What to do with a wedding dress?

I was incredibly lucky, especially as a plus size bride, to have a friend of mum's design and make my wedding dress for me at an unbelievable price. I never felt comfortable with the huge amounts spent on dresses which are worn once, yet wanted to look and feel like a gorgeous bride... the moment I knew I really would was 3 weeks before the wedding when I tried the dress on for my dad. I hadn't wanted him to see the dress until the day, but when we weren't sure if he would be there due to ill health, things changed rapidly! Having his baby try on her wedding dress must have been a strange mix of joy and agony, but it was very special to share it with him before anyone other than mum and our dress maker.
And of course on the day I felt fabulous, and slightly smug that we'd managed to have a bespoke dress made with love and attention by a friend for a third of the price of what we'd seen off the hanger in standard wedding dress shops.
And the next day, it went off to the cleaners, and has been sitting in a wardrobe ever since. I did take it out last summer for a friend to try on, and discovered I was now enveloped in the thing, so not only do I have a beautiful dress just hanging in the wardrobe, it's a dress and lacey over jacket with train that doesn't even fit me any more. So in the spirit of reducing waste (Bal Tashchit) and clearing out my over stuffed cupboards somewhat, I have begun to ponder what on earth to do with said dress.

I have considered having it altered, and dying it into a colour that is more acceptable at other people's weddings, but having taken my graduation ball dress into Sew to see how much this sort of thing costs, with the amount of material needing to be taken out and thus reshaping we're looking at around £100 before the dying. The other options for re-cutting include havimg it made into a tallit (prayer shawl) (5th down on this website), or a torah mantle, which a friend on facebook used hers for. Apparently keep-sake clothing is a very in thing, and lots of options are out there to upcycle it into new clothing, yet somehow it seems a shame to destroy what is such a lovely piece, and which could be enjoyed by others.


There are charities which send dresses to Africa, although I wonder about the cultural ethics of that; making every girls dream wedding into the western vision of white dress and veil (and lets face it this is already riven with pitfalls for western women who are fed a fairytale dream of one perfect princess like day, when marriage is really about building the rest of our lives). And do dress miles do as much damage as food miles? There are also lots of ways of selling a dress to raise funds for various chairities. Oxfam, The Red Cross, and others have specific bridal areas of their online charity shops. Ethical Weddings has advice on buying a charity shop dress and the details presumably work for donations too. There are also organisations that will sell your dress and goive you the option to either keep 50% of the sale price (and you could then donate to the charity of choice or buy a dress you can actually use) or they will donate all profits: I found Bridal Re-Dress.

Another friend suggested I donate my dress to the bride-dress gemach; Gemachs are a great institution in the Orthodox and particularly Charedi world - someone has a stock of one thing; spare cutlery, boxes for moving; wedding dresses- and loans them to those that need, rather than everyone owning everything and hardly using them. Brilliant way to work as a community! Now while my dress wasn't immodest, I don't think it was modest enough for that, so another friend suggested I start a Progressive wedding dress gemach! It's a genius idea. It fits with Progressive ideals, and could help those with fewer resources. But I'm not sure I have the time or resources to set it up... anyone with any ideas or thing they would want to do this let me know - interesting to find out! Perhaps if enough people respond to this there might be enough to justify thinking about it!

So the dress is now hanging in the spare room, where I see it every time I pass, knowing I have to make a decision. It is going to go, the question is where, and to do what. Not the hardest question or decision in the world, but one that is emotionally involved. Yet it is an item that it seems could have so much more of a life out there playing in the real world, and certainly shouldn't be hanging in plastic in a cupboard - yet another victim of unnecessary hording and ultimately going to waste!

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