Resurrect and recycle – can a wedding dress be reborn?

There’s a lot of material in my old wedding dress!

Yesterday we finally attacked a task of such monstrous domestic terror that it has been put off for at least three years. We sorted through our roof space. (Well most of it!)

Among the old lecture notes, text books, guitar magazines, rolled up carpet off-cuts and cast off clothes, was one of the things which had precipitated this unusual behaviour. My wedding dress.

Twenty years ago, and as our son pointed out in a rather slimmer period of my life, I was married in more yards of natural silk (and five net petticoats) than was probably sensible on a warm day in July. Since then, carefully folded into an old florist’s box, my wedding dress has lain hidden away.

Beadwork on the bodice of my wedding dress

Interestingly although it sparked many reminiscences for both of us, my husband has almost more emotional attachment to it than I have. I guess I wasn’t looking at it from the outside, and it wasn’t me that played with pearls on the bodice during the Best Man’s speech when no-one was looking!

It looks in pretty good nick, though it seems a slightly darker shade of ivory than I remember it, and has some minor mould damage near its hem. I don’t have a daughter to hand it on to, and it will only deteriorate more if it returns to the loft, so now, it’s hanging, a little like the ghost of a Tudor lady, from the curtain rail of our spare room, awaiting its fate.

Husband dearest wants to have the bodice panel removed and framed for posterity, whilst I was thinking this would be rather easier with the bow at the back. We may need to compromise and achieve both in one frame, if we had the foggiest who might be able to do such a thing.

For the last few months, in fact since before being recommended for ordination training, I have harboured the idea, inspired by snatches of conversation with others over the last couple of years, of using all that silk for making clerical stoles, or at least a ‘white’ one. White stoles are after all used by priests when taking weddings, and I can’t think of anything more appropriate than using my own wedding dress for that!

The bow at the back – in fact the ‘tails’ are sewn into the waistline, and the ‘bow’ is hooked over to hide the zip that ran below the buttons.

I know I’ve got two years before I get as far as ordination, and there’s no certainty I’ll get there at all, but at least that’s time to work out if the idea is a runner. Could it be cut up to the right shape, or shapes? Is it suitable to be dyed? Is the material of the right sort? Could it be silk painted? What could be used to line and strengthen it? I’m not sure where to start, or even if the silk is pale enough for this to be appropriate, or anything really.

Then there’s all that netting that makes up the five petticoats. If we’re cannibalising the silk itself for various forms of posterity, could someone make use of all that netting?

A lot of net!

If anyone has any experience, wisdom, bright ideas or alternatively wants to give me a sanity check, now would be a great time to share it with me. Please.



  1. Part of my wedding dress (a see through lacy coat) became the costume for ‘the Spirit of God hovering over the waters’ in a primary school performance when I was a teacher and the main dress became, yes, a white stole for the Methodist minister in our shared church to use for weddings, after he left our church so could no longer use the Anglican one. So, go for it!


  2. Not sure about some of this, Rachel; it’s rather out of my league. But there are a number of organisations (I thought MU was one of them) that happily take 2nd-hand wedding dresses from UK and operate a lending facility in Uagnda (and elsewhere) to try reducing the costs of ‘traditional (ha!) Christian’ weddings. When we were in West Nile, my wife worked with a group their called Samaritan Enterprises doing just that.


  3. Silk can certainly be used for stoles – ask the curate at AS for a sight of her white, silk hand-made stole! There may even be enough fabric in the bow if it was a very big one! Silk can also be painted (and probably dyed) but then better if the painted silk is appliqued on to the stole – and it might be more effective to paint a lighter silk than a wedding dress is likely to be made from (see my red and green stoles with appliqued, painted silk designs…) Yvonne Bell’s website, and ideally, her stall at the CRE will show you lots that you can do with silk – but it needs careful and thorough interlining, in several layers to hang well.
    Liturgical use of net is another matter – some dramatic productions maybe?

    You’ve probably got enough fabric for a chasuble in a wedding dress- and don’t say you’ll never need one of those. Remember God’s sense of humour!!


  4. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I don’t think you should cut it up at all. You may have a granddaughter somewhere down the line who might think it is beautiful and want to use it. I looked at the beading and it looks like very fine work. As a seamstress and someone very interested in historic costume, I tend to see couture garments as works of art worthy of safekeeping. I’ve been to costume exhibits in museum and am always thankful for the people who took care and preserved past creations so that we can see them today. Whatever you decide, the gown is lovely!


    • Thanks for your wisdom Kerri, and good of you to share it. I’m still a little undecided, and I will think about what you have said. However, in the meantime, I guess the first thing to do whatever the dress’s future, is get it cleaned professionally!


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