Thursday, July 26, 2012

William Morris: the wedding dress version

I am thinking of donating my wedding dress.

Somewhere in southern NJ my mother just gasped, clutched her heart and sat down. Don't worry, Mom, as of Thursday afternoon its still in my possession.  

Despite the vast amount of stuff we have in this house, I am not all that attached to things.  I have lots of things, but not because of sentimental attachment. I tend to keep things because they might come in useful one day.  I come from a family that takes "use it up, wear it out" seriously.  My mother still has nearly all of our toys from 1974-1990 (as I write this my daughter is playing dress-up in a clown outfit from 1978), and a large selection of items from her own childhood.  My father comes from a family of eleven children, and you can rest assured that nothing was ever wasted in that family.  

I have moved ten times in ten years, and I am loath to throw things out--will this fit in the next house?  I never know what I might need, what will fit, and what won't.  Moving is expensive without adding buying new furniture to the mix.  For a few years, our basements and garages looked like a furniture consignment store; full of stuff that doesn't fit but I didn't want to throw away.  

I am getting tired of hauling all this STUFF around.  I want to own less stuff. Since Jules started her William Morris Project last year, she has inspired me to bring this chaos into order.  I have been purging and purging and organizing and purging again.  I have gotten rid of baby clothes, furniture, trinkets, anything and everything that isn't nailed down.  Yet still there is more. 

One of those "more" things is my wedding dress.  I know, many of you are reading this thinking "are you INSANE? Get rid of your WEDDING DRESS?"  


I got married in a frothy meringue-y pouf of a wedding dress.  


While I felt beautiful in that dress, I don't think I'm going to be wearing it again.  During the reception my sister stepped on the back of my dress, putting a very large, 20 inch horizontal rip in the top two layers of the skirt.  When I had the dress cleaned, I inquired about having the rip fixed, and it is not repairable.  The top two layers of skirt wold have to be replaced, for nearly as much money as I paid for the dress in the first place. (So I paid a lot of money to dry clean and box a dress that can't be worn.) 

For the past ten years I have lugged this dress from house to house, storing it in attics and basements. Heaven knows what it looks after having been stored in such inhospitable climes; the box is too thick to store under a bed or any other out-of-the-way spot you might think of as a cool, dry place.  I can't open the box without breaking the seal to check if the dress is even still in good shape. Currently the box is taking up a lot of space in my closet. 

If the Mister and I were to renew our vows, I would a) ahem not fit in that dress without a liquid diet, and b) would probably want something a little more form-fitting this time around, as that dress was a mile wide, weighed a million pounds, and I couldn't visit the bathroom by myself in it.  

My wedding day is one of my most treasured memories, but the dress itself...isn't.  If the house burned down it is not even in the top 100 things I would grab before running out the door.  The reason I keep it is because its my wedding dress, and aren't you supposed to keep stuff like that?  

The point of the William Morris project is to make sure that the items in your house have meaning to you.  The dress doesn't really resonate with me, at least not the way that the red dress I wore on our third date does, or the locks of hair I kept from the childrens's first haircuts, or the pictures from our wedding day.  I don't feel "oh, that means so much to me, I must keep it."  

On the other is my wedding dress.  What if Princess wants to wear it thirty years from now? That's unlikely, given her independent streak, but that is the traditional thinking--keep it for future generations.  And.....that's all I have in the "keep" column.  I'm keeping it because I feel guilty about getting rid of it, not because I want it. recap, give it away because I will never wear it again and it is too damaged to wear and too expensive to fix just for it to sit in a box and I don't really have an emotional attachment to it, or keep it, because its my wedding dress and that is a sacrosanct item that belongs to future generations?   Your thoughts, please.  (Auntie June, I'd love to hear Grandma's take on this.) 


  1. A- Oh God I really hope I'm not the sister that stepped on the dress (I'm pretty sure I'm not since I didn't even drink so I would hope I would remember that, but maybe I blocked it out???)

    B- Donate it. I never really understood the concept of keeping a dress you will never wear again (for the hope that maybe someday in the future your kid will wear it, which isn't even a given. I mean nobody wore OUR mom's dress) when there are a lot of people NOW that could use it.

  2. Wow. That's a good question. I still have my 12 year old wedding dress. I had it dry cleaned, but not preserved (as my sister did - a very similar looking box to yours is sitting in one of the upstairs bedrooms at my parents house...13 years later).

    I've actually taken my dress out and tried it on, maybe 4 times since we got married. Each time, it's more to answer the "can I still fit, or is it diet time" question, than anything else.

    We have no kids (by choice) - don't know if we ever will - but I always thought I would have at least liked to have HAD the option of wearing my mom's gown, had she kept it. I also think that even if we had kids, and if we had a GIRL, she's probably going to want to pick out her own dress. It's a personal thing. I've kept mine, and I'll probably keep it forever - it's in our closet, I don't need the space, and every now and then, it makes me smile to see it hanging there.

    I say, do whatever you want to with it! If someone else can use it, and you can use the space it frees up, then donate it. You have the memories, you have the photos, and you still have the husband - do you really need the dress?

    On the other's your wedding dress. Maybe the Princess would like to play dress up with it when she's a bit older?

    Yep, I'm really no help. ;-) Looking forward to seeing what you decide on this one. It's not as if it's something that you "might use" in the future, so I really think it's a toss up.

  3. I have the same thoughts. I am now wondering if I could somehow shadow box an especially pretty section and get rid of the rest. If the dress is irreparable would it really be useful to donate it? Gah, being a grown up with a conscious really stinks sometimes.

  4. I'd donate it.

    I do still have mine, but the only reason I kept it is because it was my grandmother's and it was handsewn by her and my great-grandmother. If it iddn't have that history it would totally be gone!

  5. I'd donate it. I was going to say no, but the size of it and the fact that its damaged makes me say that you should get rid of it, especially since you're not attached to it. And I know that in NO UNIVERSE would I have wanted to wear my mother's dress, so I always think that our daughter's will probably not want to wear ours.
    That being said, you will pry my dress from my COLD DEAD HANDS, so I'm kind of full of myself here.

  6. I say don't keep it. I doubt your daughter will want to wear your damaged dress. By the time she gets married who knows what the style will be...but it probably won't be the style of your dress. That being said, I still have mine, but never got it "preserved". I don't know what I'll do with mine either but at the present I've got bigger fish to fry;)

  7. Since it is damaged I say cut it up and make some sort of keepsake/s - like line a shadowbox that you display wedding pictures and mementos in. Or Save a piece of the fabric to offer to your daughter to wrap her bouquet in when she becomes a bride (this way she can honor you without feeling guilted into wearing a dress that might not even be to her taste). Or maybe make a sash/belt/headband/hanky out of it for her Communion (if you are Catholic like me) or wedding. Or you could make 3 baby bonnets to give to each of your kids when they have their first baby. It would be so sweet to think of your grand babies wearing a bonnet made out of your dress as they came home from the hospital or when they are baptized, etc. You could also make pocket squares for your boys' suits for their Communions or weddings. Basically think of all that dress as fabric that you could make into some awesome sentimental projects.

  8. 5:07 Anonymous said it best. Don't think so much about saving the dress as it is, but the fabric that it holds. Since I'm not sure that the whisper-weight fabric of your skirt will really age well anyhow, not sure that it should/could be saved. But, if you are thinking about getting rid of it, why not just detach the bodice and maybe part of the train to do exactly what Anonymous was suggesting. I have a dear friend who wouldn't have been caught dead in her mother's 1970's bell-sleeved dress, but did use some of the lace and fabric in her own dress, and it was beautiful. Don't toss it until your daughter tells you to "Throw that thing away, Mom!" Good Luck! Rebecca

  9. My gut reaction is KEEP IT!! It's not taking up THAT much room. But then I read anon's comment about using the fabric for sentimental projects and I think that's such an amazing idea. (Especially for someone as crafty and clever as you.)

    PS, love your rainbow ordered closet ;)

  10. My little sister now reads your blog, by the way. First she read this and told me, "She seems like the type to make curtains from her wedding dress," but then walked by saying, "Doesn't she have a girl? Why hasn't she made her bed into a canopy bed? Ooh, or a girly Steven Tyler mic stand!" So my sister wants you to repurpose that dress.

  11. Don't ya just love when your kids do things like that?? The room is looking great so far!

  12. I give you full permission to donate it! If you don't have any/much sentimental attachment to it, then don't feel obligated to turn it into something else that you'll just feel obligated to tote around with you. That's a really lovely idea, but only if you actually are sentimentally attached to it in the first place.

  13. ps: it is a really BEAUTIFUL gown and you looked gorgeous in it! :)

  14. I still have mine from 1985. I carefully laid it into an antique trunk. In the years since I have added several items to that trunk far less carefully. Wonder what it looks like by now?!

  15. I say donate the dress.
    Why do we have this custom of wearing a dress for a wedding that we never wear again? Maybe it is time to rethink this tradition. It seems so wasteful.

  16. Let it go. It's exactly the sort of thing you should let go of. You have all the reasons for doing that--and only sentimentality for keeping it--and that's what pictures are for.

    By the by, your hair is tres fab in your wedding pic.

  17. I'd certainly take it out of the box and check its condition. If you decide to keep it, just fold it with acid-free tissue paper between the folds and place in an acid-free box. Easy-peasy. After the post-wedding dry cleaning, there's no need to have a dress "professionally preserved".
    A talented seamstress could re-do the layers with pick-ups or lace to cover the repairs. Not for you to do now, but perhaps for your daughter someday. The rips don't ruin the dress.
    So, if the dress is in good condition after 10 years in a box, the repairs are moot and you can re-box it into something less massive, does that change the way you think of it?


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