Creative Ways to Incorporate Your Mom’s Old Wedding Dress

Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Whichever route you take, mom will surely feel quite proud.

If you’ve grown up admiring the vintage photos from your parents’ nuptials, and your mom’s meticulously stored away her bridal look all of these years “just in case”, incorporating the dress in some way into your wedding plans makes perfect sentimental sense.

Depending on the condition and style of the old gown, you can either update and tailor it to wear as your primary wedding dress, or only for evening festivities, or — if your mom approves of the gown being deconstructed completely — it’s also quick and easy to take design elements or scraps of textiles and use them in creative ways on your special day.

If you want to wear her dress…

Consider its condition

No matter how well vintage clothing has been stored, depending on its age there’s probably going to be some discolouration of the fabric, wear or damage to some of the trim, and potentially a faint odour from the storage or cleaning materials. Take it to a professional cleaner to find out what’s realistic and recommended in terms of restoration and repair.

Try on for size

Your mom’s dress might fit you perfectly; or, more likely, it will need to be hemmed or lengthened, taken in or discreetly loosened. Depending on the type of fabric and trim — embroidery and thick lace are particularly finicky to tailor — it can be challenging and costly. While you’re at the tailor, don’t be afraid to update the silhouette too so it looks modern instead of retro. That could mean taking out some ruffles or flounces, moving the waistline, or changing the neckline completely!

Give it a refresh

Unless your aesthetics are totally in sync, you might want to put your own style stamp on the gown to make it different and appropriate to your wedding theme and location. Why not dye it to another colour if you don’t want a white dress, add feathers or ribbon trim if your wedding is more formal, or shorten it significantly to wear for the reception only?

If you’re repurposing the gown…

Create a meaningful accessory

A piece of fabric — such as silk, lace or tulle netting — or trim from your mom’s dress can easily be remade into a soft-sided bag, custom garter, fascinator, or gloves for your special day. It’s a great way to reuse the most distinctive, special elements from her gown.

Use the best design elements

If there’s an embroidery panel or tulle underskirt that you love from her dress, you can easily ask for that part only to be added to your custom-made gown. That way, the “something old” of your outfit will be taken care of!

Embrace the trim

It will only take a tiny bit of ribbon or trim from the vintage gown to make a pretty tie for your bridal bouquet, a chic white clip for your hair, or a bow for the ring bearer’s pillow. Best of all, there’s very little sewing required, and you can snip off and DIY the trim at home. And, your mom’s dress will stay mostly intact, in case you want to pass it on to your daughters.