Old Wedding Gowns Can Find A New Life

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When buying a wedding dress, women take their time. They want the dress to be the perfect one, to fit right and to convey either their personality or their fantasy. The dress must also be in tune with the type of wedding, from simple to extravagant, and turn the bride into the center of attention.

But what happens to the wedding dress gown after the celebration?

“It turns yellow and goes to a garage sale,” said Lola Voss, a young married woman.

Mrs. Voss said when she married 2 1/2 years ago, she thought of turning her wedding dress into a different gown. But the reality is the dress is still sitting in a closet.

“I have a different outlook on life,” said the 23-year-old. “I didn’t want to use my grandmother’s wedding dress and I don’t expect my daughter to wear mine.”

Most women like to keep their dresses as heirlooms. Others donate them to the Salvation Army or other thrift stores, or reuse the beading and material for crafts or other gowns.

Mrs. Voss said she is still not sure what she will do with hers.

According to Francesca Graves, a bridal consultant at Temptations Boutique, her daughter turned part of her wedding dress into a christening gown.

“She will keep the christening gown as an heirloom for her family,” said Ms. Graves.

The bridal consultant said people used to turn their dresses into christening gowns in the Victorian era, as well as in times of economic recession.

Nowadays, few people give their dresses away to thrift stores.

“I have a few people who buy them and a few who sell them,” said Cheryl Beauregard, owner of Second Hand Rose.

Ms. Beauregard said most people who look for a wedding dress at her store want it for a second wedding or as a costume for Halloween. Crafters also like to buy the material and embellishments for special projects.

Beth Rioux, manager at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, said the store carries two to three wedding dresses at any given time.

Options abound for those who really like to preserve their wedding dress gown.

Ms. Graves said her store offers a $120 kit, with prepaid postage, for brides to mail to a particular company that does wedding dresses preservation.

Martin Lessard, owner of Crystal Cleaners in Fitchburg, said he personally cleans and preserves an average of 100 dresses a year.

“The number of gowns brought to be cleaned and preserved varies from year to year,” said Mr. Lessard.

He said his procedure ensures the dresses to last for up to 400 years.

Phyllis Secino-LeBlanc, owner of Independent Cleaners in Fitchburg, has been preserving wedding dress gown 55 years. She said her personal care of the gowns has made her business well known and brought people from all over.

“We do everything here by hand and put a lot of time and effort (in the procedure of preserving the dresses),” said Mrs. Secino- LeBlanc. “If we have to do a garment three or four times, we do.”

Mrs. Secino-LeBlanc said with pride that many of the gowns she has preserved have returned to her business a second time.

“I have encountered women who have worn their mother’s wedding dress gown and have brought them back to be preserved for the second time.”

“It’s a sentimental thing,” she said of women who like to preserve their wedding dresses. “It’s something (women) cherish.”

The procedure to preserve a wedding gown includes careful cleaning immediately after the wedding; wrapping of dress in acid- free tissue paper to prevent permanent wrinkles; and boxing in an acid-free box. Storing the box in a climate-controlled area of the house where neither cold nor humidity reaches it.

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