For most women, a wedding dress is something that is worn just once, and then held onto as a memento for years to come.
In some cases, the dress may eventually be repurposed and worn again by the next generation, or even the next 10 generations, as we saw in one notable case, but it’s still often returned to a protective box after the big day is over.
That may be part of the reason that many women are now turning to an alternative option that gives their wedding dresses a heartwarming new purpose once the ceremony is over.
Instead of storing the gowns in boxes for years to come, some women are donating their gowns to services that produce “angel gowns.”
Angel gowns are very tiny outfits, not unlike baptismal gowns, that are designed to give comfort and dignity to families who have lost their littlest ones far too soon.
To learn more about these incredible gowns and the heartbreaking stories behind them, scroll through the gallery below.
Recently, a young woman named Justi Bates took to Facebook to share a beautiful message in the popular group Quilting.
Bates posted a picture of a tiny white frock with lace up the front, on top of a box that appears to contain even more similar garments.
She goes on to explain that is it one of 17 angel gowns, saying:
“Today, I received my wedding gown back. I sent it off earlier this year to be made into angel gowns for babies that don’t make it home from the hospital, and I’ll be donating them to the NICU at Vanderbilt. 17 little gowns were made from my dress, and as beautiful as they are, I pray they are never needed.”
Angel gowns are special gowns designed for a tragic and moving purpose: for burying newborns.
Specifically, they are intended for babies who are stillborn, or who pass away very early on, often times because they were premature and came into this world before their little bodies were ready.
At such an early age, a baby might not have many clothes yet, and certainly nothing that feels special and important enough for bereaved parents trying to give their little one dignity.
A few services all over the world began to produce angel gowns for just such a heartbreaking time.
Instead of facing the heartbreaking task of buying an outfit just to see your little one buried in it, many hospital NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) will instead offer an angel gown to parents going through a loss.
These pretty little frocks offer the formality and dignity suitable to the occasion, while offering the parents comfort.
These tiny gowns can be made out of any kind of material, but are most often made out of recycled bridal dresses.
There are a few different reasons for that, spanning from the emotional value of the bridal gown to the materials it’s made from.
For one, the gown is associated with a happy moment, and might give parents and mourners the sense that the gown is imparting happiness onto a life that was cut short long before a wedding, or even a first birthday, could take place.
For another, wedding dresses are often made out of exceptionally beautiful materials, like silk, lace, and pearls.
These pretty materials help to signify the importance of the wedding gown on the big day, but can also be repurposed to help lend a sense of ceremony to a little one laid to rest wearing an angel gown.
Fine materials, like the ones used in the bonnet shown above, help to demonstrate how special and beloved the baby is, even after a too short of a time on Earth.
Bridal gowns also tend to be large and made out of lots of material to accommodate full skirts, trains, and other expansive fashion choices.
Because so much fabric is involved in making the gowns, each one can be transformed into a number of exquisitely tiny angel gowns, as we saw with the 17 gowns produced from Bates’ dress.
The five showed above are all made from the same dress, but have been made into different sizes and styles, suitable for boys and girls, and for babies in different age groups.
For brides, the decision to have the wedding dress turned into angel gowns is often an easy one.
After all, unless she plans to hand it down to her own daughter, the gown is unlikely to be worn again, and it won’t do anyone much good sitting quietly in a closet somewhere.
By donating the dress to a seamstress to make angel gowns, a newlywed bride can feel assured that her special memory will go on to provide comfort to someone else, even as she hopes, like Bates did, that “they are never needed.”
Do these exquisite angel gowns touch your heart?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to SHARE with friends who will be moved by this beautiful and heartbreaking second act for bridal gowns.