Satin, silk, buttons, lace or tulle.
Angel Gowns Australia volunteer Patricia Cameron says any type of wedding dress can help comfort parents who are dealing with grief.
A mother herself, Ms Cameron, or Pat as she prefers to be known, says transforming wedding dresses into bereavement gowns for the not-for-profit charity has been a very rewarding experience.
After six years of volunteering with the group that has storage sheds full of donated bridal wear to be transformed, Pat is now urging other talented seamstresses to thread a needle for the cause.
“I know there are plenty of dresses that have been donated but now they (Angel Gowns Australia) need more volunteers to help deconstruct them and also transform them into gowns,” she said.
“It’s a simple process, they send you a pattern and instructions and the freight is all paid for,” she said.
“If you don’t think you’re good at sewing then you can deconstruct a dress. Everyone can use an un-picker.”
Angel Gowns Australia is 100% volunteer-run.
Since its inception in March 2014, more than 350 members from across Australia have gifted almost 9,000 angel gown garments to hospitals and funeral homes to be accessed by families who have lost a baby from 12 weeks.
Angel Gowns Australia Vice President Christine McKenna, who lost a grand-daughter when she was born prematurely, says the charity supports one of society’s “hidden issues”.
“One in four pregnant women will not have a baby to take home,” she said.
“Every six hours, a birth ends in a stillborn.
“Everybody knows somebody who has lost a baby, and yet it is not spoken about a lot of the time.
“In fact they have only been recorded in the last census records.
“Our hope is to give families one moment of peace and beauty as they dress their baby for the very last time.”
Ms McKenna said 85% of her volunteers had had their own experience with the loss of a baby.
“It’s a ripple effect,” she said. “It is felt by everyone in contact with that little life and that is why it’s important to recognise that loss.”
For Neath-based volunteer Pat, it was her two daughters coming of age that prompted her involvement with the charity.
“My two daughters were at the age of getting married and having babies and so many of their friends were struggling to fall pregnant and then losing babies during IVF,” she said.
“I found myself thinking about all those babies; I mean, for some of them, it could be up to three babies. It’s so sad.”
Pat made contact with the founder of the charity not long after it was launched in 2014.
“I think I read a story about it somewhere and made contact,” she said.
She has since transformed at least 50 wedding dresses into gowns, vests, and bags.
“Sometimes nylon doesn’t really work, sometimes the lace is too stiff, and now there are more coloured wedding dresses, it doesn’t matter, it can all be used,” she said.
“Nothing is wasted.”
Angel Gowns Australia are currently not accepting anymore dress donations but are reviewing their stock levels mid 2021 with updates available on their social media sites.