyed it for one particular play that they do yearly.

    • Hi Deb, this is my preferred method of disposal for my wedding dress as well. There is a theatre group just up the street from my house. I will go up there is ask if they would like it.

  2. It felt good to take my dress out of its big preservation box for donation (inspired by this blog about a year ago). Cleared up a lot of closet space. Also, there are many things where I feel like nothing good can come from keeping them. They’ll certainly be neglected, and will probably suffer harm at some point which then I’ll feel guilty about.

    I started decluttering when I read a blog post by a pop culture writer (Linda Holmes) about a flood in her apartment that ruined most of her belongings. It was a small apartment, she didn’t have a lot of stuff, but she had a couple boxes of beloved books and mementos in a closet0 and she was sad that they were destroyed. I had a very strong reaction – I suddenly felt that I didn’t want to have beloved things sitting around in closets waiting to be destroyed. I think I’ll always have some mementos, and certainly I have plenty in my closets, but a lot of my precious stuff is now out circulating and hopefully being useful to somebody else.

    • Great reason to begin decluttering Rebecca J and great attitude to setting items free to circulate. How much more joy you can get from a cherished item when you share it with others. Good on you.

  3. Hi! My wedding dress was rented. If it hadn’t been I would probably had kept it until now… 😀 I can understand the emotion and importance placed in the wedding dress, but isn’t it much better to look at pictures and remember the day? As I never had to make that decision I am not butting in…

  4. I still have mine and I’m working on 29 years now. I got it out recently (2009) when my daughter got married but it didn’t fit her and wasn’t current enough to have altered. Nor was it retro enough. At this time I have my dress AND her dress. I did get rid of her back up dress. I paid $200 for it at an Expo but she found the perfect dress later. I sent it to a friend who used it in a Halloween 5k. 😀

    As for my daughter’s….she’s divorced now and I need to take it to a charity shop. Mine? I’m working on getting into it again. I think that once I do fit, I’ll have pictures taken and then decide.

    I do have lots of things that aren’t as precious as the dress to get rid of.

  5. Both times I was married in a Registry Office: first I wore a blue and white summer dress (that my Granny made for me!) followed by a long evening dress for the reception. Then my first husband passed away and after a few years I remarried and I bought a lovely pink silky suit which I wore many times afterwards for posh occasions. Never had the problem of the white wedding dress, much easier!

  6. I sold my dress less than a year after my wedding. The money paid for a flight to visit my mother with my new baby. I would not have afforded to go without selling the gown. This was in the days before cheap flights. My husband didn’t want me to sell but I knew I would never wear it again, that if I had a daughter fashion changes so I doubt she would want it (as it turned out I only had boys), and that I wanted to see my mother more than I wanted to look at my dress.

    I kept my veil as a momento. 20 years later I donated it to a school drama costume collection. It had lost some beeds and gained some holes. Would not be worn by any bride! Should have given it with the dress.

    I am so glad I didn’t keep the weight of responsibility that grows heavier the longer you keep something of emotional value. The longer it stays, the greater the responsibility, the harder it is to part with!

    • Lucinda – I think you have nailed it with “the weight of responsibility that grows heavier the longer you keep something of emotional value”.

    • I agree too Lucinda, I know I don’t want to keep my dress and yet it is still here. I will not be going to my next location so my only task now is to investigate to options of disposal. I have to say that the dress still looks beautiful to me but that doesn’t encourage me to want to keep it any longer.

  7. Yes I have the poofy-style dress with the big sleeves and a ginormous bow on the bum sitting in a box. Andreia has encouraged me to get rid of it, but as someone said in the article (Great article by the way Cindy and Colleen) there is almost a superstitious factor to getting rid of a wedding dress.

    I’m told the modern thing is to do the “trashing of the dress” photo where the bride does a photo in the water (usually at a later date) and it gets ruined and that is that. I saw a ‘trashing of the dress’ photo recently and it was awesome. HOWEVER, I read an article a couple of months ago about a bride who did her “trashing” photo at the end of the formal wedding photos and she did hers in the river and the current caught her train and she got swept away and unfortunately drowned with the weight of the dress. But on a more cheerful note, if you google ‘trashing of the wedding dress’ you will see there are some really clever ideas.

    • Hi Moni, my husband is keen on this idea but I don’t see the point in trashing a perfectly good dress. It seems wasteful enough after 26 years but while the dress is new and still in fashion that just seems crazy to me. That being said it sure does solve the problem. I might get dolled up and have a photo shoot in mine and them donate it either to the thrift shop or to a local theatre group if they have a use for it.

      • Colleen, I hope you do it and share the pics with us! I was going to get rid of mine when I started decluttering in earnest, and my husband (usually is glad when I declutter) wants me to keep it. We have always wanted to redo pictures; so that is the plan once I fit into it again, and I do still see it a very beautiful dress.

        • I am glad you still see your dress as beautiful too Angela. Mine is a little small for me these days but some nice photos could be taken of me in it without noticing that the buttons in the back don’t do up properly. I doubt I will ever fit properly into it again but close enough is good enough for me.

    • Moni, I guess I am just too much into conservation. I can’t see the trashing idea being smart. To me there are so many women out there who need to buy a dress from a thrif store or something. I’m really into the recycling of clothes and anything else.

  8. I donated mine to the local op shop last year – it was a suit, lovely fabric but the style was very dated. I have not given it another thought since, until this post came up.

    I don’t agree with trashing the dress – far better to find it a new home BEFORE it gets hopelessly out of date. Same for all those “corporate” outfits – a lot of them clutter up wardrobes for years when they could be out in the world doing good.

  9. I’ve got mine and we got married in 1999. I suppose that it is part of the “never to be decluttered items” for me. Colleen, love the picture of you in your dress. 🙂

  10. I also disagree with trashing the dress. For purely environmental reasons, can we not get as much use out of it as possible by selling or giving it away to someone to get married in? Then, much like an old car, strip it for parts? Use the fabric that you can once the style is too old-fashioned or it’s no longer in “good enough” shape to get married in.

    I got married in a suit (dress and matching suit jacket) at City Hall. I also wore it to work, it was suitable for that. I eventually donated it to Goodwill or a person I thought would get some use out of it, can’t remember. But I don’t miss it at all. And my marriage is going strong 15 years later.

    I shudder when I think of all the millions of wedding dresses, even those no longer in style, that someone could use to get married in, or as a costume or for fabric, that is just sitting in those boxes in people’s attics. It’s just ridiculous to me.

  11. Calico Ginger and Kim – I hear what you’re saying and both have very valid points, however…….its the brides day and if she wants some really memorable photos, I actually admire them. It is not very often you get to dress up in your dream dress and have your hair and make up done professionally and have a professional photographer – possibly going to be the photos that you look your best ever. And then to do something fun and creative, I can understand why they would do a trashing of the dress shot, you’ll never get that opportunity again. Mind you, I have a daughter who is a photography student and my perspective comes from talking to her and her classmates, wow those kids do some amazing stuff and have some out there ideas. I know of someone who did a photo floating in the water and got it drycleaned, came up pretty good, and so she later borrowed it to her sister who wanted a similar-ish photo and then later again to yet another sister who wanted to do somethng else for her ‘trashing’ photo. The dress was well and truly trashed by then. Fortunately they all got married within a two year period so the original dress was fashionable enough to be similar enough to be used by all three sisters for these shots.

  12. I just read the Miss Smarty Pants blog. I knew my parents could not afford a fancy wedding and I had very little saved up after graduating from college the year before, so a simple wedding and a simple dress suited me and my personality fine. My mother who had always sewn for me and my three sisters made me a simple dress from white dotted swiss and my younger sister (my bridesmaid and only attendant) a very similar dress in blue dotted swiss. They looked weddingish but not necessarily traditional. I guess I was a little sentimental because I did keep it for about 4 years. When we moved to another state and needed curtains for a bedroom, I took it apart and made them from the material since it had a lot of yardage in the skirt (I can’t remember exactly how long it was). This was a loooong time ago–but I have never regretted repurposing it–isn’t it nice that we now have a word for this sort of thing. Of course, we have a lot of wedding pictures made by a friend who did photography for his hobby. The ladies at the church decorated it as a gift, too. We felt a lot of love from everyone–we hadn’t asked any one to do anything This was the first wedding in this building and I think they enjoyed the opportunity to experiment. We do have two daughters who picked their own dresses and whose tastes are much different from mine and from each other. Growing up they were very girly, girly compared to me, a pure tomboy.

    • You wedding sounds just perfect Nana. And how wonderful, being about to use the fabric for curtains. I was luck to have a mother that sewed too who made mine and my bridesmaid dresses. She also taught me to be frugal so we got all the fabrics for them at a very good price too. My sister was a very skilled cake decorator too so there was another saving. I had a lovely wedding that really didn’t cost all that much as a result.

      Like you I am a tomboy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.