Wearing bronze refashioned wedding dress against lush trees.

My Refashioned Wedding Dress, Nothing Is Wasted

Style

It’s March, which means it’s the month we celebrate our anniversary. We have no idea what we’re doing to celebrate, Amanda and I are pretty low-key about events like this. If we do something fancy I’m really excited to wear my refashioned wedding dress, hot off the sewing machine.

I always imagined I’d refashion my wedding dress. Having a garment sit in my closet for eternity doesn’t appeal to my values. I also made the original dress so I’ve always felt this right to its creative license. It was my baby to mold.

Though I have to say, the original creation of this dress left me feeling creatively blocked for about 6 months. Even at the last minute, I had this incredible desire to just wear pants. And yet, it felt too late. I’d put all this effort into making the dress, and it didn’t seem like something I could change now. 

Then there was the wedding itself. 

Wedding photography by Dave Issod. Two brides, one wearing a bronze dress, one wearing an eggplant dress.
Before photo, at my wedding. Photo Credit: Dave Issod, www.daveissod.com

My Wedding Was Complicated 

I’m super open about the fact that my wedding didn’t entirely go down like I planned. 

First off, I was super sick. Two days before the wedding I was wondering if it could and should even happen because I was that sick. Friends were coming in from out of town and we were canceling carefully planned events because I couldn’t make it out of bed to do anything. If you look closely at my eyes in Dave’s beautiful photo, I look very tired, because I was basically falling asleep.

Second, I’d found out exactly a week before my wedding that I was getting laid off from my job. I was wondering for about a month if I would be laid off, so it was nice to at least know the verdict. But. I was also super overwhelmed by suddenly facing unemployment and it was pretty horrible timing. 

Third, a few things went down at the wedding that I just didn’t expect. A few friends suddenly had to leave early, a few things didn’t happen, a few family members were a little too much, I could feel my introverted nature kicking in, and while I would usually shake that stuff off, given my emotional and physical state I couldn’t deal. I spent the last quarter of my wedding reception hiding in a greenhouse (the wedding took place in a greenhouse) crying my eyes out. 

It feels really good to be honest about this because women are taught to invest so much in their weddings. Even though I’m a lesbian (so until a few years ago I didn’t even think I’d get to be married!) and a feminist, I still found myself swept up in my own perfectionism leading up to the day, and when it all went down like it did I felt pretty devastated. It took me about 6 months to fully get over the let-down when I really wanted to feel so happy and to move on. 

And really- I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t moved on. 

But one of the biggest things that helped? 

I destroyed my wedding dress. 

Refashioned wedding dress worn with black shoes.

A couple months after my wedding I started cutting into it. It felt So Good. I was careful not to destroy it in a way where I couldn’t reuse the fabric. When Amanda came home from work that night I casually was like, “Oh hey, I cut up my dress.” 

You know you married the right person when upon hearing that you destroyed the outfit that you wore to vow your love to them they say, “Yeah, I figured you’d do that. You just wouldn’t be you if you didn’t turn it into something else.”  

Everyone else kinda freaked out.

But regardless of people’s reactions destroying the dress was like reclaiming a power I didn’t realize I’d lost. Weddings are always complicated and strange, no matter whose it is. Mine was no different. I’m so happy that I married my wife, but I’m also so glad that our relationship is bigger than the wedding. 

Remaking dress was kind of like therapy. I took something old with a lot of context, and turned it into something new to me. 

The act of remaking a garment is inherently more eco-friendly than buying new fabric to make a garment. I don’t know how many iterations of this dress will occur before I’m parted from it, but I do know that the dress no longer has the same meaning for me as it did before. Not only did I end up with a new dress from an old dress, but also I feel free from the negativity that I associated with the original dress. 

      Wearing refashioned wedding dress in bronze against fence.  Wearing refashioned wedding dress against fence with plants.

 

Wedding Silver Linings

There were also some amazing highlights of our wedding that should not be overshadowed by the negative stuff, that I was able to remember while sewing the new dress: 

  • I married the best partner I could have ever asked for and we really do have a happy marriage. 
  • Our dear friend Brit officiated the ceremony and it was perfect. 
  • My friend from college, Red, who I hadn’t actually seen in 6 years, swooped in helped with every last minute detail I couldn’t accomplish. 
  • Our friend Maren baked hundreds of cupcakes and each one was perfect. 
  • We got married the same day Amanda’s grandma turned 91, and her grandma came to the wedding! We got to sing happy birthday to her! And she repeatedly says to people that I’m also her granddaughter, which is so sweet and so confusing because then everyone thinks Amanda and I are sisters. 
  • Tons of other friends helped us set up and execute our wedding. People helped us clean up without even being asked. 
  • Our parents gave pretty awesome speeches. 
  • Our friends gave unexpected and beautiful speeches too! 
  • After it was all over and we got to go home (I was sick, so I was ready to crash in my own bed), Amanda, Red, and I opened all of our gifts and cards and ate more cupcakes, which was really fun and kind of like a sleepover. 
  • It didn’t rain and it wasn’t cloudy! The sunset was exquisite. 
  • Our caterers were incredible. They packaged all the leftover food for us. 
  • Even though the day was hard for me, I felt so supported and loved by my wife. This is all I really could have asked for. 

So yeah, the whole thing wasn’t entirely a bust. Having a community of friends and family who love and care about you is more important than the wedding itself. At the end of the day, I’d rather marry the right person than have the perfect wedding. 

How I Made The Refashioned Wedding Dress

Wearing refashioned wedding dress at a side view against trees.

 

To make the dress, I had to completely take the old dress apart and lay a new pattern on top of the old dress. Don’t be fooled- it looks a little like I rescued the bodice from the old dress, but this is an optical illusion. I carefully used the existing seams from the old dress as a guideline for where to lay my pattern pieces. The front is not symmetrical to the back in terms of seams. 

I reused the zipper, but I had to use new lining. Luckily, there are lots of components of the old dress left over to use in new garments. 

One thing I really love about the new version is the addition of the sleeves. I actually really wanted sleeves on the original dress but didn’t realize it until it was too late. The old dress didn’t yield well to adding sleeves because the armholes were really low. 

I wanted something a little retro, but still modern. It needed to be classic so I could wear it for years to come, and comfortable. I chose a sheath pattern that I’d used before and played around with the length and the neckline, and I really like the results. 

Recap

Wearing refashioned wedding dress and sitting on a garden ledge.

I know this post isn’t about composting or living plastic-free. It’s not about how my wedding dress was made from sustainable materials, or about how our wedding was eco-friendly. The dress, by the way, is completely synthetic. And our wedding was indeed eco-friendly (should I write a post about that?). But I really feel like part of the journey towards being sustainable is reusing the resources we already have at our disposal to create with. My refashioned wedding dress is a reminder of this. 

What did you do with your wedding dress if you’ve been married, OR what do you plan to do with it if you ever get married? 

Want more refashion posts? 

The Importance of Having a Creative Practice + My New White Dress

DIY Denim Culottes From Skinny Jeans

 

 

3 thoughts on “My Refashioned Wedding Dress, Nothing Is Wasted”

  1. This post should be required reading for everyone who is getting married. Having photographed about 300 weddings professionally now, I wish we could do away with the culture hee-haw. It just. Gets in. The way. Your honesty is brave, refreshing, and charming. And the new dress is gorgeous. Happy anniversary, Elana and Amanda!!

    1. Thank you Reese 🙂 I feel like you’d know better than most people considering your profession!! It really does get in the way, and it’s mostly impossible to turn it off. But I’m happy with the new dress and it really does help to move on! Now if we could just figure out how to celebrate our anniversary…

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