The problem of what to do with your gown once the wedding is over is a familiar one. Some women sell the dress. Others choose to keep it in the hopes of passing it on to another generation. A few even gleefully “trash” it for pictures.
Justi Underwood Bates, pictured below, chose a different direction. She wanted the gown from one of her happiest moments to be a source of comfort for others.
As the wife of an Army medic and mother to a toddler writes on Facebook, Bates had her wedding dress made into angel gowns. The tiny, but lovely, gowns have a heartbreaking purpose—they are intended for babies who never make it home from the hospital.
“I wanted my wedding dress to do more than just hang in the back of a closet,” Bates tells Independent Journal Review. “I decided to have my wedding dress turned into angel gowns to help ease the burden for families while they are in one of their greatest times of need.”
As Lisa Grubbs, the founder of a group that provides support to families of premature babies, told Today, hospitals rarely have anything special to dress a dying newborn in. Instead, parents are forced to pick through donated clothing or spend their last moments with a child wrapped in a receiving blanket.
Angel gowns provide those families with a beautiful custom outfit for a last picture or burial. Moreover, the gowns relieve families of a burden in the midst of a time of terrible sorrow, allowing them to know that someone out there cares about their pain.
Grubbs says that the need for the gowns is greater than people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2013, there were 23,446 infant deaths in the United States—that is, children who died before the age of one.
Bates’ wedding dress was transformed into seventeen angel gowns, which she is donating to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.
“As beautiful as they are, I pray they are never needed,” Bates writes.