This is a post from Make Love, Not Debt staff blogger, Abby.
When my husband and I got married last year, I knew I would have to come to terms with spending unreasonable sums of money on things that would be ridiculous and unavoidable one-use items. Flowers, rented chairs, a veil – these were all things that would be employed for exactly one day, cost lots of money, and then be out of commission. And for the most part, I managed to quell my nagging guilt over spending what I’d deem “stupid” money (maybe with the exception of the rental chairs – I will never get over those).
But when it came to my dress, I had a hard time dealing with the concept of purchasing an item of clothing whose cost-per-wear would be almost a thousand dollars. I’ve mentioned that I try to stretch my clothing dollar as far as it will go – mending nice boots, cleaning coats, etc. While I’ll spend what some people might see as too much money on an item of clothing, I do so with the intention of making that dollar stretch.
You don’t have that option with a traditional wedding dress. It’s long, it’s white, and it probably has some complicated detailing that makes it appropriate for exactly one event in your lifetime. It is also often unavoidably expensive. So after the wedding, having thrown it back into its nice packaging, I found myself contemplating what I could do with it. I could save it for my daughter, but the thought of lugging it around from move to move until I hypothetically have a female child who will hypothetically be the same size as I am who will hypothetically wear it one day in her hypothetical wedding was far too distant to appeal to me. I could try to sell it, but I could tell my mother was slightly disappointed that I would consider it (she’s much less frugal/practical/grossly un-emotional than I am), and besides, many of the venues where you can sell your dress already had my make and model several times over. I could clean it and save it for posterity, but the fee for cleaning a wedding dress is absurd, and I would still encounter the “lugging a cumbersome item of clothing around for all time” problem.
And then, while doing some online shopping for a formal I had to attend with my husband, it occurred to me that I could possibly produce a very nice formal dress without spending much time frustrated online or in a mall. It was hanging in my closet, and would just require a few alterations. My dress is fairly simple – no poof, no tulle, just a sheath-like jersey silk. I’ve seen short, colorful versions of it sold by the same designer online, and I like them. I could hem and dye my wedding dress! It was the perfect plan, which would either turn out great or horribly!
I found a dressmaker at the recommendation of a friend, after many tailors I called said they wouldn’t touch a wedding dress (despite my assurances that I’m not attached to it, and knew it might not work out). She works out of an incredibly beat-up store front, and seemed game to try it if I was. Five minutes after putting it on for the first time in a year, she’d hacked away at the bottom, left me with some fabric for testing dye, and promised to have it ready in two weeks. I picked it up, shipped it off to the dyer I’d found online with the knowledge that this would either be wonderful or terrible, and waited for the results.
I’m pleased to report that it worked. I now have an almost-new dress hanging in my closet, ready to be worn to weddings and formal events until I start to form holes in the material. The total cost was $40 for the alterations, and $75 for the dying (this was not something I was willing to attempt on my own, although it might have worked). I’ve therefore dropped slightly less money on this project than I would have on a new dress, and it comes with the satisfaction that I’m getting some use out of an otherwise one-use item (and one that I like very much – that’s why it was purchased in the first place). I also plan to respond to any compliments I receive while wearing it with an incredibly smug, “THANKS, IT’S MY WEDDING DRESS, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?”
Have you managed to re-appropriate any items you thought were for one-use only? Would you ever attempt something like this with your wedding dress?