I have one fool-proof, icebreaker, conversation-starter line that works with every group of women I encounter anywhere, anytime, in life.
"I have some excellent suggestions for what to do with a bridesmaid dress after the wedding, if anybody's interested."
I'm completely serious. In fact, I purchased a number of copies of Cindy Walker's "101 Uses for a Bridesmaid Dress" to use as gifts for my own bridesmaids during the wedding planning process. It's hilarious and a great kick off to the experience with your friends, especially if you're about to make them suck up the tab for that Vera Wang you fell in love with for them.
Even in the most seemingly inappropriate of venues and situations, that line about what to do with a used bridesmaid dress never fails to make everyone in the room laugh because we have all either been a flower girl, junior bridesmaid, bridesmaid, maid of honor, or matron of honor. You're never free, no matter what you do. You can get older and you can change your marital status, but they're just going to re-label you and stick you in the same God-awful dress you were hoping to avoid.
Although I can't compete with the main character in the movie "27 Dresses," I've certainly paid my dues and done my time in ugly satin, taffeta and lace chosen by well-meaning brides who have obviously lost their freaking minds during the wedding planning process. To be fair, I'm a tough fit and having figure-challenged bridesmaids makes it harder for the bride to find something that she likes and that will work for everyone. Unless you let the girls choose different styles, it's virtually impossible to find something that will flatter everyone. As a result, my all-time favorite stupid line is the one that you hear from every girlfriend who has ever asked you to shell out a couple hundred dollars for a dress for her wedding.
"I chose it because it's something you guys can wear again." ROFLMAO. Seriously? I will probably never wear it again -- but I can certainly USE it again, can't I? There are no rules about this.
I will admit to having re-worn a bridesmaid dress on a couple of occasions. It was red organza and it was pretty cool -- I got to choose it as MoH in my girlfriend Cathy's wedding a million years ago. But that's about the only one I can admit to recycling in the form the dressmaker intended -- sorry everybody else. If it makes you feel better, I thought that my bridesmaids would be able to wear their dresses again too!
Now I'm going to tell you the best ugly-bridesmaid-dress-put-to-good-use story ever. It may get me in trouble with somebody, but it's totally worth it. I was a bridesmaid for the first time ever in a family member's wedding a million years ago. I'm pretty sure I was a last-minute add on for political reasons and as a result, my bridesmaid dress assembly was rushed. My mom sent the measurements up to the bride's dressmaker in Pennsylvania and we sat back and waited. Now, there's no doubt the measurements we sent were good because my mom is an excellent seamstress -- she made almost all of my formal dresses in high school, and let me assure you that I was attending a lot of dances back then. But when this dress arrived in the mail TWO DAYS before we were due to leave for the wedding in Pittsburgh, it didn't even vaguely resemble something that would fit me. Instead of being made for a short, chubby, young teen, this dress was cut to fit a tall busty woman. You could have put a whole extra person in the chest of it, but the back wouldn't zip. Disaster.
We dropped everything and left a day earlier so we could go directly to the dressmaker's, and after much stress and by holding my breath, the dress fit for the wedding. It didn't even look that bad on me in the pictures, looking back, but my God... it was the ugliest bridesmaid dress I have ever worn. It was a pink satin spaghetti-strapped sheath with a white lace overdress and a pink cummerbund. A cummerbund? Yes. Over that rough lace you think of on your grandma's tablecloth. Just hideous. But it was the late 1980s and I was just lucky the damned thing fit. After the wedding, it was practically coming apart and I didn't give a second thought as to where it had gone. Until it re-appeared a few months later in another form. My mother had turned it into a dog bed. No joke.
I have a friend who got very creative a few years ago when she was going through a crafty phase. She used her old dresses to make doll clothing for her own daughter's dolls, and her daughter's friend's dolls. It was the coolest thing, and it saved her a fortune in gifts for a couple of years. One of my friends who considers herself to be rather fashion-forward usually rips the dresses apart and makes them into something more tolerable -- she's gotten a few cute dressy skirts out of the deal. Lots of women let their own daughters use them for dress up -- that's not a bad idea either when I think back to the awesome costume box in my friend Lisa Antonille's basement when I was growing up.
All snarkiness aside, one woman's trash is another woman's treasure -- and there are literally thousands of underprivileged teenagers and young women across this nation who wish they could afford to buy a dress that looks like the one you've been burying deeper and deeper in your closet for two years now. Take it out. Take them all out. Make a pile of the ones you have actually worn again, and you can keep any of those that you want to. If you really think you might wear them again.
The rest are going to charity -- www.donatemydress.org or get online and look up a local group who is helping to outfit girls in your community for homecoming and prom. They need your help and you need the closet space so it's win-win proposition for everybody involved. And if your friend gets upset when she notices the empty space where her monstrosity used to live, you can make her feel better by telling her some 16 year old is playing princess in it at prom.
Below, a photo of the dress Sandy's mom turned into a dog bed.