My wedding dress was living rent free in my head and my house for 13 years.

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It is a gorgeous designer confection with yards of the softest silk.
I’m embarrassed to say what I paid for it, but it supports my theory that when deep down you think your relationship isn’t quite right and you know you are hailing a cab it’s easier to occupy your working memory with the wedding train instead of thinking about what you are really doing with your life. After all, how could such an amazing party signal anything but longevity and success?


Once I got the dress back from the cleaners I should have sold it immediately. There is a decent after market for high-end dresses and if I’d recouped even 10% of the cost and then bought Apple stock I’d have made a decent investment. 

But no, I hung onto it. I suspect my inner dialogue was something like, Look at the dress, see you preserved it just right – that must mean your marriage is ok!

Eventually I got divorced, however, I just couldn’t rid myself of the damn dress. I tried selling it, but the aftermarket for designer wedding dresses more than 5 years old is poor. And anyway, it seemed like more hassle. So I was stuck between the Scylla and Charybdis of wanting to get rid of it, yet not being able to part with it without getting some kind of compensation (which I mistook for closure). So day in and day out I made myself look at it, like some kind of penance. I could have put it under the house in the storage space, but I was worried the damp would ruin it. Yes, I was worried that the dress I had grown to hate (but still loved because it was beautiful) that I couldn’t get rid of (but wanted to)  would rot under the house so when a nonexistent buyer offered me a good price it would be ruined! Yes, emotions are tricky things.

And then I was looking at princess dresses for Halloween and my partner at work suggested I dye my wedding dress. “Why not,” she said, “turn it into something you really want?”

The more I thought about it the more it seemed like the perfect transformation!

I chose Rit in a Cinderella blue (after crowdsourcing dye selection on Twitter) and bought some tulle and fabric flowers to add a little princess flare. The vinegar, rubber gloves, and wine I already had (I’ll get to that ingredient in a bit). The dress is silk so I knew it would take the dye.

I put the dress on for one last hurrah and gloated that it was too big! I also reminded myself that some really good things came out of my marriage.


IMG_4028I filled a bucket with hot water, 1 cup vinegar and a bottle of dye. The recipe was 1/2 bottle to 3 gallons and I’m all metric and doing the conversion was too much of a challenge in my head so I just filled the bucket and guesstimated it looked like 3 milk jugs full. Then it came time to soak the dress and I panicked. What was I doing? I could ruin it? We can go over how stupid that thought process was, but suffice it to say letting go of mistakes is hard. You hold onto them for so long and the distress they cause becomes almost comforting.

This is where the wine comes in. I quickly downed a glass (this is NOT DIRECT MEDIAL ADVICE!) and about 20 minutes later everything seemed like a great idea!

I soaked the dress in warm water, dumped it into the dye bath and stirred. And boy do you have to stir a lot! It was very therapeutic. I felt a bit like a celtic warrior princess getting ready for battle and it is entirely possible that I released a lot of anger by dreaming up curses.

After 30 minutes (the bottle said 30-60 minutes, but I wanted a lighter blue and my arms were getting tired)  I took it out and rinsed it in the tub. There was a lot of fabric and so many folds and the dress was now very heavy. The rinsing by hand took about 20 minutes and was really the hardest part. This also helped me release a lot of anger. Then a wash in the machine (I used delicate) and ran it through the rinse cycle one more time. There were so many warnings on the dye bottle about irritation I didn’t want to take the chance. The dress had been irritating enough, you know?

It took 2 days to completely dry, I sewed on some tulle and fabric flowers on and the transformation to princess ball gown was complete.

I don’t know why it seemed so daunting and took so long, but letting go of mistakes is hard. However, the dress was like a bad investment (ok not like, it was) and hanging on to it was just compounding the pain.

So here’s my advice. Elope, but if you have to have a traditional wedding get the dress you want and then SELL IT IMMEDIATELY after you get married and buy Apple stock. However, if you are like me and you have to let your mistakes beat you up for a bit long time and your dress becomes unsellable, turn it into a gown for Halloween (or some other occasion) and have a blast on your terms!


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  1. It looks great! I bought a cocktail dress for mine in 2002 because I wanted a dress to wear again. I haven’t worn it again yet … And Halloween is starting to take off in Australia. In my suburb, we had a 3 street do and over 80 kids came to our house! I wanted to do a Miss Havisham this year but couldn’t find a white dress in time we just wore our goth clothes instead.

  2. As Galina Khmeleva said in our knitting class, “Try to adapt to live peacefully with your mistakes”. She should have added, “And, use blue dye!”

  3. I donated my dress to an animal rescue that had an annual auction to raise money. I got a tax deduction, they got money for the dress, and somebody got a beautiful dress for next to nothing.

  4. Your story sounds both therapeutic and fun. You have a great sense of humor and I know that helps everything!

  5. I’m sorry all of you (women) couldn’t have what “we” had. Yes, “had”. I lost her, my incredible best friend forever (long before that became a catch-phrase), after only 23 years (we were already planning for the 25th) … to medical malpractice.

    Twenty three million wouldn’t have been enough. You all deserve that kind of relationship. Impossible to be sure, but it saddens me every day that it can’t be.

  6. So much lovelier in blue and your boys are gorgeous! Truly, you’ve found the key to happiness and a successful life :). I agree with the comment above, that colorful weddings should be the new gig.

  7. The blue version of the dress (with the tulle and flowers) is gorgeous! Seriously, people should abandon this silly idea of wedding = *white* dress, and instead use *colors*!

  8. You make a fantastic Cinderella! What a fun way to trick or treat with your boys! Cinderella could use a knight and a dragon to escort her to any big parties!

  9. Something I learned a few years back: if you let someone live rent-free in your head, you shouldn’t be surprised when they trash the place. OH the time it took me to clean and repair… Frankly, there are a few stubborn spots I’m still working on…

  10. Wow Jen what a great job you did on your Cinderella dress . Great ending to its story xxxxx

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