Adventures in Recycling Wedding Dresses

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Sarah and Brennan's Wedding
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jeremy Bronson

We’ve talked about what to do with an old prom dress, so now we’re moving on to another one of life’s big occasions- a wedding. After the wedding, what do you do with the dress?  You might save it in the garment bag that in came in and store it somewhere in the attic or closet, but there are lots of other things you could do to recycle wedding dresses.

Trash the Dress

Although the name may make that sound contrary to advice you’d find on RecycleScene, a Trash the Dress session can be super fun, and doesn’t mean the dress is unusable afterward. The idea is that you’ve made a commitment to your partner so you’ll never need the dress again. A “Trash the Dress” session typically refers to a photo shoot of you in your dress doing things you’d never do in a pristine, white, expensive garment! Standing in the middle of a lake, tromping through a muddy field, lying on the ground, riding a horse, running a marathon, and generally getting creative. You can end up with some gorgeous photos and it’s also a great symbolic gesture. Take a look at some Trash the Dress photos, and you’ll get the idea. Once “trashed” you’re still going to have a dress. If you no longer want to keep it, or perhaps you’re over photo shoots after posing so much on your big day and want to skip the “trashing”, here are some handy tips for what to do with your old bridal dress with an emphasis on reuse.


Some people will sell their wedding dress on eBay or list it on Craigslist, but there are even more ways to pass it on. When you donate your dress, it can go to someone who isn’t able to pay for such an expensive item to only wear once. You can give your dress to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill, organizations that bring clothes, shoes and a host of other items as well as employment opportunities to people in need.

Fight for ending domestic violence and participate in the Brides’ March (Gladys Ricart and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk). Annually held in New York, you can participate or donate your dress. A Brides’ March is also held annually in Twin Cities.


Have a leftover bridesmaid dress that you’ll definitely never wear again? Those super puffs and bows just won’t make their way into a casual dinner date.

Newly Maid used to accept unwanted bridesmaid dresses and donate them to charity and, in exchange, offer donors a discount on dresses made by the Dessy group. Dresses that are 100% polyester were recycled using new methods to break down polyester to create yarn. The new filament is woven into polyester fabric and then used to manufacture new garments. NewlyMaid participated with global textile company Unifi in a program, and styles included certified Unifi Repreve fabrics.

Alterations: Wear It Again!

Recycling your wedding dress doesn’t have to be donating it for reuse. Depending on the style, your dress can be tailored so you can wear it on girls’ nights or dates or normal events. You may be able to have your dress professionally dyed depending on the fabric, to really change its look and make it more versatile.

If you won’t feel nostalgic for your old wedding dress, feel free to make your own changes for a Halloween costume. Some spooky makeup, elegant rips, and fake blood and you could be anything from Corpse Bride to Bride of Frankenstein. Or dye it yourself and turn yourself into a Disney Princess, Glinda, or Barbie.

Look for silly events like The Brides of March, where a group of you don a wedding dress just because! Started in San Francisco, the gathering has spread to several other U.S. cities.

Upcycle It

You want to keep your dress but you’ll never wear it again? Or you’ve had it altered but there’s a lot of fabric left over? You can have that dress made into a quilt or pillow, or something you’ll look at every day and remember how amazing your wedding was. You could have it made into a ring pillow to pass on to your children or other family for when they get married- a new family heirloom in the making!

How did you recycle your wedding dress? Let us know in the comments!

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