Recently a friend asked a question about repairing and repurposing her grandmother’s wedding gown. This comes up all the time as vintage dresses are passed down from mothers and grandmothers. Sometimes the bride is able to wear it as is, but most of the time we see brides using bits of the dress for a new creation, like lace for a bolero or as veil trim. I got in touch with one of Orlando’s most sought-after seamstresses for some expert advice. Here’s Holly Smith from Tears of Joy Seamstress:
Q: I recently took ownership of my grandmother’s wedding dress. It’s 67 years old. It started to turn and some of the lace is starting to tear. I don’t plan to wear it, but I can’t stand the thought of getting rid of it. Thoughts?
Holly: With age, fabrics become brittle. They can either fade or turn yellow depending on how it has been stored or what may have been on the fabric when it was put away. Things like old wine stains will turn brown due to the sugars. I recently had a couple of boxes of old fabrics given to me that were found in an old house. Most of it has that old musty smell to it and has been folded for so long it will take some work to get it to be usable in any way. But I can start by soaking it and letting it hang dry. Most all fabrics can be washed or soaked in water with a few drops of Dawn detergent. I have seen YouTube videos of those that swear by OxyClean as a very good gentle product to use with fabrics. So that’s where I would start with this 67 year old wedding dress by soaking it in a tub of warm water and a few drops of mild detergent. You may even want to do it a few times. Just make sure you rinse all the soap out well, pat it down with some towels to get most of the water out and then hang up to dry thoroughly.
Obviously we can get most of the aging out of the fabric but it won’t solve the problem of the fabric falling apart. So making another garment to wear out of the dress wouldn’t be a good suggestion. But what you can do is salvage parts of the dress. One of the first things off the top of my head would be to have a replica of the dress made but for a doll. This then could be on display somewhere in your house and it would keep one memory of your grandmother alive. Other things would be to take the skirt of the dress and parts of the lace to have a Christmas tree skirt made, or some kind of runner for your dining room table. These ideas may involve a seamstress to help in their creation. But if you can work a sewing machine they can be made by yourself. Really the number of things you can do with the dress are basically limited to your imagination.
Are you wearing or repurposing a family member’s dress?
Photo of Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding via Huff Post