How to Upcycle Your Wedding Dress

Weddings may be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for most people, but that doesn’t mean their wedding attire has to be stored away, never to be seen again, afterward. Many brides are finding new ways to repurpose their dresses.

Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Sex and The City” character, Carrie Bradshaw, is just one of the former brides restyling their wedding dresses to wear again. The actress has been photographed filming the next season of the sequel series “And Just Like That,” wearing her Vivienne Westwood gown from the 2008 “Sex and the City’ movie, paired with matching teal cape, gloves, shoes and a feathered headpiece.

The show’s costume designer, Molly Rogers, says brides “want to re-experience a flood of happy memories on a day they were truly the queen.”

But why would Ms. Parker’s character want to wear the dress she was famously jilted in? And where is she going?

“It’s impossible to answer,” said Ms. Rogers, who is based in New York and Miami. “Maybe we can chat when all is revealed.”

Ms. Rogers is keeping mum. But one bride who can answer questions about future wedding dress uses, Rachel Crook of London, says she knew from the start that she would wear her wedding dress again.

“If you have lovely things, you should use them,” she said. “I don’t see why you would keep something so beautiful in a box. What’s the point in having it if you’re not going to use it?”

Mrs. Crook, 41, the director of retail at Gatwick Airport, married in London in June 2021. She went to Andrea Hawkes, who owns a bridal shop in London, to have her wedding dress designed — a simple, off-white silk dress, with a calf-length skirt, three-quarter-length sleeves and button detailing on the back.

“I wanted something sophisticated, as an older bride,” she said. “And right from the beginning, even before the wedding I was thinking, ‘How can I wear this again?’”

Regearing the dress is something many brides are now considering even before their nuptials, Ms. Hawkes said. “In my studio, brides are more often saying ‘I could wear this again’ when trying their dresses on for the first time,” she said. “They already have that in mind before buying. They won’t compromise on what they want, though.”

Ms. Hawkes started her business in 2013. Her shop has offered a “post wedding alteration service” since 2020, where dresses are restyled so that they can be worn again.

The alteration service begins with a “restyle consultation,” which costs 25 pounds, or around $30. During the consultation, brides will bring in their dresses and discuss what is possible, and what has already been done to the dress. At that time, they are also asked to bring in any accessories they plan on wearing with their restyled dress.

“The most common thing we do is shorten the hem,” Ms. Hawkes said. “That’s probably the easiest way to alter a wedding dress. Splitting it in half, if the dress has a waist seam, is another option and it can be worn again as separates.”

Alteration costs vary, but Ms Hawkes says that the cost, on average, is between 180 and 450 pounds, or around $220 to $550.

Mrs. Crook returned to the same shop with her dress, and had a navy lace overlay added to her off-white gown, which cost 600 pounds, or around $735.

It was a safer way of changing the color of the dress, Ms. Hawkes said. “Dying a dress isn’t the best option,” she added. “It can be unpredictable, and patchy. It’s impossible to say what a dress has already had done to it at the factory. You should do a test patch even if you’re just dry cleaning the dress to wear again.”

Mrs. Crook has a few events in mind for where she plans to wear her restyled dress. “I’m going to wear it to a wedding, because it doesn’t look anything like a wedding dress anymore,” she said. “I also want to hold an event in the next 12 months to celebrate all the milestones we missed in lockdown, like turning 40, and having a baby, so I’m going to wear it for that.”

Danielle Copperman, 29, who owns a company that makes granola quinoa breakfast products, had her wedding looks designed with the intention to be reworn.

Mrs. Copperman married in Lyon, France, where she lives, this past September. She captions a photo of her wedding gown, on Instagram, “Desperately seeking an opportunity to wear it again.”

Mrs. Copperman had two gowns created for her wedding, which included a town hall ceremony before a reception at the groom’s rustic family home in the French countryside. They were made sustainably, with vintage fabrics.

“I avoid using anything once in my daily life, and my wedding wasn’t an exception,” she said. “I had them designed with wearing them again in mind, so we avoided lace or embellishment, anything super bridal.”

There are elements of her bridal look that she has already reworn, such as her Jimmy Choo wedding shoes, a pair of white leather chunky mules, and her bridal jewelry.

“Traditional bridal jewelry isn’t very wearable, but I’ve worn the chunky gold earrings from my wedding day and the shoes again already — I wore them on my honeymoon and I use them just as day wear,” she said. “If you want to rewear after the wedding, accessories are a good way to go. Look at things that will build up your look, that you can also wear again. It’s so special every time you wear them.”

Ms. Copperman says she also plans to wear the white, halter-neck gown again. “It will work for red carpet events, and any Christmas and New Year’s parties I go to this year in Paris or London,” she said. “I’ll pair it with a fur collar and may add a gold retro belt to make it more fun.”

The dress was created using dead-stock, or surplus, fabric, and a secondhand dress that the bride bought from eBay. The look was created and styled by her friend, Zoe Jervoise, who is a founder of P.S. Bridal, a bridal company based in Windsor, England.

Mrs. Jervoise has 11 years experience as a stylist and says that the rewearing trend is one she’s noticed, too. “A lot of brands are paying attention to it, and they’re making dresses with that in mind,” she said. “Separates are easy to wear again, you can pair tops and corsets with jeans, I think slips are great, too, and can be worn with boots and oversized jackets. They would work for parties, holidays, dinners, day wear. ”

P.S. Bridal also offers a remake service, where it will restyle wedding dresses as well as heirloom gowns.

“A wedding is one of the most un-eco-friendly events we’ll have in our life,” Mrs. Jervoise said, “and 90 percent of the emissions from the dress happen in manufacturing. So I think it’s important we normalize wearing it more than once.”