Something Borrowed: Wearing Mom’s Wedding Dress

The brides wedding dress is usually one of her top priorities when it comes to planning and budgeting for a wedding.  The bridal gown is her way of showing her individual style while making her feel confident and beautiful on her big day.  It can also be a garment to honor a family tradition by wearing their mother's and even grandmother's wedding gown. 

I had a bride recently who opted to wear her mom's lace gown.  It fit her perfectly and she was ecstatic about it.  More and more brides are open to the possibility of utilizing mom’s gown as they walk down the aisle.  There are several benefits in considering this option.

  • Fashion repeats itself. 

The styles of the past always find a way of coming back in style.   Wearing a "vintage" dress that was passed down doesn't take away from the bride’s style at all and may actually be a great fit for an on trend look.  50’s bridal gowns are known for their sweetheart necklines, lace sleeves and some even with Ballerina-length dresses.  These are iconic bridal looks that early translate into today's bridal fashion.  In addition, the bohemian style that never really leaves fashion was in full swing in the 70’s and always makes a statement.  The boho pride will adore a vintage gown from this era.

  • Budget friendly option.  Maybe? 

Today most couples are investing in creating an experience guests won’t forget.  Saving on attire allows couples to focus funds on enhancements and special details to make their celebration special.  I absolutely loved the TLC show, "Something Borrowed, Something New".    The show basically goes through the process of transforming a borrowed dress and comparing it against a new dress.  The bride to be selects between the two and often their minds are changed concerning the borrowed gown once they see what it could become.  Often times the borrowed gown is a more cost effective option and hoes not skimp on style as it is custom made.  Here is the catch though, Kelly, the person altering the borrowed dress is a designer!  Not all alteration ladies and gentleman are created equal.  Some may be skilled enough to transform a garment, but many request a pattern.  A designer on the other hand has the vision to create something new.  This of course comes at a cost.  I would highly recommend going to a designer and having them sketch some concepts before allowing any transformation to take place.  Mom and bride will want to agree on the new direction of the borrowed gown and it makes for a fun bonding experience.  I cation you to do your research, ask if they have worked with your gowns material and ask to see some of their work.  In the wrong hands your treasured bridal gown can be ruined and you may still need to buy a new dress.  Ultimately, you can find new gown at the cost of the design depending on what you are looking for.

  • Honor and tradition. 

When a bride stands at the rear of the aisle framed in her veil it is a truly breathtaking moment.  I love to look at the guest’s expressions and the grooms of course.  When a daughter wears her mom's wedding dress the look on her face is priceless as the gown honors her role as a mom and passes on high hopes for the bride to enter into her next chapter as a wife.  Passing on a bridal gown is a beautiful tradition. 

Notes for Moms

Moms, my advice to you is to remember the purpose behind the wedding.  This is a day when your daughter gets to walk down the aisle surrounded by friends and family to unite in matrimony with the love of her life.  It's all about love.  If she desires to wear the gown you passed down to her to experience these moments, then that's fantastic, but if she wants to wear another gown that makes her feel confident and beautiful, that is awesome too.  With the focus of the celebration in mind it is easier to put aside any anxiety, stress or personal desires surrounding the question of "will she wear my dress?”

I do believe an old dress can translate into a modern wedding.  The ultimate question is the bride’s personality and personal style.  This is sometimes not considered when dreaming of seeing your little girl dolled up in a gown you once cherished.  Alteration of course is always an option, however at what costs?  If it is taking the dress in or letting it out with minor detail changes that may be equivalent to typical bridal gown alteration costs.  If you are redesigning the gown to fit a new bride’s style, it may be cheaper to purchase a new gown all together.

Look out for the emotional minefield of the bridal gown.  Let's be honest, finding the perfect wedding dress is already stressful enough.  When you add the emotions of a daughter trying to not let down her mom or a mother's hurt feelings, you are truly tip toeing around some dangerous territory.  So what should you do?  Uncover the mind!  Ask yourself, "Why do I want my daughter to wear my dress?  Would I be okay if it was transformed? If this dress worth putting additional pressure on my daughter?"  On the other side, I'd want the bride to ask herself, "What are the benefits of wearing the dress? Can you see yourself in the dress?" and again... "Is this dress worth putting additional pressure on yourself?"  Once mother and daughter have thought through these questions there may be a great opportunity to find common ground and move forward with whatever option is decided upon.

Still Not Sure

For my more hesitant clients with mom's who want them to wear their dresses, I often offer a compromise of wearing their veil or using elements like lace from the mom's gown on the brides bouquet handle, added to the hem, lining of the dress or on a handkerchief.  Other options may be to use the borrowed dress material for a dolls dress or as a pillow as keepsakes.  I recently had a bride who was excited to wear her mother and grandmother's dress during a bridal shoot.  I thought this was a beautiful way to honor those gowns and incorporate it into the wedding day without it being "the dress" at the wedding.

Making the Decision

There is really no “right” option.  Every wedding is different and each should be meaningful.  This is the best day of the couple’s life we are talking about here!  The bride should feel the love and support on that day and not be questioning if she made the right decision on things, especially not her dress.  Whatever the decision we want the bride to be comfortable and confident on her day which is what every bride deserves.