Want to Wear Your Mother's Wedding Dress? Read This First

Turn her something old into your something new  

Photography by: Rylee Hitchner

Many young girls fantasize about wearing their mother's wedding dress. With a bit of tailoring and alterations, this childhood dream can become a reality. Here is your guide to re-wearing a vintage wedding dress.


Emotional Preparation

Since mom's gown links to many precious memories, make sure she's on board with you wearing and altering it for your big day. Keep in mind that the dress's age compromises the integrity of the fabric, and customization has the potential to ruin the gown completely. When in doubt, consider wearing your mom's veil or jewelry to your wedding instead. According to Jacqueline Weppner, a bridal stylist and founder of Merci New York, "Veils are the most popular to repurpose, as the lace can be used to embellish a new gown, or even work as an illusion accent on other wedding weekend affairs, like the rehearsal dinner or after-party outfit."  


Cleaning Up

Even with proper storage, mom's dress is probably yellowed, stained, and dusty from years of sitting in her closet. It may also have an unpleasant musty smell. Weppner says that preparation to wear a vintage gown usually requires a "wet cleaning." Consider asking a local bridal salon for cleaner recommendations. Also, make sure the cleaner has prior experience restoring vintage pieces because old fabrics and accessories require careful handling.



Since wedding dress styles change over time, your mom's outdated gown might not suit your tastes. Find a reputable seamstress to tailor the dress to your body and perform customized alterations. "The goal is always to find someone who is extremely talented but also listens to your vision, so there are no unexpected surprises," says Weppner. The seamstress can turn your mother's vintage gown into your dream dress with a few tweaks and adjustments, such as:

  • Perfecting the fit
  • Changing the neckline
  • Adding or removing embellishments like beads and pearls
  • Adjusting the length
  • Removing excess fabric

According to Weppner: "With a great seamstress and a general consistency in fit, there are countless ways to alter a gown. It's really more about how the bride would like to style the dress, and how much of the original design integrity she would like to maintain." She adds that more complex alterations generally equate to higher costs.


Alternative Uses

If you can't see yourself wearing mom's outdated dress during your ceremony, or if the seamstress can't salvage the whole thing, you can find other creative ways to incorporate it into your wedding. Here are some examples:


Rehearsal Dress

If the top half of mom's gown remains in good condition, you can have the dress shortened to wear at the rehearsal dinner. Consider customizing it with alterations or embellishments as well.


Bouquet Wrap

Keep your bouquet intact by wrapping a piece of fabric or a string of beads from your mom's wedding dress around the stems. The sentimental accent will complement your own wedding dress.


Your "Something Old"

It's possible that your mom's dress will be damaged beyond repair. You can still incorporate it into your ensemble by sewing a small patch of fabric inside of your own gown as your "something old."


Ring Pillow

With a pair of scissors and sewing material, you can transform pieces of the gown into an adorable ring pillow.



Elements of mom's wedding dress can be repurposed into accessories like a delicate headpiece or old-fashioned garter belt.



Crafty brides can turn fabric and embellishments into an envelope-shaped clutch – the perfect accessory for the reception.



Use some of the fabric as a table runner, drape beading over the newlywed chairs, or wrap lace around vases. The possibilities are endless!

9 Secrets to Shopping for Vintage Wedding Dresses
About the Author

Nicole Harris

Nicole fell in love with the bridal industry after a summer internship with Martha Stewart Weddings. Although she's still a couple of years away from tying the knot, she can't help planning her own Big Day. She's crazy about creative DIY décor, classic lace gowns, colorful invitations, and huge (preferably endless) dessert spreads. Until it's time to pick her first dance song, though,...


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