In 1996, I got married to Himself, the greatest man I know to this day. We had a big, giant wedding with a big giant wedding party, and I wore a big giant dress that I adored (it was the 1990’s and we didn’t do minimalist).  I even lucked out that it was a sample design that never went to production (the lace was discontinued) from local designer Jeannette Russell. I felt like an absolute princess in the most divine ball gown.

Marrying my best friend...Mr. and Mrs. Himself

The ensemble, from beaded bodice to waterfall veil to opera gloves was chosen by almost divine providence.  I was supposed to shop in NYC with my mom, but on a whim we stopped into the boutique. It was the first gown I tried on.  I donned two others, and the designer said “nope. I clearly made that first one for you.”  It didn’t fit. Like not even close. But I found a seamstress to agree to the work, joined weight watchers, and it ended up too big. All this odd kismet and commitment made me love “her” even more.

The BIG 90's


Upon returning from our honeymoon, I tried her on one last time, sad to send this beauty to the dry cleaner for preservation. Regardless, I knew the big box and blue tissue was the only way my future daughter could possibly wear this gown.

Two sons and zero daughters and maybe 17 years later, my niece got engaged. Would SHE wear it? I carted two ginormous boxes to New York to find out.

After a raucous night of wine and wearing wedding gowns, she opted for Nicole Miller and I now had this silk shantung behemoth unboxed.

Harrumph. Such beauty. Such a waste. I considered my options but couldn’t bear to sell/donate, no matter how good the cause. It didn’t fit anymore (those babies, ugh), and was taking up TONS of space. The beaded bodice alone was worth salvaging, at least.

2016: Our 20th Anniversary Approaches

Enter EPIC seamstress Dana. My then neighbor, she worked at a bridal shop but created gorgeous gowns of her own.  She loved a creative challenge and always entertained my re-design ideas.

The gown had dozens of real buttons up the back, and while it reached my waist, my back, ribs, and arms were nowhere near fitting. I didn’t have enough fabric for gussets, but honestly envisioned it differently. In my mind’s eye, I saw her short, flirty, sleeveless, with a little touch of sexy.

Dana explained that we could remove the sleeve and have a super neckline and straps. In the back, she would take away almost the whole back to a deep, alluring V to the waist.  The entire skirt, yards and yards of white silk, would come off and be restructured into a hi-lo skirt with….POCKETS!!!!!!


finished product
Pockets, sleeveless, and a deep V in the back! I added a beaded belt (found on Amazon) for flourish.
Before and after...
Thanks, it has pockets...


Note: do not do this without vetting a seamstress.  I worked with Dana for easily ten years before taking this on. He or she needs vision, creativity, but mostly extensive knowledge of structure so the new design holds properly.

On our 20th anniversary, we had a beautiful dinner at a favorite restaurant and I got to wear my wedding gown again!

Now three years later, this boy mom has a cocktail dress that can be worn for dressy occasions or rocked out a bit with booties and my FAVE jean jacket (perfect for brides or best friends and available at Luna Sewickley) for a fun party look.

And guess what?  I have enough fabric left over to fashion ring pillows for future weddings for my sons and niece…sentimental touch without the pressure of “wear my dress.”

Wedding Gowns, Re-imagined–a Brainstorm

  • Throw pillows/ring bearer pillows
  • Christening gowns
  • First communion dress
  • Cover a clutch purse for a special occasion handbag
  • Donate your gown to an organization that will make angel gowns for infants who pass.
  • Cover a photo album (or five)

What ideas do YOU have?  Post them in the comments below.


Photos by Julie Kahlbaugh, taken at her GORGEOUS Ignite Studios location

Props (and bubbles!) generously supplied by Pippa’s Pieces Vintage Rentals