To some, a wedding dress may seem like a lavish expenditure, considering the garment is often worn only once. The majority of women, however, see their wedding dress as a treasured investment rather than a frivolous purchase. Many women choose to keep their wedding dress as a keepsake, while others may choose to hold on to their dress before passing it on to a loved one when the time comes.
Regardless of what a woman chooses to do with her dress, however, the reality is that it will likely spend years stored out of sight and out of mind. In light of this, many women have begun using a more unconventional method of repurposing their wedding dresses. These women have decided to opt for donation as opposed to storage, ensuring their special dress will serve an equally special purpose.
These generous donations go to a program known as Angel Gowns. The purpose of the program is as simple as it is heartbreaking: the design and production of tiny outfits for newborn babies to be buried in. These outfits are called angel gowns, and they are created for babies who are stillborn, or pass away shortly after being born. The fabric from donated dresses is used to create these miniature garments.
A woman named Justi Bates recently chose to use Facebook to spread awareness about the angel gowns service. She posted a comment alongside a photo of a tiny, elegant dress laying on top of a box. Justi explained the significance of the photo, saying “Today, I received my wedding gown back. I sent it off earlier this year to be made into angel gowns for babies that don’t make it home from the hospital.”
Newborn babies, especially those who were born prematurely, often have few – if any – clothes. This can be a devastating situation for grieving parents who are already struggling to cope with the death of their beloved child. Angel gowns allow parents the opportunity to give their child a dignified burial. They also spare parents the horror of shopping for an outfit to bury their baby in. The Neonatal Intensive Care Units of various hospitals have begun keeping angel gowns on hand for such situations.
Angel gowns are typically made from the material of donated wedding dresses, although nearly any material can be used. Wedding gowns are ideal, however, partially due to the high quality of materials. Silk, beading, pearls and lace are typical adornments found on wedding gowns. Reusing these materials to create angel gowns results in a beautiful final product. Perhaps more importantly, the use of such beautiful materials helps to convey significance and formality to the garment.
Wedding dresses are typically made with an excess of fabric, meaning that one dress can be used to make many angel gowns. The wedding gown that Justi Bates donated provided the material for multiple outfits. In her Facebook post, she stated “17 little gowns were made from my dress, and as beautiful as they are, I pray they are never needed.”
While the necessity of these gowns is devastating, their message and purpose is one of love and hope. Many new brides have decided to donate their gowns with the fervent hope that they are never used. If they must be, it can only be hoped that this service will provide some small comfort, and a modicum of control, in the wake of such devastating circumstances.