I knew as soon as I got engaged that I wanted to wear my mother’s wedding dress.  I’m not a fan of most of the wedding dress options out there today because I think they’re too revealing and expensive, plus it’s pretty cool to wear the same dress my mother (and also aunt) wore on their wedding day.



Here are a few more photos of my mother wearing the dress.  The second picture was taken outside of the bridal store.

BUTTTTTTTT….after trying the dress on for the first time, I quickly realized that the 1980s trends of her dress were just a little too costume-y for my taste.  My mother bought this dress for $100 at a bridal store in the 80s.  It was actually a bridesmaids dress, but looked like a wedding dress in the ivory color she chose.  The dress also incorporates some victorian/edwardian aspects, like the high lace collar, but also really poofy 80s sleeves.

At first, I thought I would just need the dress to be taken in and have a few stains taken out.  After visiting several places and getting multiple opinions from seamstresses and designers, I realized that it would need more work than that to modernize, or upcycle it.


First Session

Here is the most quintessential “before” picture I could have taken. The dress hasn’t been washed or pressed, it’s just straight out of the gold metallic box it had been resting in for over 25 years.

At this stage, all I wanted to do was de-poof the sleeves.  After consulting with a dress designer, we decided to eliminate the straps, create a bodice, cut down the back, and add bridal buttons.

If you’re thinking about upcycling a family member’s wedding dress, I STRONGLY suggest going to a boutique with in-house alterations/designers.  I thought I knew what I wanted, but am amazed at what a crafted designer can do to turn this 80s dress into something you might find at a modern bridal boutique.

  • Also, excuse my hair and shoes.  My mother affectionally referred to me as a “prairie bride” because of my black buckled boots and bun.  


Here’s a better view of me as a prairie bride.  Check out those poofy shoulders!

You can also see the back of the dress.  It’s just straight across.

IMG_1058.JPGSecond Session

The Prairie Bride is free at last!!!!!  When I arrived this time, the dress was sleeveless, strapless, and full of pins.  The designer made the bodice into a sweetheart neckline, inserted bra cups in, and cut a small “v” into the back so it wasn’t straight across.

This session was mostly just a preview of what the dress will look like at the next session.  Nothing was sewn in or on.  She is going to pull the bodice up higher (it’s super low in this picture), reattach the de-poofed sleeves and sew on the bridal buttons on the back!

You can also see my sister in the mirror behind me.  Her expression screams, “I hope you know what you’re doing reconstructing this family heirloom.”

I’m still optimistic this will work out.  I’m not easily discouraged!! 


Here’s a closer photo of the dress.  You can see all the places she pinned and how badly the bodice needs to be higher!  My third session, when the dress should be compelted is May 10! I will do a part 2 of this post to report the progress.

Like my mother, I will also have a flower crown.  My florist, who is best friends with my mother, made hers and will be making mine!  Stay tuned for a post featuring that. 🙂

Have any of you upcycled your wedding dress?  I want to hear about your experience!



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