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How to Make an Old Wedding Dress Fresh and New

reusing an old wedding dress

By Becca Jones


Puffy sleeves, off-white hues, and tea length hemlines—the past hundred years of wedding gown designs have been a wild ride. And Claudia Rodriguez-Biezunski, owner of Barrio Logan sewing studio Sew Loka, has taken in and even revamped them all. To some brides, the idea of wearing a relative’s hand-me-down gown is magical. Others? Horrifying.

Here, Rodriguez-Biezunski makes the concept a little less scary, and gives a rundown of everything you need to know before repurposing an old wedding dress for your big day. Sew, what do you say? Let’s jump in!

It starts with the fit

On your big day, it’s important your gown fits like a glove. Chances are, however, that family heirloom or otherwise used dress will not be a perfect fit from the start. Whether or not a bride upcycles a gown often depends on how it fits. For instance, corset backs can inch a dress to its desired size without having to piece the fabric back together.

If the dress is too small, Rodriguez-Biezunski suggests simply borrowing elements from the gown. Perhaps the dress has beading, extravagant tulle, or vintage buttons and lace you can pull from. Or, consider recycling the dress to make new tokens. Rodriguez-Biezunski has crafted veils and garters out of old gowns.

Comfort versus style

Why not both? The comfort of your gown (or lack of) should not occupy brain space on your wedding day. Fabrics that have some element of stretch, including mesh and lace, are the easiest to work with. Rodriguez-Biezunski compares a wedding to putting on a performance. A bride has a long list of to-dos: greet guests, dance, eat, sit, repeat. Choosing a movable fabric will help you do all of this in the utmost style.

old wedding dress sewing

Photo by Vito DiStefano

As you like it

When you book an appointment at a bridal store, you’re able to choose only from what they have (or don’t). When repurposing an old dress, however, you have complete artistic freedom and somewhat become the designer of your own dress. Not to mention, it can be a cost saver, as the fabric is already there.

Reworking an old gown is also a great option for those hoping to go a non-traditional route. Pants, duster jackets, and even gowns in daring colors, like black? Rodriguez-Biezunski has repurposed old gowns into them all.

They don’t make ’em like they used to…

When it comes to repurposing, Rodriguez-Biezunski tells future brides nothing is off limits, and actually prefers working with older fabrics, as they tend to be more durable. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with your great-great-grandmother’s dress. Chances are the dress is much sturdier than today’s fabrics, many of which are made with some type of plastic. Hey, they don’t make ’em like they used to!

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