10 Ways to Repurpose a Bridesmaid Dress

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All brides proclaim, "You'll be able to wear it again." No matter how wearable the bride may think it is, a traditional bridesmaid dress is likely to hang forlorn in the back of a closet. Most bridesmaid dresses are hardly cheap, so repurposing can take some sting out of the price tag. These 10 ideas give bridesmaid dresses a second life.

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The style might not be your cup of tea, but shortening the hem, reshaping the neckline, adding straps, or even chopping the ensemble in half can transform an old bridesmaid dress into something you would actually wear to a cocktail party or another wedding. If a friend or family member can do the alterations, so much the better, as professional services can easily hit the $100 mark. Before plunging ahead, consider how much you spent on the dress and whether it merits a greater investment.

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Maybe the style suits you but the color not so much. Dyeing the outfit can redeem it. Bridal wear companies offer the service, but typically for $100 to $150 a pop. The DIY route is far cheaper; a bottle of dyeing liquid costs less than $3. Fabric dyes are made specifically for certain types of textiles, however, so do your homework. And proceed with care: Fabric dyes are both messy and permanent. You don't want to end up losing the dress altogether or ruining something else you didn't mean to recolor.

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Sometimes just a few accessories can make all the difference. Depending on the cut and color of the bridesmaid dress, you might add a jacket, jewelry, shoes, scarf, belt, or even leggings to completely transform the look. A denim jacket can dress down the outfit, while a belt can temporarily shorten a long dress or change the silhouette by blousing out some of the fabric. Get creative enough and you may be able to fashion multiple outfits out of just one dress.

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With the proliferation of online selling, unloading an unwanted bridesmaid dress has never been easier. You won't recoup the out-of-pocket cost, but something is better than nothing. While some items sell for 10 percent to 20 percent of the original cost, a name-brand dress may net 50 percent or more. Alternatively, try selling the dress to a resale shop. Note, however, that these vendors often prefer designer dresses in perfect condition.

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Many charities eagerly accept dress clothes destined for less fortunate youth. Thrift stores are reliable spots for dress donation and often have a section for prom-like dresses. Keep track of donations so you can write them off at tax time.

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An endless number of costume ideas call for a fancy frock. Use a bridesmaid dress to become a prom queen, Miss America, Barbie, or a princess. To do Halloween as a couple, dress as a bride along with a groom or as Cinderella and Prince Charming.

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There can be a lot of fabric in just one bridesmaid dress, especially a floor-length gown. If you have a sewing machine or a handy friend, take apart the dress and repurpose the fabric as a pillowcase, a child's dress, backing for a blanket, or something for yourself -- a skirt, perhaps?

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Once the wedding is over, many brides become more good-humored about their choice of bridesmaid dresses, sometimes going so far as to concede that perhaps they weren't so practical to begin with. Use the fabric to make something for the new bride, such as a quilt, a wall hanging, or part of a blanket for the first baby.

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If you have a collection of barely touched bridesmaid dresses, chances are your friends do, too. Host a party and request that invitees don their neglected formal wear. Call it a prom, homecoming, tea party, or ball, and fancy up the evening with hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.

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The longer you hang on to old bridesmaid dresses, the more children you and your friends are likely to have. While the little ones won't exactly fit into the old bridesmaid dresses, they can go into a designated bin for pretend play.