Something New Or Something Old: What Do You Do With Your Family Wedding Dress?

What do you do with your family wedding dress? Do you wear it or do you start your own traditions? Are there any other options? These are some questions that come up in many families and recently this is an issue that has been on my mind with even more prevalence since TLC aired their new series “Something Borrowed, Something New,” a program where brides bring in their family dress (mom’s, aunt’s, grandmother’s etc) and they have to chose between a tailored version of that old dress and a new dress which they shopped for. In theory this show sounds great, however I could not help but become sad and sometimes horrified when I watched the show. Granted, reality TV is merely scripted drama, each bride went through a very stressful time trying to choose between family tradition and making their own tradition. To make things worst the moms etc put a huge amount of pressure on the brides to pick their old dresses. The result: the brides almost always pick their family dress, which in almost all cases was horrifying and most of the time the brides looked very unhappy.

So what does this all mean? Well first of all, to moms and the like, this is your daughter or son’s day. What they want is a very big deal and if they want to make a new tradition, it is very important that you try to work with them. Above all they need your support in making these big decisions. Brides, if you want to take the family dress and alter it that is wonderful and very sentimental. There are many amazing tailors and wonderful ways to update a family dress into your dream dress. However, if you do not like the idea of wearing mom’s 80’s polyester blend or grandma’s lace turtleneck dress, what do you do? First of all, take a deep breath and remember that this is your wedding day. Although wedding days quickly become about family and traditions, your dress is something that is uniquely yours and you should NOT compromise on it. Chose what you like, take ideas and criticism into consideration, but do not let others discourage you.

If you have decided wearing mom’s dress is not for you or simply that you have found you dream dress new, the next thing is to figure out if you would like to incorporate the old dress into this process. If it means something to you and/or mom there are many great ways to honor your mom’s dress and the tradition without having to give up that custom made or store bought dream dress. A few nice ideas are to use the lace from the old dress to create a veil, sash, accessory, hair piece, use parts of the old dress as appliqué on the new dress or even take part of the dress you love and have a new dress made in a similar style. The dress can be with you in many different ways.

Another wonderful example of what to do with a family dress is what my good friend did with mom’s wedding dress. This bride used part of moms dress in a very meaningful and new way! My friend Melanie writes about her story:

           “Shortly after my engagement on April 20, 2010, my mom and I came up with the idea for me to use
             part of her wedding dress from her 1977 wedding to my dad for a skirt for my bridal shower. I had
            thought briefly about wearing the actual dress on my wedding day, but the style was not the most
            flattering for my body type and my parents and I were looking forward to sharing the ritual of
            wedding dress shopping! We were excited about our alternative idea.

            We took my mom’s lace dress to a few tailors to see what kind of design ideas they had, and
            didn’t have much luck finding someone who we were confident would do as good a job as the
            circumstances warranted. Finally, we decided to bring the dress to the person who we had chosen
            to make my wedding dress. We got to the studio, I put on my mom’s dress (it barely fit, as she
            was a very tiny bride!) and we spent a couple hours pinning and folding and creating a beautiful
           design for the lace. We went to the designer’s studio for dress and skirt fittings about five
           times from 2010 to the wedding day on January 7, 2012. The designer was about an hour and half
           away, so on the way back (after I had fit into whatever I was trying on that day) my mom and I
           would stop at Burger King (very un-bridal of me) and eat drive through and catch up on life. It
           was a special opportunity to have much needed quality time during a hectic and busy year.

           On November 12, 2011, I wore the skirt at my bridal shower at Per Lei on the Upper East Side of
           Manhattan. My mother-in-law, an excellent shopper, had actually found the perfect top for me to
           wear with the skirt, and I borrowed earrings from my sister (my maid of honor). It came together
           wonderfully. At the shower, all of my mom’s friends were coming up to me telling me what a nice
           thing I had done by wearing my mom’s dress as my skirt. My mom must have told them how excited
           she was, which was really touching to hear. I was equally excited about what we had done, and
           enjoyed explaining the origin of my outfit to inquiring guests.”

This touching and wonderful story gives a great example of how you can achieve all of the same wonderful benefits of wearing mom’s dress even if it does not fit, isn’t the right style for you or you just want to create your own traditions. Melanie was able to create something beautiful from her mom’s dress, carry on the tradition of the dress, and get extra quality time with mom during the wedding planning process. Amazing. Melanie’s sister is now set to be married in July and will be using a part of mom’s dress for her own shower as well, a fantastic way to address the issue if you have two daughters and a great way for both of them to partake in such a special family heirloom.

Thank you Melanie for sharing this story with us and I hope that these ideas will help you think of some new ways to keep family traditions!

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