Reinvent, reuse, rewear

A closet full of bridesmaid dresses takes center stage in the movie "27 Dresses," opening Friday. Give your old bridesmaid dress a second life by reconstructing it into a more modern cocktail dress or selling it online.

20th Century Fox
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Some are lacy. Others are satin. A few have straps. Many are strapless. But one thing most bridesmaid dresses have in common: they are rarely ever worn after the wedding.

In the new movie "27 Dresses," which opens Friday, Katherine Heigl stars as a serial bridesmaid who has a closet full of crinoline, chartreuse and chiffon.

Many women have at least one old bridesmaid dress hanging in the back of their closets, but these gorgeous - or not so gorgeous - gowns are simply collecting dust.

Here are some innovative ideas for how you can give your old dresses a second life.

Redesign it

Because many bridesmaid dresses cost hundreds of dollars, it is a shame to only wear them once.

Deloris Fraley, owner of Alterations by Deloris, suggests that women taper or hem their long gowns to make them into cocktail dresses.

As long as the fabric is of good quality, almost any dress can be reconstructed for a more modern or casual look.

"I took an old vintage dress from 1849, took off the lace and made it into a corset dress," she said. "It was just beautiful."

The trend of re-creating a bridesmaid dress to get more use out of it is becoming common, according to Gloria Rodriguez, owner of Custom Fitting and Alterations.

Many women cut down their dresses to dramatically change them. Knee-length is most popular and then the dress can be worn to all types of formal events.

Rodriguez said chiffon dresses and dresses that are strapless lend themselves nicely to cocktail-style dresses.

Women who prefer to be a bit more creative can also add bows, pearls, lace, beads or appliques to modernize their dresses.

These types of additions can make the dress more suitable for other occasions.

Some women have also chosen to turn their gowns into christening dresses or dresses for young girls, Fraley said.

She has additionally made long dresses into throw pillows, which can be given to the bride as a keepsake.

Women can use the fabric from their dress to line a keepsake box as well. The wedding invitation and other mementos can be put inside the box and given to the bride.

Donate it

Donating gently-worn dresses is yet another possibility.

Ashley Wheeler, founder of Dresses for Dreams, collects and gives used formal dresses to high school females who cannot afford an outfit for prom.

"Prom is the night for a girl to shine," she said. "Every girl deserves to have a pretty dress."

High schools in the Gainesville area identify girls in need and invite them to a party to receive a gown.

The Dresses for Dreams program has been around for only three years, but has given more than 400 girls dresses, Wheeler said.

Formal dresses can be dropped off at Sandy's Consignment, Wise's Drug Store or Santa Fe Community College.

Decorate with it

Consider adding some pizzazz to your home by using the fabric of your dress to make a window valance or headboard, according to Sara Freeborn, an interior decorator at Interior Associates of Gainesville.

If there are fancy embellishments on the gown, she suggests using the lace or beads to detail dust ruffles.

Dresses that have yards of fabric can be used to make an elegant throw for a bed or couch.

"You would really have to use the fabric for something decorative because the fabric on most dresses is delicate," Freeborn said.

Even making place mats or decorating picture frames can spruce up a room.

Sell it

With the popularity of the Internet, many women are using Web sites like to sell their used dresses.

Paul Rhodenizer, owner and president of Jay's Bridal and Special Occasions, said trying to sell a set of bridesmaid dresses online or to consignment stores can be difficult.

"The probability of finding a person who has the same taste, color scheme and friends sized the same as someone else's is like zero percent," he said.

Rhodenizer reminds women, though, that many dresses available today can be worn without looking like a stereotypical bridesmaid's dress.

They can be either sold individually or worn again by the former bridesmaid.

The bridal shop owner has also heard of some women hosting parties where all the guests must attend in "ugly bridesmaid dresses" just for fun.

And if you still cannot figure out what to do with your gown, you can always wear it on Halloween.

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