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Brides use cherished FAMILY heirlooms to make their weddings EXTRA special

By Naima Ford 03/15/2012

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Marjorie Petrone had never heard of upcycling, but as the mother of three daughters, she had to be creative. Married in 1960, she had a beautiful silk wedding dress that she wanted to pass on to her daughters.

“Her wedding dress was just absolutely gorgeous,” said daughter Dina Stegon, who is also the ad manager of the Pasadena Weekly.

When Petrone’s first daughter, Lori, was married in 1991, she decided to create money bags, silk drawstring purses traditionally used at weddings for guests to deposit cards and monetary gifts for newlyweds. After the wedding, the couple can save the bag as a keepsake.

Petrone asked her cousin, a seamstress, to dismantle the dress then use the silk to make the large ivory silk bags and their drawstrings. She added her daughter’s initials using parts of the dress. She had all three made at the same time — holding on to the mother’s dream that all her daughters would eventually be married.
They all were.
“The gift was spectacular!” said Stegon. What Petrone did those many years ago is commonly referred to now as upcycling. “Upcycling” is a term created by Reiner Pilz, owner of the German automation technology company Pilz GmbH, to describe a more constructive way to think of recycling materials for construction. The word is meant to change the way we think about recycling, which is usually destroying something to create something less valuable. In upcycling, the original item is kept intact or used to create something that is more valuable or useful.

Upcycling wedding dresses means using old wedding dresses to create new dresses or accessories for another wedding. It is a way for the bride to treasure family heirlooms and add her own style.

There are many ways to upcycle wedding dresses, but most fall into two categories: using wedding dresses to make new items, as the Petrone family did, or using other material to make a whole new dress. For example, brides have found dresses on Ebay or in thrift stores and added to them. Others have used unconventional materials, such as trash bags, to create the dress of their dreams.

For some inventive people, upcycled wedding dresses have become a business. Etsy.com, a website for selling handmade products, is full of upcycled wedding dresses for sale, as well as other upcycled products.

For those who like the idea of a zero impact dress or the unique style it evokes, this is a great option. But for others, upcycling is all about taking cherished family heirlooms and giving them new life.

Beyond wedding dresses, upcycling can be employed to add the personal touches brides are looking for. Examples are rarely touted in wedding industry publications, but they are abundant in the blogosphere. Cost-conscious and environmentally friendly brides are documenting their own experiences and sharing their tips on the Internet. Blogs like  junkshopbride.com and offbeatbride.com offer unconventional examples of how to use what you may already have to make things you want.

Petrone’s second daughter took a cue from her mother for her bridal headpiece. After seeing a picture of her grandmother’s headpiece from wedding photographs, she fell in love with it. Luckily, the piece was still in the family, so she took it to her seamstress to have the beads reset and the netting attached for a veil.

“This was my sister's way of having our grandmother, who died in 1947 when my mom was only 7 years old, included in her wedding and there with her,” said Stegon.

There are ways to use old containers and potted plants for centerpieces, old headpieces and hats for the bridal veil and thrift store finds for decorations. Even old furniture has been renewed — nearly anything can be upcycled to bring a bride’s vision for her big day to life.

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