14 Sentences On Goodwill Wedding Dresses

second hand wedding gown

A woman I know loosely through another web site — one Diana Heideman — recently contributed a poem to that web site, and I was so enamored with it that I asked her if I could post it here in its entirety. She said yes, and I thought that the day before Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to take a break from all the wedding invitations and ceremony accessories and bridal bouquets.

Here is her poem, entitled “14 Sentences On Goodwill Wedding Dresses”:

Strapless, vanity size 0, from David’s Bridal, never worn with original tags.
She never lost the 50 pounds she swore she would, and bought the proper size the week before the wedding, and looked beautiful.

Eggshell sheath with sash, tags removed, altered, never worn.
Two months before the wedding, after the final fitting, her pregnancy test came back positive, and while she still fit in the dress, he did not want to be a father, and one morning he was gone.

Princess dress, beaded, some beads missing, carefully mended tears, light soiling on the hem.
Years after their mother’s wedding, three sisters each in turn played bride, or princess, dancing around in mama’s dress, but all three girls are grown now.

Vintage dress with intricate beading, carefully hand sewn from a pattern, worn once, musty but clean.
Her children and their children were too busy fighting over jewelry and furniture to notice her real treasures, and got rid of anything they couldn’t put a price on.

Tasteful silk tea-length dress, clearly worn, some wrinkles and snags in the fabric.
The dress was stuffed in the back of her closet after six years, two children, and one misplaced phone call that revealed his cheating, since she couldn’t bear the reminder of better times.

White satin dress with train, worn once, pristine condition.
The wedding and the marriage have been perfect, but she feels it criminal to put the dress away where it will never be worn again, so she offers someone else a sliver of the joy she has.

Traditional off-the-shelf classic gown, worn once, cared for well.
Always pragmatic and less than sentimental, after her only child–a son–was in college and she hit menopause, she saw no reason to keep a dress her family would never use again.

It’s rather bittersweet, no? But the overwhelming theme that runs throughout — that memories can and should be passed on, for better or for worse — is fascinating. Not many brides opt for second hand wedding dresses, but those who do are inadvertently sharing a rich history with someone they will likely never meet.

I gave my wedding gown to my paternal grandmother’s church so she or someone else from that institution could make sure it was passed on to a bride-to-be who both needed it and would enjoy it. I’ll probably never find out what happened to my dress, but I hope it went to someone whose marriage has been as happy as my own.

(photo via)

8 Responses to “14 Sentences On Goodwill Wedding Dresses”

  1. De says:

    I bought a David’s Bridal dress for $25 last Halloween from Goodwill. It was turned into my awesome dead-bride costume (i got second place!). I often wonder about the woman who the dress belonged to – it was in really good condition (well, before I turned it into zombie wear), and clean.

    Did she hope someone else could get use from it? Did she loathe the sight of it and needed it gone? Or was it just a pragmatic tax writeoff?

  2. mini_pixie says:

    wow. what beautiful sentiments. thanks for making me nearly cry at my desk!

  3. Jennie says:

    When / If you donate a dress, please put a note on it with size and/or measurements. One charitible organization that has an on line bidding site often lists beautiful gowns in preservation boxes but has no idea of the sizes. They do not want to disturb the boxes so it’s buyer, you get whatever! Maybe a picture of the bride in the gown with the face blurred out? Yes, one that is too big can be taken in or re designed but too small cannot be stretched!

  4. Melissa B. says:

    What great poems!

    Goodwill wedding gowns can be wonderfully useful. One of my bridesmaids was a debutante, and instead of buying a new white gown, she bought a 1980s wedding dress at Goodwill and had it altered. The seamstress chopped off the mutton sleeves and replaced them with delicate spaghetti straps, modified the neckline to a gentle sweetheart shape, cut the train and re-hemmed the whole thing. It looked fantastic and she saved a ton of money.

  5. Kai Jones says:

    I wish I had the dress I wore for my first wedding. It was a long-sleeved ballgown of silk chiffon over silk satin, with a cathedral train and sweetheart neckline, and re-embroidered lace accented with sequins and pearls. It sounds over the top but it was incredibly beautiful; it was my then-mother-in-law’s dress from her wedding in the 1950s and mostly hand made, with over 100 real buttons and loops up the back and a hoop skirt.

    But I’ve been divorced for well over a decade and we don’t speak. She has a daughter, who refused to wear the dress. Maybe a granddaughter will wear it. I only want it because it’s a beautiful piece of art, not for sentimental reasons.

  6. Anni Goodwin says:

    What a great poem! I have always loves the thought of wearing a dress with a history (I saved mine for my daughter who ended up my size at age 10!) So it went to Goodwill and I just hope whoever ended up with it has the happy and successful marriage I have. With the state of the economy and the average price of a wedding these days Goodwill is the obvious answer for brides on a severely restricted budget.

  7. SAS says:

    I found my wedding dress at an Amvets. Being on a budget, I decided to see what i could find in second hand stores. Well, it turned out that someone had donated about 40 or so brand new dresses beginning of october or so. Most were too large for me, but there was one just right. I asked my FH how I looked and I think his face was enough.

    My grandmother happened to be there and paid the $40 it cost. I just had to dry clean where there were some shopping cart tracks

    I looked it up online and it falls into the $500-$1000 range. Christina Wu style 5154

    When Im done with it, Im not sure what I will do with it…keep it for someone else who might want it…maybe give to another second hand shop and pass on my luck in finding that dress to someone else.

  8. Twistie says:

    That’s a lovely story, SAS! Thanks for sharing it with us.