7 Ways To Repurpose Your Mother's Wedding Dress

We specialize in helping brides to incorporate their mother's wedding dresses. Read our tips at The Garter Girl's blog — your source for wedding planning advice.

Today's wedding planning advice blog post is about two of my favorite topics put together: heirlooms and wedding dresses! More specifically, I'm going to give you a few unique ideas for what to do with your mother's wedding dress on your wedding day, besides wearing her dress. Maybe you have your grandmother's veil that is so beautiful, but you aren't quite sure what to do it with it, you just know that you want to incorporate this family heirloom into your wedding.

Remember, you don't have to wear your mother's dress to feel close to her on your wedding day. There are lots of things that you can do with her dress or veil! 

In addition to the ideas for ways to use the dress or repurpose it, I will also give you lots of great places to find these custom and speciality items - even if you aren't the crafty type to do it yourself. So, look out for the links and my suggested places to shop for items made from your family materials.

 ways to reuse mother's wedding dress

Heirloom Garters

I've become known for making garters out of vintage wedding dresses and wedding accessories like hankies and veils. I carry a few vintage lace garters in my collection. I also make quite a few garter heirlooms out of the bride's mothers (or grand mother's) wedding dress or veil. You can see a few of the different family heirloom wedding garters that I've hand made over the years! 

Here is a family heirloom garter that I made recently from the lace in the bride's mother's wedding dress...

how to reuse mother's wedding dress

I just love it when the brides (and sometimes their sisters or their moms) send me the material from their mother's or mother-in-law's wedding dress or veil and I turn it into a special, custom bridal garter for their family to have and pass along as an heirloom.

Get the tissues ready though, because there are always plenty of happy tears to go around when I make these heirlooms – myself included!

OK, with that out of the way, now it's onto the tips for what to do with your mom's wedding dress...

But, I Don't Want To Wear It

I completely understand where the brides are coming from. They want to have a piece of their mother (or grandmother) with them on their wedding day, but they don't want to wear their actual dress.

It is such a tough call, because their mom has probably saved her dress for all these years with the idea that her daughter would wear it for her wedding day. But, as a bride, you might have ideas of what you want to wear on your wedding day, maybe you've been dreaming about it since you were a little girl. So many emotions come up, I know!

To all the moms out there, I wrote this post on what to do when your daughter doesn't want to wear your wedding dress. It is just for you!

Here are some great and unexpected ways to reuse your mother's or grandmother's wedding dress without actually wearing the dress itself. Because, after all, everybody is different and styles do change, even in bridal!


Here is a round up of ways to re-use your mother's wedding dress without actually wearing it as is on your wedding dress to create a new family heirloom.

1.) Embroidered Patch

Perhaps you've seen those pretty patches on the inside of a wedding dress? Sometimes the patches are embroidered in blue, or a monogram, a wedding date, a heart, a special saying or quote – the wedding dress patch options are endless!

If you are looking to personalize your wedding dress or hold something extra close to your heart on your wedding day, you can sew an embroidered patch onto the inside of our wedding dress. My advice is to use the material from your mother's wedding dress for the base of the patch.

wedding dress patch made from mother's dress

For a patch, you'll want a smooth piece of material, maybe from the skirt of your mom's dress or the lining of her dress. You can embroider whatever you want on the patch. For the above picture, I embroidered the couple's initials and a heart. 

Obviously, I'd love to make a wedding dress patch for you. Just email me at info@thegartergirl.com.

You can also search through Etsy for a wedding dress patch. Here is a link to where you can find wedding dress patches on Etsy.

I also have a DIY tutorial on how to hand embroider the inside of your wedding dress. I explain it all in this post, but you could easily use your mother's wedding dress material to make a patch and sew it onto the inside of your wedding dress. Instead of embroidering right on the dress, you would just match the patch from your mom's dress and sew it to your dress.

2.) Alter It

I think many mothers have this vision that they will save their wedding dress and their daughter will wear it for their own wedding some day. After all, what else are you saving that dress for!?  

Wearing someone else's wedding dress – even if it is your mother – is tough. The wedding trends change and certainly no two bodies are alike. But, if you have the right alterations person, it can be done and it will look amazing.

You can take off sleeves, take out fullness, change necklines – the options are endless! One of my favorite wedding dress alterations is to shorten it and wear as a fun wedding reception second dress!

That's another great idea here. You don't have to wear your mother's dress just to your wedding, you can wear it to other events, such as your bridal shower or rehearsal dinner. You can wear it to just your wedding ceremony and then change into a different dress for the reception.

I had a bride come to me recently to make her a garter from her mother's wedding dress. So, she cut the sleeves off the dress and sent them to me. Once she saw the dress without the sleeves, she decided that she loved it and wore it to her wedding's rehearsal dinner. She already had her wedding dress picked out and ordered, but she didn't have anything for the rehearsal dinner and this was the perfect fit. She had the garter made from the sleeves and then altered the dress just slightly from there to fit her and she wore her mom's wedding dress to her rehearsal dinner! True story! 

Before you cast off your mother's wedding dress as terribly out of style, think about it more closely. Can you alter it? Can you make a few changes so that you'll love it? Maybe!

3.) Ring Pillow

To make a wedding ring bearer pillow extra special and an instant heirloom, you can add material from your mother's wedding dress to the pillow. You can make the whole pillow from the her dress material, or you could purchase plain a pillow from a craft store and add your own decorations from your mom's dress and/or your grandmother's veil.

One of my favorite ways to make a ring bearer pillow from a wedding dress is to use the dress lining for the base of the pillow and then use the decorations from the outside of the dress as the details on the pillow. Here is a link to the family wedding dress materials that I've turned into ring pillows.

If you purchase a pillow, you could  carefully hand sew or hot glue the lace and beads onto the pillow. (Be very, very, very careful with the glue and vintage wedding dresses, especially vintage lace- - it can go really wrong, really fast!)

Here is a wedding ring bearer pillow and garter that I made from a combination of the bride's mother's wedding dress and her grandmother's veil…

custom family heirloom wedding garter, ring pillow and handkerchiefs

For a wedding ring bearer pillow, you could use just about any part of the vintage wedding dress – the sleeves, the neckline or stripes of lace – any part! You'll only need a little bit of material for a small pillow, so you have more options of what parts of the dress to use.

Don't forget to sew a little piece of ribbon or something similar in the middle of the pillow. This is what you'll use to attach the rings (or fake rings, if your ring bearer is too little)!

4.) Tulle Skirt for Flower Girl

If you are going to have a flower girl or two at your wedding, you could turn the tulle lining from your mother's wedding dress into a skit for the flower girl. Some of the vintage wedding dresses have plenty of tulle and lining underneath the main part of the wedding dress that you could use.

Since the flower girl is small, you won't need as much tulle as you think to make an heirloom skirt.

What flower girl wouldn't love wearing a beautiful tulle skirt to twirl around in on her, err I mean your, wedding day!?

You can find someone on Etsy to make you a custom tulle skirt for a flower girl.

Video:  Ways To Reuse Your Mother's Wedding Dress

I made a quick video for you, if you are the watching type. Check this out if you like to watch your wedding advice instead of read...


If this video doesn't show up, click here.

5.) Bridal Bouquet Wrap

Your wedding florist will most likely need something to wrap around your bridal bouquet to cover those gorgeous stems. You could trim off a long piece of your mother's wedding dress and have the florist use this heirloom material instead of their own ribbon. Or, most likely, they will use their ribbon as the base and then use your heirloom dress material on top as the decoration.

Your wedding florist will need a long piece of material that is a few inches wide most likely from the hem (or bottom) of the wedding dress. Sections in the lining or the skirt of the dress would be ideal here. Sections of the dress that have beads or buttons might not be the best for the bouquet wrap, because you'll have to hold it and you don't want to hold beads – it will hurt your hand after a while!

I'm obsessed with all of these custom bridal bouquet wraps that I found on Etsy. You could easily add a bit of material to any of these pre-made bouquet wraps. 

Look for the smooth and soft parts of the wedding dress so that it is comfortable to hold. Many vintage wedding dresses have lace trim, that might be a good option to use to wrap the bridal bouquet.

Here is a picture of the wedding dress that is made of lace that I use to make my one of my vintage dress garters. This style lace would be perfect (if I wasn't already using it!) to wrap a bridal bouquet because there is a floral lace pattern that runs lengthwise in long pieces and the lace is soft and smooth.

Heirloom-Wedding-Garter-Style-600-The-Garter-Girl-6 copy

6.) Heirloom Handkerchief

How about a handkerchief made from your mother's wedding dress?? 

In addition to garters made from the family materials,  I also make custom hankies from your family materials. Brides and mom's of brides will send me their dress materials, so I like to be able to make as much from it as I can for them and that often involves making a hanky in addition to the garter and the ring pillow. 

Here is a link to all of the family heirloom handkerchiefs I've made from wedding dress material

custom wedding dress heirloom garter, pillow and hanky

When you are making a hankie out of the dress materials, I highly recommend that you purchase a plain hanky and then use your dress materials as the details or decorations on the handkerchief.

You'll want to wipe those tears away with new, fresh material and you'll want something that you can wash afterwards. Most wedding dresses are made of satin or silk, which can be hard to wash, plus if it is your mother's dress, it is probably old and yellowed. It's better to go with a new, fresh hanky like these beautiful white scalloped edge handkerchiefs I found on Etsy.

I also love these modern white handkerchiefs, they would be perfect to add a bit of material from your mother's wedding dress and wipe away all of those happy tears at the wedding!

7.) Purse or Clutch

Have you thought about using the material or the lace from your mother's wedding dress in a purse or a clutch for yourself? There are a handful of people on Etsy who specialize in taking the material from your mom's dress and using it to make the purse. My favorite heirloom purse designer is Love, Amarie.

Sometimes they will make the whole purse out of your dress or they will use the details from the dress to decorate the purse, or I've even seen where they will use the dress material as the inside lining of the purse. So cute, right!? I'd love that for my wedding day! 


Will you use your mother's wedding dress? What other ways are there to use your mother's wedding dress that I haven't listed here?

Remember, you can shop for bluevintageclassic and modern garter heirlooms anytime in my garter shop or get in touch with me at info@thegartergirl.com for information on custom designing a garter just for you!

If you have any more garter questions, check out my garter 101 blog series or find all of my wedding planning advice here on my blog.

With love, The Garter Girl



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how to reuse mother's wedding dress without wearing it