Dear ASDP Board

Salvage Dress

08/03/2015 7:52 PM | Anonymous

You are used to hearing the words altering or re-styling associated with new bridal gowns, but for the past 9 months another word has surfaced in my work, the word “salvage.” In the fall of 2013 I started working as a volunteer with my local YWCA to open what is now called “The Bristol Bridal Station” in an un-used section of their building. The concept was and still is to contact upscale bridal designers and salons across the country (those that carry gowns in the $3,000 and up range) asking them to donate their sample and older year gowns to us rather than marking them down to sell. It is a win-win situation, as the donor gets a tax write-off and the Bridal Station gets the gown. At present we sell the gowns at about 25% of the retail value.

Stains on the gown

The majority of the gowns arrive in pristine condition, but others arrive with stains, dirt, perspiration/ deodorant, or makeup. If the gown is made of polyester we are in luck as all of those are simply washed in the washing machine, let air dry, and then steamed. Stain problems are harder to deal with if the gown is made of silk, as are many in the price range we receive. Deodorant is especially hard on these gowns and many have deteriorated in the underarm area to such an extent that they simply cannot be worn or sold in that condition.

Missing buttons and loops

This shows how some of the gowns come in with buttons and loops unusable.  In this case, new loops and buttons are made or are simply removed and a zipper inserted.  I keep new buttons in stock to replace old buttons, but I never discard a usable button. Many companies use the same buttons on all their gowns and I can usually match buttons from ones I’ve saved. In this situation a little ingenuity comes in handy.

Vera Wang gown

In the case of the Vera Wang gown shown, the silk under the arm had rotted (see red arrow pointing to the replacement on previous image. I loosened the ribbon and removed the rotted silk organza at the underarm and at the bodice top edge. I then cut a new underarm piece using the removed organza as a pattern I sewed it in place at the top edge of the bodice, tucked the edge under the petersham and topstitched the ribbon in place. By doing this I salvaged what would have been an unsaleable gown with an original retail price of over $8000.

So far all the silk gowns have come in either ivory or natural. I’ve kept scraps of silk for years and also keep in stock bolts of silk organza so matching colors has not been a problem. One gown came in with huge rotted holes in the plain A-line skirt. To my surprise, the under layer was very ornate and was supposed to ‘shadow’ through the silk organza. I simply removed the torn layer and salvaged the gown.

Several gowns from designers such as Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta have come to us with retail values of over $13,000. I simply cannot allow a gown with a value that high to be discarded because of torn or rotted fabric. In the photo below is an example. The gown is a Monique Lhuillier that had severe rotting and discoloring, not only at the underarm but throughout the entire bodice.

You will notice the gown has one puffy layer at the top of the skirt. It originally had two puffy layers. I removed one layer and used the fabric to make a new bodice. The bodice is exactly like the original. In this case the fabric was so unusual that if the gown was to be salvaged, the fabric had to come from somewhere on the gown.

This gown is one of the very few silk gowns I’ve actually washed, as it was very yellowed. In this instance, I used Ivory laundry detergent and some Oxyclean in the bathtub, gently agitating by hand. Then I rinsed it until the water was clear and hung it to dry. It was a huge risk, but in this case the gown was unsaleable the way it was.

Monique Lhuillier gown

Now we have a real showcase gown. Some gowns simply cannot be salvaged.  We mark them as unsaleable in our inventory and I remove any item from them such as zippers, boning, lace, and embellishments that can be used to repair other garments.  One lovely lace gown came in with the lace on one side perfect and the other side so rotted it fell apart in my hand. I salvaged all the stable lace.

I have found my volunteer work with this project to have been a great learning experience.  I have stretched my imagination and skills to be able to salvage many of the gowns.  To discard a gown that can, with a bit of ingenuity, be salvaged seems such a waste.  All the funds raised by the Bridal Station go to help the YWCA with its many projects, mainly a top-ranked daycare center which is the only one in our region to offer sliding scale care.  We also have a wonderful project to help at-risk teenage girls.  So I see where all our efforts go.   The Bristol Bridal Station is always looking for new shops to partner with, so if you know of any, please pass the word along to me. Please visit us on Facebook

Written by Linda Stewart

2885 Sanford Ave SW #19588, Grandville, MI 49418 ~ Toll-Free (877) 755-0303 

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