When Justi Bates sent her wedding dress off after her wedding, it was not to be preserved for future generations; it was to be transformed into 17 angel gowns. Angel gowns are gowns made for babies who do not come home from the hospital. These babies are often still born or lost due to complications of their birth including premature births.
Justi shared her story on Facebook by posting, “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, and I’ll be donating them to the NICU at Vanderbilt. 17 little gowns were made from my dress, and as beautiful as they are, I pray they are never needed.” Accompanying her heartfelt words was a picture of one of the 17 dresses sitting atop a box of more. Her story was shared quickly and inspired many other women to re-purpose their wedding dresses for the same cause.
Angel gowns provide grieving parents with a suitable outfit for burial, as many newborns do not have many clothes and none meant for a funeral. Many hospitals are now offering angel gowns to parents who lose a baby in an effort to aid the grieving process.
While angel gowns can be created from nearly any material, bridal gowns are the material of choice for creators. Bridal gowns symbolize one of the happiest days of the wearer’s life, and many feel that happiness is transferred to the baby buried in the angel gown. Bridal dresses also feature copious amounts of fabric. These long trains, and full skirts provide a great deal of fabric to work with for the gown creators. The fine materials used in bridal dresses also help to signify the importance of the young child being laid to rest while wearing it.
Angel gowns offer a sense of ceremony and significance to the loss of young life while providing parents with a beautiful garment in which they rest their beloved child. While many donators pray their angel gowns are never needed, they mean more than anything to the parents receiving them for their sweet baby.