In an ideal world, when you search for your wedding dress, the only criteria for your selection would be how much you love it. For many, though, how you feel is secondary to the garment's price tag. When Gwendolyn Stulgis saw her used wedding dress hanging in her closet, she saw an opportunity to take that worry away from someone else who needed it. She recalled how her dress made her feel and knew that she was fortunate enough to be able to afford it, but that shouldn’t be the determining factor.
When she was first looking for her wedding dress, Stuglis had a budget of $1,000 and a dream to find a gown that made her feel beautiful. After trying on several dresses, she was finally shown a champagne-colored dress, complete with long sleeves made of sparkly lace and buttons going from the middle of the back to the end of the train. “I stood there and kind of got tears in my eyes because it really was the dress that I really wanted,” she admits. The only catch: it was triple her budget.
After some encouragement from her mother-in-law, Stulgis purchased it. “I don't think I could have pictured myself in anything else.” she explains. “That dress was just made for me.” She wore the gown with pride when she became a Stulgis and was happy she chose to purchase it.
As most brides do, she hung her wedding dress in her closet when the ceremony was over. Realizing the single-purpose garment would be wasted if it continued to sit there, she decided to give it away. Stulgis took to Facebook in May to search out the bride to give her dress to. In the post, there were two requests: the bride must have their ceremony within three months and the dress must be passed onto others, “as long as the dress can stand.”
More than 70 messages came flooding into Stulgis’ inbox from brides telling her why they would love the dress and what it would mean to them. Every night, her and her husband would read the messages.
Margaret Hyde had planned on making her own dress before she saw Stulgis’ Facebook post. She mentioned to her future sister-in-law, Alycia Ashley, that she wanted to enter but was hesitant. So, Ashley secretly nominated her. Ashley’s message commended Stulgis’ “sisterhood of the traveling pants-esque decision” and then described Hyde as “the most selfless person” she knows, who “gives everything off of her back at the drop of a hat for anyone around her.” Once Hyde got the courage three days later, she nominated herself.
Stulgis was moved by Ashley’s message and love for the bride to be. On June 4, Hyde was told she was chosen. “I was in complete shock,” she recalls. “I feel extremely loved.” Hyde plans on following the traveling dress requests.
After her post, Stulgis started a Facebook group called Shared Dream Dresses. There are currently around 12,000 members. Since June, an estimated 200 dresses have been given away, with many brides planning on continuing the tradition Stulgis started. This includes brides like Diana Bowman, who specifically stated that she hopes her gown “gets passed from bride to bride to bride, and 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’ community of bridal donations started with such a giving sentiment. “I want someone else to feel the way I did on my wedding day—to look beautiful,” she shares. “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. A wedding dress shouldn't just be kept in a closet.”
If you'd like to be part of the movement, you can request to join the Shared Dream Dresses Facebook group.