How to re-wear a bridesmaid dress, according to experts
Yes, you really can wear it again.
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Being a bridesmaid is a lot of fun—but it can also get very expensive very fast, between the bachelorette party, the bridal shower, and, of course, the dress. Bridesmaids dresses can run upwards of $200 and, unless you luck out, aren’t often something you would choose to buy yourself. But there’s one thing it seems that everyone tells you as you shell out for yet another chiffon bonanza: “You can always wear it again later!”
If you’re rolling your eyes, we get it. But with a little creativity, you can give that torrent of tulle a second use. According to bridal experts, here’s what to do with old bridesmaid dresses to give them new life.
1. Clean your bridesmaid dress after the wedding
Before you even think about what you want to do to your dress, you need to get it cleaned after a night of wearing it while dancing, eating, and drinking. And, yes, most bridesmaid dresses are dry-clean only. Once it’s deodorized and de-stained, take care in storing your dress. Keep it safely tucked away in a garment bag in your closet away from sunlight, pets, or kids, says Kate Wertsch, manager of K&B Bridals in Bel Air, Maryland.
2. Mix it up with different accessories
You don't have to let the dress's style stand on its own when you rewear it: A few well thought-out accessories can transform a bridesmaid dress into something that looks completely different. “All it takes is a bit of creativity and an open mind,” says Lauren Megerdichian, weddings editor at Style Me Pretty. “Dress it down with a more casual sandal and a jean jacket—layers are key!—or pair it with your favorite sneakers.”
She adds that it’s important to make sure that your accessories match the texture of the dress and the type of occasion you’re wearing it to. For instance, fancier fabrics like satin may not work as well for casual settings as, say, chiffon or tulle would.
3. Get your bridesmaid dress tailored to fit
You could get lucky that another appropriate occasion pops up down the road to wear a dress as-is, but if it’s been a few years—or even a few months—since you wore it, it may no longer fit properly. Fortunately, if the dress is up to two sizes too big, you can easily get it altered, Wertsch says. And if it’s a little too tight in some spots, there might be extra fabric in the side seams that a tailor can let out.
4. Cut a long dress down to size
Making it fit better is just the first step. One of the most common alterations for an old bridesmaid dress is changing the length. If your dress is floor-length, you can get it hemmed up for a totally different look, says Megerdichian. A cocktail-length mini dress will be the most dramatic transformation, or you can also opt for a longer yet still on-trend midi dress if that’s more your style. You can often have a tailor change the straps—like turning regular straps into a halter—or remove them completely for a strapless dress, Wertsch says.
5. Play with color for a new look
Another restyling idea: Take the dress to a dressmaker or dress-dying company to have it dyed or bleached to a new color or a funky ombre effect. Or, if you aren’t totally committed to spending the cash and enjoy being crafty, try your hand at fabric dying or bleaching yourself—craft stores like Joann offer tutorials.
6. Cut your bridesmaid dress into separates
Just because your dress is, well, a dress, doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way. “If your dress has a lace bodice, you can create a cute crop top from the bodice and keep the skirt separate,” Wertsch suggests. Megerdichian says you can then mix and max your pieces with other tops and bottoms or wear them together as a trendy two-piece set.
7. Sell your dress online
It might not have occurred to you that someone might want to buy the dress you had to spend your hard-earned cash on, but there’s a thriving resale market online at sites ThredUp, Poshmark, and Mercari. (Reviewed’s style editor bought her last bridesmaid dress that way!) One caveat: It can be tricky to list your dress if you've had it altered because it's no longer a "standard" size, so be transparent about any alterations or changes you've had made.
8. Donate your bridesmaid dress
If you just don’t want to rewear your dress, can’t see any creative vision no matter how you alter it, and/or can't or don't want to sell it, don’t toss it in the trash. Plenty of charitable organizations will take gently used formalwear. Megerdichian recommends donating gently worn bridesmaid dresses to Goodwill or Becca’s Closet, which is a national organization that gives the dresses to teens who can’t afford them for prom.
You can also give back within your own community. “There are also most likely charities right in your hometown that donate formalwear dresses to high schoolers who need prom dresses,” Wertsch says. “Search locally first before looking into larger organizations to do some good in your own community.”
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