Wedding dresses may not be the first things you would think of to upcycle and repurpose but there are actually tons of things you can do with them. This article will show you how to upcycle your wedding dress into a cherished keepsake or gift.
What do you do with a wedding dress after the wedding?
Many brides ask themselves what to do with their wedding dresses after the wedding is over.
Traditional wedding dress Storage boxes
Traditionally wedding gowns were stored away in special storage boxes. But let’s be honest – how many times would you actually open that box to take a peak?
Repurpose and Upcycle Your wedding dress
You might find that turning your wedding dress into a keepsake or another item that can be used again and again will actually keep those wedding day memories alive for longer than if you put your dress away into storage.
If you had an upycled wedding day, then you might be exactly the sort of person who would want to know how to upcycle your wedding dress after you’ve worn it.
Below are a whole range of ideas that you could use to repurpose & upcycle your dress.
You can do this kind of repurposing and reuse yourself if you have the confidence or leave it to professionals who specialise in making new items out of old wedding dresses.
[See the links in each section to find out more about the idea you are interested in.]
Donate or Sell Your Wedding Dress
How to Cut up Your Wedding Dress for Reuse
If you are going to upcycle your own wedding dress then cutting it up is going to be the first step – and the scariest one!
Here is how to cut your dress up respectfully (see the bottom of the post for a printable step by step guide to cutting up your wedding dress for reuse & refashioning).
Important Note: Before you make the first cut I would advise you to read the rest of this post and decide what you think you want to make from your dress first as that might effect the way that you cut it apart.
Choosing the right tools
The best way to take apart the seams of any garment, including a wedding dress is to use a good old fashioned seam ripper.
This can be time consuming and you will also need to cut into your dress eventually to make any of these projects, so you can save time by just using fabric scissors if you wish.
If you are going to go this route then you want to use a sharp pair of fabric scissors to cut your gown apart as close to the seams as possible so you can preserve every last bit of lace, satin or tulle.
Once you have your dress separated out into what will effectively be large pieces of fabric you can also use a rotary cutter and cutting mat to make your cutting more precise.
Preserve unique elements
If you know you want to feature particular parts of your dress in a project – for example back buttons, decorative lace, or pleating – then plan ahead and rather than cutting at the seams, instead cut around those sections leaving a large enough margin for seam allowances.
If your dress has sleeves it might make sense to leave the seams uncut as you might want to use them in their original shape for a bouquet wrapper or even to cover the leg or arm of a memory bear – see below for more on these ideas.
Just pick the seams apart where the sleeve is attached to the arm hole and leave the other seams in place until you have confirmed exactly what you want to do with the sleeve material.
What to do with excess fabric
Even if the upcycling project you have in mind will only use a small amount of your wedding dress fabric, it is still best practice to cut your dress with care to preserve as much useable fabric as possible.
If you can’t use it all yourself you may be able to donate it to someone else who can.
How to upcycle your wedding dress: Repurposing Ideas for Old Wedding Dresses
If you know you are going to have children, then you could save your wedding dress for your baby and have it turned into a Christening gown.
Classic wedding dress designs with lots of traditional elements (like lace and satin) work well for this.
If you turn your dress into a Christening outfit, then it can be passed down as an heirloom to other children in your family.
If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could DIY the change, or there are companies that will do it for you including Doll Baby Designs whose dress is pictured above.
Parts of your dress could be made into beautiful keepsake jewellery.
Save pieces of the lace, or some of the embellishments from your dress, and have them set into jewellery.
Pendants or brooches work well for this but you can also have them made into earrings and even rings.
You can wear them yourself, and then save them to give your children or grandchildren as an heirloom.
Necklace from an old wedding dress
If you have jewellery making skills of your own you could certainly DIY this.
However there also some lovely small businesses who specialise in this kind fo upcycle project.
Upcycled Wedding Dress Ring
Resin Ring made from repurposed wedding dress lace by Cosmic Lens Jewellery.
Earrings from wedding Dress Lace
As well as pendants you can also have earrings made out of small cuttings from your wedding dress or veil. Those pictured are from Tree Town Paper.
Turning your wedding dress into a tote bag (or several!) is a great way to turn your dress into something that you can get a lot of use out of, and get to see every day.
The bag above is a custom made tote by Shabby Chic Linen Co.
If you fancy having a go yourself then check out these posts to get the basics of tote bag and handbag making before you start:
- 18 Upcycled DIY Tote Bag Ideas for Beginners
- DIY Handbag Ideas – 10 Upcycled Bags you can Make Yourself
Lastly, do think carefully about where you will use your bag and how easy to clean the fabrics are so you can get plenty of use out of the bag without needing to have it dry cleaned all the time.
Would you like to be able to see your dress every day?
If you do, you could turn your dress into a beautiful quilt. You might need to add some extra fabric to do it, but this could be a beautiful project that will make a quilt for you to treasure for years to come.
This is another project that could be passed down as an heirloom as well.
This post on how to make a denim quilt out of old jeans runs through the basic elements of how to make a quilt.
As with most of the upcycling ideas in this post, if you don’t fancy doing it yourself you will be able to find a small business who makes these kinds of quilts every day, like Magpies Laundry Quilts whose work is pictured above.
Need some pillows to go with that quilt? You could make some beautiful throw pillows to go with it out of your dress.
Use plain materials for the base of your cushion and then decorate the pillows with the trim and embellishments from your dress for a beautiful finish.
The cushion pictured above was made by Make Me a Cushion who will custom make throw pillows out of your old wedding dress for you.
Keepsake Wall Art
Turn your dress into a piece of art for your wall!
You can frame an entire section of it like the first photo by Julie at Sum of Their Stories. She add embroidery with the initials of the couple and the wedding date as well. You can see her framed wedding dress wall art tutorial here.
Another option would be to create a collage of highlighted elements and embellishments from your dress like the second photo by Martha’s Marketplace.
Frame your whole Wedding Dress
One idea for rather large wall art is to frame your entire wedding dress and put it on display.
I feel like most of us wouldn’t have the space for this but as my Grandmother used to say….each to their own!
If this is up your street The Beautiful Frame Company are the experts in it!
Turn your dress into ornaments for your Christmas tree so you can enjoy them year after year.
They would also make great gifts for close loved ones so they can remember the big day too!
The photo above is an upcycled wedding veil Christmas ornament by Tikkido.
Her tutorial would work just as well using wedding dress lace. Her method of wrapping the bauble in fabric would work beautifully with dresses that have a bit of sparkle on them!
Another method you could try would be to buy a hollow bauble and fill it with some of the fabric and embellishments of your dress.
You could also make a Christmas stocking out of your old dress like prolific wedding dress upcycler Jem Design has done. Jem’s amazing upcycled wedding dress creations appear a few more times below!
Another accessory that could be made from your dress is a purse.
A clutch purse for going out will look pretty in the lace from your dress. The one above was made by Jem Design.
Handkerchief or Men’s Pocket Square
Also pictured above in the same photo as the purse is a handkerchief made from upcycled wedding dress fabric.
If you use satin or a less lacy wedding dress fabric you can also turn the fabric into a men’s pocket square.
If you don’t have the sewing skills, Jem Design who made the purse above can also repurpose your wedding dress for you into a handkerchief or men’s pocket square.
You can use some of your wedding dress to make a bouquet wrapper.
This might be something to make for a daughter to take a bit of your dress down the aisle with them or you might upcycle a sentimental wedding dress from your own mother or grandmother.
The bouquet wrapper above was made by Berkshire Collections.
A beautiful way to cherish your wedding dress forever is to turn it into your wedding album.
All you need to do is buy a photo album and then cover it in the fabric from your dress. Your dress will then be there for you to see and touch whenever you look at your wedding pictures.
You can also trim or embellish your photo album cover with other details from the dress. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you like.
The image above is a ‘junk journal’ style version of this idea by Taft Hill Vintage.
Dye your Dress
Some simpler wedding dresses can be transformed using fabric dye into an evening dress.
Granted some more elaborate dresses are going to retain the look of a wedding dress no matter what colour you dye them. But simple form fitting or short wedding gowns can get a whole new lease of life by changing from bridal white or ivory to your favourite party going shade.
Shortening your wedding dress could also make it wearable again with or without dyeing.
The dress pictured above is a refashioned 1960s wedding dress by Danish small business Datid Vintage.
Why not turn your dress into a completely different piece of clothing?
Wedding dresses are made with lots of satin and lace, which are fabrics that are often used to make lingerie like bras or satin robes.
You could make a few different sets using your wedding dress.
Perfect for anniversaries…
The satin robe above is another creation from Jem Design.
A new trend for brides is to get a lace face mask to match their wedding dress.
There are lots of lovely small businesses making these types of masks, like the one pictured above by Fairy Folk 4U.
If you already know how. to sew but you haven’t tried making your own face masks yet, do check out this article that includes a link to a free face mask pattern.
Parts of your wedding dress could be turned into some great accessories like a scarf.
Save the lace trim or other pieces to add onto a warm scarf for the winter, or use some of the lace to make light spring scarves for accessorising outfits.
You can make a few scarves from one dress, and get to enjoy wearing your wedding dress on a regular basis.
Memory Teddy Bear
If you know how to make stuffed animals and soft toys, why not use the fabric from your dress to make a teddy bear?
Use the leftover fabric to make a beautiful dress for your bear too. This could be a sweet piece to give to your flower girl or ring bearer to give them a keepsake of the special day.
Clearly these woudl be great to hand down to children and grandchildren as well!
If you don’t feel confident making one of these yourself, then try one of these talented small businesses who will do the job for you:
Craft Hill Artisans – the first photo of the two bears front & back plus the gorgeous wedding dress puppy dog.
Pixie Dust Bears – the third photo of the memory bear in a lace headband.
If you are looking for more soft toy inspiration before attempting your own bear check out these two posts that have links to soft toy patterns you might like:
Make your dress into an accessory that you can wear every day.
Trim a headband with the lace or embellishments from your dress to make a sparkly, pretty hair accessory that you can enjoy wearing day after day.
Other things to do with Old Wedding Dresses: Donate, Sell or Lend
Donate your wedding dress
If the upcycling project you had in mind only takes a small amount of your dress’s fabric then donating the remainder of it to the Angel Gown Programme at Nicu Helping Hands could be a great way to send some love and comfort out into the world with your wedding dress.
The Angel Gown Program provides comfort for bereaved families who have lost a baby. Their team of seamstresses turns donated wedding dresses into custom made gowns for final photos and for burial services.
One wedding dress can make several angel gowns.
Another option for donating your wedding dress is of course to donate it to a thrift store or charity shop so that someone else can discover it and love it just like you did.
Sell your dress
If you decide in the end not to upcycle or donate your wedding dress there are also various places you can sell your dress on for someone else to enjoy.
Still White is an online marketplace for used wedding dresses.
Many people find success selling their preloved wedding dresses on Ebay.
You will also find many people selling vintage and preloved wedding dresses on Etsy. It’s easy to open a shop and it only costs 20p to list an item.
Local Preloved Bridal Boutiques
Lastly you may be able to find a local preloved bridal boutique near you that specialises in buying secondhand gowns from brides.
This was the route I took when I sold my own wedding dress. I sold it to a local shop in Edinburgh called Bliss Studio.
This was a hastle free way to go and I felt good knowing the dress would be reused.
However my wedding was nearly 10 years ago now and if I had known all the things I could make with my dress at the time I might have chosen differently!
Lend Your Dress
Just can’t decide how to repurpose your dress? Why not lend it to a friend or family member who can’t afford their own dress.
You’ll be doing a good turn and you can spend some more time thinking about the perfect way to repurpose, upcycle and cherish your dress when they are done with it.
I hope you enjoyed all these ideas for how to upcyle your wedding dress after the wedding is over.
I’d love to see what you did with your own dress – get in touch on social media or let me know in the comments below!
- Seam Ripper
- Fabric Scissors
- Rotary Cutter and Mat (optional)
- First you need to decide what you will make from the fabric from your wedding dress to make sure you place your cuts in the right place.
- Start with a seam ripper along the side or back seams of your dress. You'll need to do this for each layer of your dress.
- Use your seam ripper to separate any sleeves from the rest of the dress.
- You should be left with one or two large pieces of fabric - lay these flat and decide whether you want to cut around specific elements with your fabric scissors or rotary cutter or if you want to continue separating bodice seams to create separate pieces of useable fabric.
- Place fabric that will not be used straight away into a suitable wedding dress storage box with acid free paper.
- Place embellishments, buttons and lace that you have cut away in a separate container for smaller projects.
Is this all far too daunting! Don't stress - you can repurpose your wedding dress without cutting your dress up yourself.
Most of the upcycled wedding dress project ideas above have links to amazing small businesses who will take your dress in it's entirety and make something amazing for you out of it! They do all the cutting and you do all the reminiscing.
If you liked this post and you want to come back to it later, don’t forget to pin it!
More Upcycled Wedding Ideas: