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Wedding dress as work of art? What to do with your gown after the big day

In the opulent home recently occupied by Adrienne Maloof of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the shoe closet had its own bathroom. And yet the real fascination – a detail that has been heavily circulated and copied on Pinterest – is the framed full-length wedding dress that hung on the wall in the same room.

"My wedding dress was too beautiful to hang in my closet, so I framed it," Maloof explained on Twitter.

The blonde millionaire has since divorced and the house has been sold, but this novel means of preserving the wedding dress has caught on as the latest bridal trend. It's one that Andrea Anastasiou, owner of high-end wedding shop White Toronto, is seeing among her customers, who, for $1,000 and up, are purchasing custom frames and mats to turn their gowns into an oversized piece of art.

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The traditional post-wedding routine – paying $200 to $400 to have the dress preserved and boxed – has apparently lost its novelty. It seems that, for those who have spent $5,000 or $10,000 on a couture-level gown, packing it up can feel like a waste, according to wedding planner Melissa Andre, who does $100,000 events on the regular and has also noticed the trend among clients. After purchasing the most spectacular ensemble they've ever owned, some brides just "can't bare to put it in a closet," she says.

Of course, not every bride has enough wall space to accommodate a life-sized testament to the special day. Fortunately, there are other creative ways to preserve the memories: "Some take the dress apart, then work the fabric into a quilt," says Andre. One bride she knows turned her dress into a ring pillow to pass along to the child she plans to have. Many others have upcycled theirs into a christening outfit for future children. "I like the idea of [converting the dress into] something sentimental that could be an heirloom. To me, [our society] has lost [a sense of] the importance of that. But maybe that's just the romantic in me," Anastasiou says.

Thinking outside the garment box also holds appeal for the growing number of practical-minded newlyweds (not to mention space-crunched condo dwellers) who have taken to selling their dresses. According to Anastasiou, about 50 per cent of her well-heeled clients plan on hawking their dresses, up from "nobody" when the store opened just over seven years ago. Some entrepreneurial types even set up the sale before purchasing the dress, to offset the cost of buying a dream gown.

Still others donate their dresses to charity. Toronto's The Brides' Project, for instance, accepts donated once-used wedding dresses and resells them for $500 to $600 each, passing on the proceeds – about $100,000 a year – to cancer charities.

"On a personal level, I wouldn't feel good about selling my wedding dress," says the group's founder, Helen Sweet. "It's something I would give away to somebody, but not something I'd want to profit from. A lot of people say they feel more comfortable donating it."

And then there are those for whom the sanctity of the dress is an illusion. Take Jamie O'Connor, 28, who had planned to sell hers through a consignment store but changed her mind when she discovered that the delicate bodice looked too worn after the wear-and-tear of her wedding day.

"I was like, nobody's going to want to use this dress again," says the newlywed, who lives in Pickering, Ont. "So I used it – I was Glinda the Good Witch for Halloween last year. I plan to go paintballing in it next year, maybe with my husband and the wedding party."

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O'Connor is expecting her first child – and she just found out she's having a girl. The news hasn't swayed her to keep the dress, in the event that her daughter wants to wear it to her own wedding someday.

"[The style isn't] classic. [It's] not going to be popular in 30 years," she says. Still, a glimmer of traditionalism remains: "I did hold onto my veil to pass along."

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