My Old Wedding Dress

The Party's Over

The Party’s Over

My son’s graduation is over. It was the first big celebration that I had to share with my Ex-Husband. See The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations. I made it through. And by that I mean I stayed off the six o’clock news. In the weeks before the graduation, during the graduation and after the graduation some bad things happened, and some very good things happened. I’m too close to it right now to write about it. But in the midst of all the brouhaha, of the visiting relatives, of the planning and anxiety, the tears (some mine, some not), something quite unexpected happened . . .

I got rid of my wedding gown.

My sister was staying at our parents’ home. When she left she cleaned the old bedroom — her old bedroom. She dusted, organized, threw things out, removed bedding and vacuumed — even under the bed. To clean under the bed, she pulled out everything stored there, including an airline cardboard garment box. The box had the logo of the airline, along with my maiden name handwritten on it in black marker.

It was my wedding dress.

I couldn't find a picture of a box like the one my dress was in so here's a cardboard coffin.  Draw your own conclusions.

I couldn’t find a picture of a box like the one my dress was in so here’s a cardboard coffin. Draw your own conclusions.

Now, I’ve written before about how I have dealt with the mementos of my lengthy but ultimately failed marriage. Wedding Leftovers — What To Do With The Dress and The Wedding Album — Time to Reduce it, Perhaps by Fire. And the gist was that I sold my rings, reduced the number and manner of presentation of my wedding photos, but I kept the wedding gown in a box under a bed at my parents’ house — untouched.

And I’ve also written before about how I moved into a hoarders home and had to clean it, see That Hoarders Smell, and that I’m also trying to clean out my parents’ home, which is too full of stuff. See Goodbye Hoarders. I’m a big believer in getting rid of things. It’s my free therapy. See Craigslist Angel’s. It truly is contrary to my belief system to store something I would never use. So when my sister pulled out my wedding gown to clean under the bed, it suddenly felt kind of stupid to put it back.

I’m supposed to be cleaning out my parents’ house. I shouldn’t be keeping any of my stuff there, I thought.

Rule One of de-cluttering is to get rid of stuff that doesn’t belong to you. My parents shouldn’t be keeping a big box of white dress for me, taking up valuable real estate under the bed.

When I first married I really wanted to keep my dress. My parents, who are still married, had a big church wedding back in the day. My mother looked beautiful.

Classic Grace Kelly, though I submit that my mother was more beautiful.

Classic Grace Kelly, though I submit that my mother was more beautiful.

I like tradition, antiques, old houses, etc. and I totally would have worn my mother’s wedding gown when I got married. But my mother didn’t properly preserve it, it yellowed and she eventually just threw it away. My young self chastised her for this over the years and I swore I would always keep my wedding gown just in case future daughters unknown to me at the time might want to wear it. So after my wedding, I carefully packed away my gown, according to the instructions from a professional. And I left it at my parent’s house. I’ve moved many times over the years but the dress stayed at my parents’ house.

I did have daughters. See Fertile Myrtle. Technically this meant that there was a possibility that one of them might want to wear my dress. But the dress is woefully out of style. I got married when women were still allowed to have straps and sleeves. Still, any dress can be altered, and there is plenty of material to work with. But none of my daughters have any interest right now in vintage clothing, except for Halloween or dress up days at school. Even if they did, call me silly, call me superstitious, but it seems like bad Mojo to marry in a used wedding gown, even heavily altered, from a wedding where the marriage did not last. I’d gotten a lot of suggestions from my earlier post on possible other uses for the gown — dye it black and use it for Halloween, donate it to particular groups that collect gowns, theater groups, etc. But as I looked at the big box with my birth name on it, I was sure of two things:

(1) I need to get it out of my parents’ house; and

(2) I sure as hell didn’t want it in my house.

I also didn’t want to take the time to find a proper home for the dress. I didn’t much care whether or how it was used again. And I was also quite sure that I didn’t want to touch it. I was almost afraid of the damn thing.

 Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, wearing her tattered wedding dress. (Source:

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, in her wedding dress. (Source:

It was freaking me out.

So I put it in my car — my beloved car, where I spend way too much time. It is my refuge. See My Very Own Personal Olympic Games. But since my car is my refuge, I didn’t want to leave the gown in there either. Bad Mojo. I didn’t want it to infect the only space I have for me. Then I started to have visions that I would get into a car accident and they would find my bloodied wedding gown in the wreckage — and think I had some connection to it — that I had kept it for sentimental reasons –that I was purposely driving around with my wedding gown because I must still be in love with my Ex-husband and — and NO!

I’ll say it again. The gown was freaking me out.

I’d been doing some Spring cleaning in my own house (free therapy after an emotional time) and had a couple of things I wanted to drop by Goodwill. Goodwill, if you don’t know, is a charitable organization benefiting the disabled which is funded largely by Thrift Stores. (Yeah, I looked it up.) During my move from the marital home I spent a lot of time at Goodwill, giving away many of my possessions. I’ve shopped there, too, finding good buys, especially with furniture and wall decor. So I stopped by my house and grabbed the few other items that I planned to donate and took myself to Goodwill, making a special trip. Had it not been for the gown I would have waited until I had more stuff to drop off, but this had suddenly become quite urgent.

Still, I had some doubts. Consequently, I had a little conversation with myself on the ten minute ride:

Should I take the dress out of the wrapping?

(Why should I? I don’t want to see it.)

But what if I’d hidden money or something valuable or embarrassing in the box?

(But I didn’t. Those pesky photos of my husband and a stripper were never stored there. My boudoir photos I made for my husband during happier times have long since been destroyed.)

What if the wedding dress had yellowed or gotten otherwise ruined?

(Well, then the kind folks at Goodwill will dispose of it for me.)

Shouldn’t I let my daughters see it one time? Maybe try it on?

No. They’ll want to keep it, because they are hoarders-in-training. I can’t even let them know that it was in the car, because they’d have what I would deem as a morbid interest in it. And, it’s my dress, my memories. My kids did not exist when I got married. They have no right to keepsakes of my memories that predate them. I still have some of the wedding photos, that’s enough. If I abided by the reasoning that I must not destroy things related to my relationship with my kids’ father, then it follows that I should have kept the boudoir photos for my kids too, right? Wrong — and ick. Plus, if I saw any of my girls try the gown on, even just for fun, I think I’d have a panic attack and start screaming to the visual representation of my younger self standing in front of me — Run! Run! RUN! See Almost a Runaway Bride. No, I could not handle it. No, no. Did I say no? No.

Just, no.

Plus, when you think about it, my husband wore a rented tuxedo when he married me. He didn’t even keep his wedding attire for more than a day. Why do I have to keep this — thing — forever?

So, without any ceremony or further ado, I pulled around to the back of the Goodwill thrift store and left the box that contained my wedding gown on the concrete slab.

And that, as they say, was that.

And you know? I feel really good about it.

One less thing in my parents’ house, one less item from my marriage that I have to think about or make room for.

I have lightened my load. The dress wasn’t even my house yet it still haunted me. Just being in close proximity to the box that contained it led to irrational thoughts. It needed to go. I’m sure at one point one of my kids will ask where my gown is. I’ll simply say that I got rid of it, just like my mother had. If my girls marry, they can choose their own dresses, without resurrecting my vintage error in judgment.

As my oldest child is moving on to his next stage in life, preparing to leave the nest, it seemed like a good time clean up some of my old stuff. It was time to grow up and stop storing items I can’t even look at under a twin bed at my parents’ house.

So I’m good with it. So good.

Just Me With . . . no wedding gown, not anymore.

I can’t help but wonder how much it’ll go for in the store, it sure cost me plenty, in more ways than one.

11 responses

  1. Congratulations for staying off of the six o’clock news! I feel your pain over the graduation situation and having to “share” the celebration with the “unwanted.” I wrote you last year with some of our similarities and shared my own pain with you. You kindly answered.
    Here’s a new story for you. Though I’ve been divorced 44 years, and my ex has died, I recently had to spend an evening with the woman he ran off with and married one month after our divorce (his bookkeeper). We had never spoken before, so it was a nerve wracking experience for me. I was invited to the wedding of my ex’s grand niece. She and my daughter are very close and though I’ve never felt a part of that WHOLE family and mostly haven’t seen any of them over these last 44 years, the niece and grand niece like me and wanted me there, and I felt honored. My daughter wanted me there, too. I was a nervous wreck. She and I drove four hours to the wedding, and at the reception the niece had kindly put me at the table with my daughter and two other cousins. My daughter’s half-brother, his wife and children, and the evil 2nd wife sat right behind us. I could hardly breathe and the whole situation felt surreal. The wedding was so beautiful, elegant……. As the evening progressed, 2nd wife got more and more tipsy. Her son left early to put his little ones to bed, so 2nd wife asked my daughter if she could sit at our table with us!!!! And she did. And she kept drinking (I don’t). Then she was dancing, dancing, dancing. Then she was telling me to come out and dance, too. “Come on, dance! Come on out here!” I ignored her. She got more stupid and silly. Then it was late and the party was all over, and she needed a ride to the hotel where we were also staying. So of course my daughter had to say she’d take her. It was a long long ride, and 2nd wife talked non-stop, slurring, slurring, slurring her words………
    As I was getting ready for bed I kept thinking, “This can’t be real. I didn’t just spend the evening with a woman I’ve hated almost 50 years for breaking up my marriage did I?” (They wouldn’t even help with my daughter’s college education, but they paid a lot of money to adopt a Korean baby). But this is how it all ended. I felt RELIEF. ALL THESE YEARS I pictured my ex with this glamorous, intelligent woman, and she WASN’T! He got what he deserved after all. Karma. Karma. Hang in there! (Love your blog still).

    1. That is a great story. It’s funny how reality does not live up to our fears or assumptions sometimes. For me sometimes it seems like Karma needs a GPS or something, but maybe she just takes the scenic route. I’ll hang in there, though, thanks.

  2. Good for you…

    1. Thanks, and yes, good for me!

  3. Congrats, I’m glad the dress is gone and has lost it’s voodoo over you 🙂

  4. Just came across your site, and ive been sitting here reading your blog entries. wow! you’re a great writer. What a life! its 5 in the morning n im nodding off now but just wanted to say hi!!

    1. Thank you so much! I still get surprised that people read what I put out there so I really appreciate the kind words and just saying hi. I really do! Thanks again.

  5. I ripped my fifty dollar wedding dress to shreds before his stuff was even moved out. I always hated that dress. And I admire your ability to set boundaries with your children. “My kids did not exist when I got married. They have no right to keepsakes of my memories that predate them.” I’m officially taking notes.

  6. I still have my wedding dress. It sat in a corner of my daughter’s room, crumpled and getting dirty for 30 years. Now, it is stuffed into a box, unwashed and wrinkled still. I made it, so I will not get rid of it. Both my daughters are short and chunkier. I was tall and slim. the lines of the sheath allow for no alterations. So, it just sits in a box. My hopes they could wear it were dashed. My daughter was so disappointed she could not wear it. So, it sits, fulfilling my desire to keep what I made. Someday, I want to make ring pillows for all four of my grandchildren from my wedding gown.

  7. I totally relate to this. I too carted my first marriage wedding gown off to Goodwill. I felt kind of bad, since my mother had made it, but she was with me when I stuffed it in the box at Goodwill, so I take it she had no overwhelming sentimental attachment to it either. It was a big frothy reminder of my stupidity, so it definitely had to go. Our things do hold power, for sure, and we need to only keep what makes us happy.

    BTW, I’m really enjoying your blog.

    1. Thank you! I haven’t missed it. I was in Goodwill recently and did look to see if it was there for sale, and thankfully, it was not. Good riddance to it.

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