Sharing Wedding Dresses Can Extend the Celebration Into the Future!

Every beautiful bridal gown can tell an enduring story.

Woman choosing her wedding dress.

(Dejan Dundjerski /

A good quality evening gown can survive being worn hundreds of times. The local community gala. The cousin’s wedding you danced your feet off at. The day when you decided to dress up, just because. The thread count is the only limit to how many memories your “little black dress” can make for you.

When newlywed Gwendolyn Stulgis hung up her favorite dress in her closet, it was with a pang of guilt. that that dress — her wedding gown — would only be able to make one memory, and would never be worn again. Stulgis decided to regift it to another bride-to-be; her generosity inspired hundreds of other newlyweds to also give their dresses another day in the spotlight.

The dream gown
Business Insider has the story. Stulgis, the bride to be, had set a budget of $1,000 for her dream dress. However, after a frustrating day of gown-shopping, Stulgis had yet to find it. The saleswoman encouraged Stulgis to try on just one more gown. It was love at first sight.

"It was champagne in color. It had long sleeves, sparkly lace all over it.” Stulgis described to NPR, “It had these buttons that literally started down the middle of the back, all the way down into the train, which I absolutely loved. I stood there and kind of got tears in my eyes because it really was the dress that I really wanted."

Although, at $3,000, the dream gown was over-budget, Stulgis mother-in-law encouraged her to go for it. She wore the dress when she married Frank Stulgis on May 6, 2022.

The giveaway
After the wedding, Gwendolyn Stulgis realized her beloved dress would be doomed to a life in the closet. “A wedding dress shouldn't just be kept in a closet," she told Business Insider.

On May 19, 13 days after she last wore her gown, Stulgis took to social media. She posted on Facebook that she had felt “absolutely gorgeous” in her dress, she would be “forever grateful” to have had it, and she wanted “someone else to feel how I felt.” 

Stulgis invited brides to message her with a few paragraphs describing why they deserved the dress. She would announce the winner on June 4th. The catch — the person who took the dress had to be a bride with a wedding date in the next three months. And after her wedding, the new dress owner would have to pledge to pass it along to another woman, who would then pass it along to another after her wedding, and so on, for “as long as the dress can stand.” 

Stulgis explained her selfless choice, “"I want someone else to feel the way I did on my wedding  day — to look beautiful. I want the person to feel like they are worth something. I want them to get the dress of their dreams without worrying about buying one.”

The winner
Stulgis was bombarded. She received more than 70 messages, with each future bride describing what receiving the dress would mean to her. Frank and Gwendolyn spent their evenings reviewing the submissions together.

One submission came from Alycia Ashley, who referred to the idea as a “sisterhood of the travel pants-esque decision.” In contrast to the others, Ashley wasn’t a bride. She didn’t want the dress for herself, but for her sister-in-law-to-be, Margaret Hyde. “I’ve never met a more deserving woman who would carry on your wish to pass this gown on to someone after her,” Ashley wrote. 

Hyde didn’t know that Ashley had submitted her name. My Modern Met reports that she had been hesitant to enter the contest herself and actually had planned to make her own wedding dress. But a few days later,  Hyde mustered the courage to write her own submission as well.

Stulgis took Ashley’s endorsement seriously. On June 4, she announced Hyde as the winner. Hyde remarked to Business Insider, "I was in complete shock; I feel extremely loved. I'm a simple girl that wears jeans and T-shirts, so I don't normally wear dresses. I'm looking forward to feeling like a princess for a day."

‘Shared Dream Dresses’
But Hyde wasn’t the only beneficiary of Stulgis’s generosity. NPR reports that Stulgis set up a Facebook group called “Shared Dream Dresses,” where newlyweds could share wedding gowns in need of new wearers. According to Stulgis, more than 200 wedding dresses have been re-loved as a result of the group.

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One of the newlyweds in the group, Diana Bowman, explained why she decided to give her gown away, "For me, it was also a different experience because I'm a plus-sized woman and finding a wedding dress in plus sizes is really, really difficult.So if I could take that stress away from somebody by passing along a beautiful plus-sized gown, I was like, I have to do it." 

She also donated her dress on the condition that it gets passed along again until it “just gets worn out and is in tatters at the end of its life because of all the celebrating that’s done in it.”

Stulgis told NPR, "I want to help as many women as I can find their dream dress…Everyone should feel the magic and beauty I felt the day I married my best friend.”

Although Stulgis’s beaded, and lacey gown didn’t have a train on it, it did inspire a “train of kindness.”

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