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Recycling Gowns

I've only called myself a photographer for a few years; having started in wildlife with butterflies I knew I wanted to do something that was going to make some kind of difference. It didn't have to be big, simple could be better but it also needed to be something that kind of set me apart! Photographers, great photographers are everywhere! I'm just a self-taught photographer how in the world am I going to attract clients?

Butterflies ... fairies .... the leap isn't far!

But, darn, the prices of those gorgeous long, flowy gowns. I knew immediately where to go.

Thrift Stores

I've been a fan of thrift stores since my grown children were babies; clothing, furniture, dishware .. there wasn't anything I hadn't seen at thrift stores. So that's where I go. Thrift, Consignment, Restore. Whatever they name it I will find it. Thrift stores are filled with used items, of course, but often one can also find brand new and unused items. Sure there may be some bed sheets with stains or some shoes that smell a little funny but also there's once worn wedding and formal gowns, barely used corsets and often dusty but easily cleaned artificial flowers.

It's incredible how much can be reused for just a fraction of the cost of by new!


Think outside the box; dresses aren't the only options. Check the skirt section, the scarves, the bedsheets and curtains. Sheer and tulle curtains are great additions for creating fullness in skirts. Bathing suits, more specifically that bikini top that doesn't have a matching bottom, can be decorated with some sea shells and jewels to create a fanciful mermaid bra.

Don't limit yourself to just the clothing and linens.

Check the shelves for props and more. I once found a Christmas tree topper I turned into a crown. Placemats I've made into ornate shoulder pieces. And wooden cigar boxes that were transformed into magical books.


On multiple occasions I've been able to recycle a costume more than once. I don't like to reuse costumes, I rather prefer to keep them unique to each session. I had been given a layer lace wedding dress by a model.

A real Boho vibe with it's lacey layers, the dress was perfect for the sunflower fields.

The second-hand bass was a wonderful addition with it's Autumn decor added. We revisited the dress a couple days later, the model more than happy to do so because she absolutely loved the dress.

Fast forward a couple months, I found an umbrella that really grabbed my attention (at the thrift store of course!). Red with purple flowers. And now I knew what I wanted to do with the above dress to reuse it again. A little dye and some time and we reached red, the following picture is the results.

I still wanted to hold on to this costume because I love those lacey layers and it has been repurposed for a third time by me! Refashioned into a skirt now (I don't have pictures yet) it is prepared for a Steampunk inspired look. It's not done yet!

Skills, what sewing skills?

At best, I would be considered novice where it relates to sewing skill. I know how to thread the sewing machine, I don't know stitches. I'm learning things as I go with lots of looking up of how tos and sewing tips along the way. Every costume is unique and that makes it all worthwhile to me.

Sure not every dress will fit every client or model. Recycling gowns means that they can be previously altered. This can cause issues, I've more than once needed to use safety pins or even those elastic straps for holding bed sheets on to keep costumes up and covering. It happens but it doesn't have to be the end all.

Safety pins, paper clamps (not clips), fabric glue and more options are available out there to help people, like me, lacking in sewing skill.

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