Wedding dresses for babies

NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® Program began in 2013 because we recognized there was an overwhelming need for better support for families who lost a baby. Our Angel Gown® Program provides comfort for bereaved families through the gift of a beautiful custom made gown for final photos and for burial services. We provide support resources and mentoring programs for bereaved families as well. There is no greater gift that can be given to a grieving family than affirming the importance of the life of their child by offering the simple gift of our Angel Gown® Garments and supporting them emotionally and educationally afterwards.

Our program is made possible because of wonderful donors and volunteers who have often experienced the loss of their own children or of another loved one. Brides from around the world donate their precious wedding gowns to NICU Helping Hands. The wedding gowns are then distributed to our team of over 180 seamstresses throughout the United States to convert into perfectly made garments that a family will use to wrap their precious baby in for their final journey. Our garments are a gift of love from both a bride and a seamstress to honor not only a precious baby but their family as well.

It is a privilege for us to provide gowns free of charge to any hospital or family requesting our Angel Gown® Program garments. Please note: Our Angel Gown® Program is a nationally registered and trademarked program and is available across the United States.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Last year, NICU Helping Hands spent more than $35,000 sending gowns to homes and hospitals. We need your help – but not with wedding dresses right now. With our wedding gown donations being currently on a waitlist and on an as-needed basis, our focus is on getting our gowns into the hands of those that need them. As our efforts continue to ensure families across the nation have the proper support and resources, our shipping costs are rising due to demand. Even the smallest amount helps tremendously.

Our efforts, no matter how small, can make a lasting difference…

For Hospitals

Hospitals that wish to stock our Angel Gown® garments should complete a hospital request.

Urgent Angel Gown® Program Requests

Request an Urgent Angel Gown®

We are saddened that anyone needs an Angel Gown®, but we are honored to provide your precious child with a garment that has been lovingly made by a volunteer seamstress from a donated wedding gown.

For Donations & Volunteer Seamstresses

If you are interested in donating a wedding gown to our program please and get more information.

To learn more about our volunteer seamstress program, please subscribe to our newsletter below. We are not always accepting new applicants to the program, but will notify you when a training session begins to determine your interest and availability.

Your gift of love is priceless to grieving families and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us comfort them through this program.

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Welcome toThe Littlest Angels Gowns

Davey’s Story:

In 2004 Laura and David had a beautiful four year old daughter. They were excitedly expecting their second child – a baby boy they planned on naming after his daddy. On Labor Day of 2004 Laura was 18 weeks gestation. Tragedy struck. Laura started bleeding. David rushed her to the hospital but there was nothing that could be done. Baby Davey was already gone. They took Laura into surgery. When she woke up they wheeled her to a regular hospital room – not a labor and delivery room. They explained that Davey had already been taken away to be “disposed of” and Laura and David never even had a chance to see or hold him. It was not the practice to comfort mothers who have miscarriages at that time. They were sent home and told to “get over it”, that they could always try again. Those words hurt so much to a grieving family as they desperately wanted THIS baby. There were no resources, no one to talk to, and even friends and family not wanting to upset the family avoid speaking of it, not realizing that it is the worst thing in the world to have everyone pretend this little angel never even existed. Laura has been a seamstress all her life. She is also a portrait photographer. Laura became involved in making little gowns for hospices and even contributed to the Mary Madeline project. Her heart led her to get involved with two organizations that support families going through loss as a volunteer photographer and event volunteer. Through her work creating little gowns she became friends with Carlin and Mike who created the Mary Madeline Project after the loss of their granddaughter. It was by the grace of the angels that the timing was perfect and Laura was able to pick up and run the legacy they had started. Laura was so honored that they entrusted her to continue this work. The loss of a baby is like no other. It is not a loss of memories so much as a loss of things to come. The minute you are pregnant, you have the next years planned out. It is so unnatural to bury your baby. We know we aren’t changing the world, but for those parents on that awful day that their baby dies, maybe we are easing the pain and difficulty and letting them focus on other things. If a baby is stillborn or miscarried, the outfit or wrap is right there at the hospital and the parents can get pictures right away. Each of the unique outfits and blankets are made with love and concern for the parents who must use them. We hope you will help us continue to provide this needed service.

Madelines Story:

Her story actually began 30 years ago, on April 17 1976. Carlin (the original founder) had a stillborn twin that she named Jason. That long ago, they didn’t take pictures, or even let her see him. They came in and told her she had a stillborn son and they had “disposed” of the body. She cried for him, but everyone, including her father, said, be “Be happy that you have one live baby.” His sister Jessica was taken to the NICU, and it was touch and go for 3 months. At age 20 Jessica became pregnant. The pregnancy was going along fine when her water broke at 32 weeks on April 16, the day before her birthday. At that time she lived about an hour away. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. When she arrived Carlin and Mike were waiting for her. They able to be with her when Madeline was born. She was a beautiful baby but only weighed 3 lb. 4 oz. Because of her size she was placed on a ventilator. Everything was fine for 24 hours. Jessica called her mother and said “something is wrong with Maddie”. Carlin went straight to the hospital. As they were turning down the ventilator, Maddie wouldn’t breathe. She was also very “floppy”. She had no muscle tone. Jessica and her husband decided to have her baptized right away. She was baptized on Jessica’s birthday. The doctors decided they needed to move her to a hospital with more equipment. She was moved to the hospital where Carlin worked as a Respiratory Therapist. After many tests, they still didn’t know what was wrong with Maddie. Jessica spent every day at the hospital. Finally, after seven weeks, they told the family that her brain was no longer working. Jessica had to make the heart wrenching decision to take her little baby off the ventilator. The familiy was going to do it at 10:00 that night. They left the hospital long enough to make burial arrangements. Mike (Carlin’s husband), Jessica, her husband Billy and Carlin returned to the hospital. They took Maddie off the ventilator, and to everyones surprise she didn’t die right away. She would turn very blue, quit breathing and they would all cry thinking this is it. She would then take a deep breath, like a gasp, and start breathing again. At midnight Mike left to take care of their other children. At three in the morning, Carlin left Jessi and Billy alone with Maddie for a while. At first everyone was so angry with God. They didn’t understand His plan. Jessica and her husband made this very difficult decision to take her off the ventilator. Why didn’t she die? Why did Jessica have to suffer more? As a mother, you want to take care of your children. You would do anything for them. To have to take away her breathing tube to let her die was beyond difficult. As a grandmother and grandfather, Carlin and Mike were doubly sad. Their child was hurting, and their granddaughter was dying and there was nothing anybody could do. Morning came and Maddie was still alive. Carlin asked the nurse if they could please take her home. They said yes! Carlin called her husband and he got the crib ready. Jessi and Billy were so excited to bring her car seat to the hospital, because they never thought they would use it. Even though they knew she was going home to die, they were excited. When everyone got home, Mike had her crib ready. It had her name above it and stuffed animals in it. Jessica and Billy got to feed her. They got to hold her without any tubes. Mike and Carlin’s younger kids were 12, 6 and 5. They got to hold her as well. When she had a spell when she turned blue, they had them leave the room. Maddie was in a room with music, a rocking chair, and her crib with antique dolls on the shelves. It was a very peaceful death at 7:00 that night. Carlin finally understood God’s plan. Jessica was able to acquire in that night and day a lifetime of memories. She got to hold her daughter, rock her, feed her, bathe her, walk with her, all without tubes. At one point, Jessi was holding her and looking into Maddie’s face, and Maddie smiled at her. That was a true miracle, because Maddie did not have the muscle tone to smile. After she died, they got to hold her for a couple of hours. Since they didn’t know exactly what disease she had, Jessica had to let them do an autopsy. She had to know exactly what was wrong with Maddie for her future children’s sake. Mike didn’t want the funeral home to take her back to the hospital for the autopsy alone. He asked if he could carry her. They let him carry her in their car. At the hospital, they put him in a room and let him change her into a little hospital gown. Jessica wanted to save the outfit she died in. She saved everything Maddie ever wore. Jessi was too sad to go out and buy something for her to be buried in. Carlin had to do it for her. She cried the whole time she was in the store. She looked like a beautiful Angel in her coffin. Carlin went back to work at the hospital (University of Nebraska Medical Center). A nurse asked her to speak on a bereavement panel to new healthcare workers about what are the right things and the wrong thing to say to people who experience a death in the family. It was through this panel that she decided to start the Mary Madeline Project several years later. She had to quit work because of a bladder disease, asthma and pulmonary hypertension. Mike, Carlin and Jessica didn’t want another family to have to go to a newborn department of a store and have to buy an outfit to bury their baby in. Those departments by nature are full of happiness. Also, if you have a premature baby, you can’t find something small enough. Madeline died of a disease called glycogen storage disease. Both parents are carriers and they had a 1 in 4 chance of their children having the disease. Maddie had a rare form of it, and any of their children that had the disease would die. Jessica and Billy have since divorced. Jessica is remarried and they have two boys & two girls. They bring all of them great joy. Jessica’s ex-husband, has suffered another loss, a baby who died of SIDS. He has since remarried and had more children. Maddie only lived 7 weeks, but through the Mary Madeline Project started by Mike and Carlin, she has touched many lives. Carlin feels like all the babies and other deceased loved ones are being remembered as well. In 2017 she met Laura who was making gowns for hospices. They struck up a friendship and Laura agreed to take over as Carlin is dealing with some health issues and cannot keep up the demand. Carlin and Mike are still involved, and reside on the new board for The Littlest Angels Gowns.

Edith Watts is cutting apart a white satin wedding dress at her home in rural Indiana. She chops off the tulle petticoat, and pulls off each button, one by one. Once finished, she places a small piece of fabric onto her sewing machine. She moves carefully as she secures the fabric together, because the repurposed dress she is making will be very small. So small, in fact, that the dress can easily fit over a 12-ounce can of Coke. That’s because the tiny gown she’s making will be going to a family who recently lost their newborn baby at Riley Children’s Health NICU.

In 2014, Edith came across an article in a local Indiana newspaper about the Angel Gown Program at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, Indiana. She read about a registered nurse named Judi Gibson was trying to recruit local seamstresses to make funeral gowns for babies who were born prematurely and didn’t make it in the hospital’s NICU. Judi, who did not sew, had enlisted her good friend Shirley Travelstead to assist her, but the need for gowns became too overwhelming for just one person. Edith, a 66-year-old retiree who had been sewing for years, knew that she could help them.

Judi, who has worked as a bereavement chairperson and staff nurse at the hospital for 14 years, started the program at Riley after she lost two granddaughters, Hannah and Isabelle, in 2004. She recognized the need for a program that would help grieving families cope during a difficult time.

“It showed me that the way to heal is to have a very good journey through the bereavement process, so we’ve really worked hard to do that,” she says.

A dress made as part of the program. Courtesy: Riley Children’s Health

Judi recalls the sadness that her whole family felt when her granddaughters died. They were tasked with having to find something for both girls to wear, but because they were so small, it was very difficult to find anything that would fit properly. Losing a child is already a nightmare, Judi says, and having dresses available at Riley was a way to provide assistance to families during such a difficult process.

“It’s something that we can relieve — that worry for them — and offer them these beautiful dresses,” she says.

Judi stresses that there are two very important people who make their program a success: the seamstresses and the people who donate their wedding dresses. Many of the seamstresses are retired, and are actively involved in their local churches. Women like Shirley, Edith, and Edith’s sister Shirley Bryson make time throughout their week to sew the gowns, making sure to personalize each one as much as possible.

Judi looks over a gown stored at Riley Children’s Health NICU. Courtesy: Riley Children’s Health

For example, Edith splurged on a new sewing machine so that she could stitch phrases like “heaven’s angel” onto the garments. Shirley adds antique buttons she’s saved from her mother’s collection, and sometimes she’ll make tiny pillows or hats as accessories. She’s even been sewing bells onto each piece lately, inspired by the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. (At the end of the movie a bell rings, signifying that Clarence the angel received his wings after helping Jimmy Stewart’s character.) Many of the other seamstresses also now sew gold and silver bells onto their outfits.

To measure the tiny suits and gowns, the seamstresses often use doll dress patterns or Coke cans. As the patterns get smaller, they become more challenging to sew. Shirley attaches drawstrings and ribbons so that the dresses and pants can be adjusted on the babies.

A suit made by one of the volunteers. Courtesy: Riley Children’s Health

All of the women pray over the outfits before taking them to Riley. Shirley includes an unsigned note with each outfit. In it, she writes words of comfort to the parents and lets them know how special they are.

“I get pretty emotional about this, but I just tell them that this gown was made with loving hands,” she says.

Brandy Spurgeon was the first mother to receive a gown from Riley’s bereavement program. Her daughter Karolina was sent to Riley’s NICU after being born at 37 weeks, and Judi was there to help them throughout their stay. At a time when families are distraught and may not know where to focus their energies, Judi assured them that she was going to make sure they were taken care of. She suggested that instead of focusing on the possible outcomes, they focus on the time they were able to spend with their newborn daughter.

“She just took charge and said ‘we’re waiting for a miracle,'” Brandy says.

Brandy and her daughter, Karolina. Courtesy: Riley Children’s Health

In the four days that Karolina was alive, Brandy and her family made dozens of memories. They painted her tiny nails. They made molds of her hands and feet. Judi was there to take photos of the whole family together, often staying past her shift’s end to spend extra time with them. When Karolina died, Judi knew that she was ready to gift the family one of the “angel gowns” she’d been collecting.

“God told me that you guys needed to be the first recipient of the angel gown,” Judi said to Brandy’s family.

She led them to a closet that was filled was options. Lace, chiffon, and organza from past wedding dresses had been tailored into tiny suits, and stitched into gowns. Brandy decided on a dress that looked more antique, with a very long lace train. The original wedding gown belonged to a NICU nurse’s grandmother.

Karolina’s dress. Courtesy: Riley Children’s Health

“The gowns are worn by women who are full of love on their wedding days,” Brandy says. “In my head I just envisioned all this love wrapped around Karolina; she’s just wrapped up in that love.”

At Karolina’s funeral, the long train of her dress spilled over the side of her casket. Those who attended the service acknowledged how beautiful and special it looked. The Spurgeon family was so moved by the small act of kindness from the program at Riley that in lieu of flowers, they asked attendees to provide wedding dresses to donate. The following Christmas, Brandy showed up to the NICU and handed Judi over 50 formal dresses to be repurposed.

Judi estimates they’ve made over 200 dresses at this point. There is limited space to store the outfits at Riley, and they can only keep so many at a time. She hopes to share their resources and expand the program to other hospitals around the state, so that other families may also feel comforted during their strenuous time.

Brandy still receives weekly gown donations in memory of her daughter. She continues to keep in touch with Judi, and helps her out whenever she can. Over time, Brandy’s service has helped with her own healing process.

“Every time I get to share Karolina’s story, it helps me feel like I’m still doing something in her memory, and that her memory will always be alive,” she says.

The Angel Gown program at Riley Children’s Health is nurse-run and nurse-funded. If you’d like to make a donation, visit RileyKids.org and earmark it to the NICU Angel Gown Program.

Kate Bennis Video Producer Kate Bennis is the Video Producer for GoodHousekeeping.com and shoots and edits all original content for the site.

Donated wedding gowns give families peace when infants die

Strangers are donating wedding gowns to provide families some comfort after unspeakable pain.

Each year 23,000 families face the death of their infant.

When Connie Spaid was 12 weeks pregnant with her son Judah, she learned he was developing with a chromosome abnormality called Trisomy 18.

The doctor said Judah’s little organs were growing outside of his body. He would most likely pass away before his due date.

Judah’s heart did stop beating at 30 weeks.

“We knew that we weren’t going to have much time with him. And that his life would be very short. But we chose to just allow his life to continue as long as God allowed him to be with us,” said Spaid.

After Judah’s death, Spaid needed a solution: “I remember thinking my son’s not going to have anything to wear. I’m not gonna have anything to bury him in.”

RELATED: Learn how you can donate your wedding gown

Surprisingly, Spaid’s doula, Jillian Freeland, gave her an infant gown for Judah’s burial. A sense of peace came over the mourning mom after she saw her baby dressed in the infant gown at the funeral.

“Providing something – the only outfit that he was ever going to wear, that was very important,” said Spaid.

Judah wore a white, infant gown made by Forever Angels of Virginia. The organization creates infant gowns for babies who pass away from a miscarriage, stillbirth or death. Each infant gown is made from donated wedding dresses.

RELATED: Donate your time to Forever Angels of Virginia

Kim Violette, the founder, created the free service after experiencing the pain of losing a baby. She saw an idea for infant gowns on Facebook and created Forever Angels of Virginia. Her daughter, Jenna, donated the first wedding dress.

“I thought this is some way I can pay it forward and help other mothers that are going through the loss of a baby,” said Violette. She asked for seamstresses on Facebook. They came “one, two, six at a time.”

Then Violette asked for more wedding gowns on Facebook for her cause. There was a strong response as strangers donated dozens of old wedding dresses at a time.

Many women give their wedding dresses in honor of a baby they’ve lost. Some include letters, photos, even donations.

Since 2015, Forever Angels of Virginia has shipped 1,400 gowns to individuals, hospitals and the March of Dimes.

Today 15 volunteer seamstresses cut through tulle that’s too harsh for the baby’s skin. They volunteer hours to take apart bows, snip through layers of lace and beading to create one-of-a-kind gowns. It’s a bittersweet mission.A local minister has performed a prayer service blessing the deceased babies wearing the infant gowns. PHOTOS: Burial Infant Gowns from Wedding dresses01 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 02 / 15 Each seamstress devotes time and financial resources to completing the gowns. Ribbons, lace, thread and needles are all purchased by the volunteer seamstresses. 03 / 15 So far 1,400 baby gowns have been created by Forever Angels of Virginia. Baby gowns provided to 58+ hospitals. 15 seamstresses volunteer many hours to make the baby gowns. 04 / 15 One wedding dress can make dozens of baby gowns. Each seamstress devotes time and financial resources to completing the gowns. Ribbons, lace, thread and needles are all purchased by the volunteer seamstresses. 05 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia runs on a volunteer basis. They’re looking for more seamstresses who are interested in making baby gowns. 06 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia runs on a volunteer basis. They’re looking for more seamstresses who are interested in making baby gowns. 07 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 08 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 09 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 10 / 15 Each seamstress devotes time and financial resources to completing the gowns. Ribbons, lace, thread and needles are all purchased by the volunteer seamstresses. 11 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 12 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 13 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 14 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units. 15 / 15 Forever Angels of Virginia takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into burial baby gowns for infants who die in hospital NICU units.

“Knowing I did something that worked for them and made them happy, that makes me feel good,” said one volunteer seamstress. Each infant gown identifies the name of the bride and the seamstress who made the outfit.

As Spaid honors baby Judah’s memory, she sits listening to the wind chimes hung on her house.

“I’ll just sit there and listen to it and close my eyes and just think about him in heaven.”

How you can help: WUSA9 is teaming up with Forever Angels of Virginia to collect wedding dresses, May 2, at WUSA9 from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. You can also volunteer to create infant gowns or make a donation.

The dresses are free. They can be shipped to families or hospitals and organizations directly.

Susie Bryce chose to donate her £90 wedding dress to Cherished Gowns, a charity that turns gowns into clothing for stillborn babies (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

Having suffered three miscarriages over four years, Susie Bryce knows the immense pain of mourning a baby.

So when she had the chance to make that trauma a little easier for other women to bear, she took it.

After getting married to her husband Gary, 44, Susie donated her wedding dress to the charity Cherished Gowns, who transformed it into tiny outfits for the funerals of stillborn babies.

Susie, who tied the knot in 2017, wanted to donate her gown after her own experience of miscarriage as well as seeing two family members give birth to ‘sleeping babies’.

Susie said: ‘I can’t imagine the pain of thinking everything is all going fine and going through birth and then having a stillborn child.

Susie didn’t want her wedding dress to sit in her wardrobe gathering dust (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

‘I can’t imagine having to pick clothes out – it wouldn’t be fun or even the first thing on your mind.

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‘You’d want them to wear something so beautiful that actually fits.

‘Nobody wants to bury their child but if they are, they want them in something special. It must be a Godsend to have something there. It must mean the world to them.

‘It’s such a beautiful idea and Cherished Gowns is an amazing charity.

‘Everyone said to me it was such an amazing thing to do to donate my dress.

‘But it wasn’t me – it’s them – I’m just so grateful the charity exists.

‘I didn’t want my dress to just hang there. My sister got married 15 years ago and her wedding dress is still yellowing in her cupboard, it’s such a shame because it’s a special dress.’

The charity turned Susie’s dress into gowns for the funerals of stillborn babies (Picture: Cherished Gowns UK /Mercury Press & Media)

Susie had always hoped to have children of her own but after her miscarriages, the longest pregnancy reaching 13 weeks, she decided to stop trying for the sake of her mental health.

‘I couldn’t keep putting myself through the torture of being pregnant and losing the baby every time,’ she said.

‘It was better for my mental health to accept it, as hard as it was and throw all my love into my nieces and nephews.

‘I’m blessed to be an aunt and a godmother. It’s more than a lot of other women have.

‘I’m just one of those women who can’t carry a child to term.’

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Susie didn’t want her £90 wedding dress to just sit in her wardrobe and gather dust. When she found out about Cherished Gowns, donating it felt like the perfect option.

The charity was set up by Megan McKay in 2014, and now receives 2,500 donated dresses every year.

Megan quit her day job as an accountant to create the organisation, after discovering bereaved parents were dressing their premature babies in dolls’ outfits for their funerals.

Cherished Gowns now has 1,500 volunteers across the UK who turn donated dresses into tiny outfits, hats and booties for babies born too small to fit into clothes available in shops.

Megan said: ‘I’ve heard some absolute horror stories about babies been wrapped in blue cleaning roll.

‘What we do really makes a massive difference, it means the whole world to the parents.

‘They say they just wanted their baby to be warm or have a hat or something special to wear.

‘They’ll never have a dress more special than their wedding dress. It’s about giving parents the choice.’

Megan can make up to 18 dresses out of a donated frock and was taught to sew by her mother-in-law, Maggie, who had suffered miscarriages and stillbirths herself.

She added: ‘We always send photos afterwards and people are usually emotional.

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‘With anyone who has had children, it usually makes them grateful for their kids. Stillbirth affects a large number of people.

‘One in four women will experience a stillbirth or a miscarriage so if it isn’t you it could be your mum, best friend, sister.

‘We have a lot of men donating dresses that belonged to wives who passed away and they are always emotional because they know their wife would have loved it.

‘It’s like the dress has been on a journey.’

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MORE: Woman who had 12 miscarriages says she blamed herself after each loss

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Buying baby bereavement gowns can be a very trying and emotional task that needs to be done after an infant dies. It’s not something you would normally plan for, but unfortunately, if you do need one, this style of gown is not difficult to find. Baby burial gowns are worn by infants or young babies who passed away before, during or after birth. They are usually white, and very similar to Baptismal or Christening dresses. They are made for both boys and girls and come in a variety of sizes, styles, and patterns.

Choosing Baby Bereavement Gowns

Depending on how old the baby was when he or she died will make a difference as to what type of gown you will purchase. Older infants will fit into regular-sized gowns, and those who died before reaching their full gestational age will need smaller, more specially designed outfits. For some babies who have died, this is the only gown they will ever wear, so the decision to find a perfect one can be emotionally overwhelming.

If the baby died during a hospital stay, there is a chance a bereavement gown may have been provided by a grief counselor or chaplain. Volunteers sometimes donate gowns to hospitals for use in these situations. These are simply crocheted, knitted or sewn white dresses with very little detail. They are made in many sizes, including those for micro-premature babies whose weight is less than one pound at birth.

Limited time may also be an issue. If a baby dies suddenly, you only have a few days to find a bereavement gown. In these cases, you can purchase a simple Christening gown or outfit. Families can also choose to use an heirloom Christening gown, or a previously purchased outfit, in which to bury the baby. However, if the baby’s death is anticipated, as in unfortunate cases where he or she has a fatal anomaly diagnosed before birth, you may have more time to find just the right gown, either at a local religious or department store.

Finding Baby Bereavement Gowns

You can find gowns locally or through various online catalogs. Again, it all depends on what style and size you want and how soon you need it.

Gowns for Premature Babies

Babies who were born too soon, for whatever reasons, need a specially sized bereavement outfit in which to be buried. Gowns for babies under three or four pounds are hard to find at local shops. Your best bet may be to find a baby boutique in your neighborhood and inquire about its inventory. If you have time to shop online, here are a few places that sell preemie and micro-preemie bereavement gowns:

  • Jacqui’s Preemie Pride sells burial gown sets for preemie boys and girls. The site also sells Christening gowns in premature babies’ sizes, which can be used as resting gowns. Special orders are accepted, and most orders are shipped within one business day.
  • Cradle to Kindergarten offers a variety of gowns, outfits, and rompers in sizes ranging from tiny to small.
  • Preemie Store & More has christening and burial gowns and outfits in preemie sizes.

Gowns for Full-sized Babies

Normally, if the child wasn’t premature but the size of a fully grown baby or larger, a Christening gown would be the best bet as a burial outfit. Local stores may carry gowns but online you can find burial or Christening gowns at:

  • Angel Christening Gowns has quite a few boys and girls gowns available in various styles and sizes. Overnight shipping is available.
  • Christening Essentials sells hand-embroidered gowns in many different styles and sizes.
  • Though selection varies, Etsy artisans offer handmade gowns and outfits appropriate for bereavement.

Making Infant Bereavement Gowns

Many volunteer organizations create resting gowns for many Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Here are a few Websites where you can find a pattern and also get information about donating the ones you make:

  • Bev’s Country Cottage has a pattern for crocheted preemie or newborn burial gowns.
  • Melinda’s Patterns has directions for crocheting burial gowns. This site has measurements available for the different sizes of babies, ranging from one to 11 pounds.
  • BBC, in England, has a knitting pattern on its Website for a delicate burial gown.
  • Newborns in Need has a sewing pattern for a burial gown and lined bonnet. Pattern pieces and directions can be printed.

Donating Resting Gowns

Check with the volunteer services department, at your local children’s hospital, to see if there is a need for burial gowns, caps or blankets. All sizes, styles, and colors are usually accepted. Take a look on the internet to find a charitable organization that will accept these same homemade items. You can also inquire at a nearby funeral home for information as well.

Thankfully, some of these gowns can be used for the babies who survive and who need a little blessing gown.

Gowns and dresses

3-5lb burial gown– (K) bundles of love website
4+ lbs Burial Gown (K) archived
4 lb preemie sleeveless gown (K) archived
Afghans for Angels Burial Gown (C) archived and photos don’t work now
Angel Preemie Wrap – (C) archived – no photo now
Angel Shell Dress – (C)
Baby Ripple Dress (C)

Beth’s Preemie Boy’s Bunting
(C)
Bev’s Micro-Preemie Blessing Bunting (C)
Bev’s Heavenly Preemie Gown (C)
Boys Burial Gown also preemie blanket and burial pouch (C)
Burial Gown from Carewear (K)
Carewear Burial gown and cap (C) at Carewear
Crocheted Burial Gown – (C) open in back- Melinda Gorley’s
‘Cuddles’ Knitted Burial Gown (K)
Cushy Preemie gown – archived – no photo now it’s gorgeous, includes bonnet and booties. From Craftyrat creations…
Cynthia’s Angel Sack (C)
Extra Small Preemie Gown (K) archived
Frilly Burial Gown (C) from Kathy’s Crochet Cabin
Gown for Baby born asleep (K)
Janet Wolfe’s Preemie and Burial Gown Patterns
Knitted burial bunting from TLL (K)
Knitted Burial Gown (K) from Beth- With photo. Adorable!
Knitted Gown for Cooper Hospital (K) archived
Long Gown with matching cap (C)
Louisa’s Preemie Bunting (C) from God’s Tiny Angels
Loving Pouch to Bury Tiny Babies (6″ or less) ~ courtesy of Afghans for Angels-MD Archived
Lenore’s Knitted Gown (K) archived
Martha’s Preemie Wrap (C) for burial
Melinda’s Preemie Shell Gown (C)
Newborn Angel Shell Dress – (C)
Newborn Burial Gown – (C)~ at Afghans 4 Angels
Original Baby Boys Burial outfit – (C)
P&J Burial Gown – bonnet (C) from God’s Tiny Angels
P&J Burial Blanket (C) from God’s Tiny Angels
Precious Preemie Burial Gown – (C) Archived at Crochetrats No photo now
Preemie Angel Shell Dress – (C)
Preemie Baby Kimono (k)
Preemie Boy Burial Set (C)

Preemie Burial Bunting – from Danette’s Angels
Preemie Bunting – (K) Archived copy- NO photo At ‘Heart of Gold’s’ website
Preemie Dress (C) ARCHIVED copy
SEWING PATTERNS for gowns and such
Simple Boy Burial Gown (C) on Kathy’s Crochet Cabin
Toni’s Burial Gown – (C) open in back style

Bereavement Patterns

Newborns in Need provides burial gowns, burial pouches and memorial envelopes.

These are patterns that some of our chapters use for burial gowns, burial pouches, memorial items and memory envelopes. If you have a heart for helping out in this area and you do not have a chapter near you, please send your donation to our national office or to the closest chapter in your area.

All hand-made donations that Newborns In Need sends out are free of charge to the recipient.

CROCHET

Bev’s Micro Preemie Bonnet
Preemie bonnet fits 1-2 pound preemie babies.

Newborn Angel Gown Set — This website includes the pattern for both the dress and the bonnet. It also includes links to a preemie version and booties as well.

Preemie “Plum” Hat — Plum hat would fit a 1-lb preemie.

Robbie’s Angel — Crocheted angel. Made as a memorial keepsake.

Crochet Angel – Memorial keepsake.

KNITTING

Angel’s Pocket, Knitted — Knitted version of Angel’s Pocket. (Sewn version below.)

Burial Gown — Knitted burial gown.

SEWING

Angel’s Pocket — Simple sewing pattern for a fetal demise pouch.

Infant Peasant Dress — Cute dress pattern. If made with a satin type of fabric, it would also make a pretty burial gown. Sized 0-3 months.

Large Memory Envelope – Memory Envelopes are given to parent to hold the baby’s birth certificate, death certificate, hospital bracelets, lock of hair, picture, t-shirt, receiving blanket or any other memento available.

Small Memory Envelope – Memory Envelopes are given to parent to hold the baby’s birth certificate, death certificate, hospital bracelets, lock of hair, picture, t-shirt, receiving blanket or any other memento available.

See Our “Best Of” Wedding Venues Picks…

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Washington, D.C.

Sewn With Love Project

PLEASE NOTE: In 2019 we received over 800 wedding gowns and have simply run out of storage. As of 1/1/20 we will suspend our acceptance of gowns/dresses until further notice to give our seamstresses a chance to catch up!

However, we are still in need of soft fabrics such as flannel, fleece, interlock knit, minky and cotton in baby appropriate colors and patterns. And we always welcome new seamstresses!

There are no words to describe what it means to a bereaved family to have something very special to dress their baby in. Many of these babies are just too tiny to even purchase anything at all in the store that will work.

Our Sewn With Love Project receives donations of wedding, prom and bridesmaid types of dresses. A team of volunteers takes the gowns apart. Every piece of lace and every bead and button is reused in the construction of precious items for babies. Seamstresses from all across the country then generously donate their time to turn the fabric pieces into precious clothing. We always have requests for gowns and outfits, blankets, hats and diapers.

In addition we are grateful for the donation of fabrics such as cotton, fleece, flannel, minky, etc. that can be used to make these items.

We have a collection of patterns for knitted, crocheted and sewn items or you are welcome to use something of your own.

If you would like to make a donation, help take apart the dresses or sew, knit or crochet items, please contact us!

If you are a hospital, clinic or obstetrical provider and would like to obtain some of these items for your patients please give us a call at 952-715-7731!

If you would like to make a cash donation to help offset shipping costs please click here.

FAQ

  • My gown hasn’t been cleaned – do I need to do that before donating?
    • No, once the gown has been taken apart we hand launder and pieces that are soiled. Usually we can get those pieces clean enough to use.
  • Do you accept only wedding gowns?
    • No! We take all types of gowns – wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses, etc. And in addition to that we always need other soft fabrics to use as well such as cotton, interlock knit, fleece, flannel, minky and tube knit. The preferred fabrics for little hats are the cotton interlock knit and tube knit fabrics
  • How do I obtain fabrics other than wedding dresses?
    • We have had tremendous luck putting out the word that we are looking for these fabrics in baby appropriate prints. We suggest trying the following:
      • Social media sites, online garage sales
      • Church sewing groups and through friends and family.
      • All sewing enthusiasts have a ‘stash’ of fabric that they intended to use or that is left over from a project. We have found them to be very generous just by asking!
      • Also – try going to fabric stores and looking in their remnant bins – some stores will donate remnant fabrics if they know what you are going to do with it. If you need a letter from us to take to the stores with our tax ID for donation purposes just let us know. They will also sometimes donate notions (thread, bias tape, buttons, snaps and other fasteners, etc)
  • I have a bridesmaid dress that is dark burgundy – is that ok?
    • As you can see below, the colored fabrics are used too. They are great to use as accent pieces (see vest in image below) or sometimes we use them for the entire garment.
  • What about patterns?
    • Patterns are available on our website – however, they are very basic in various sizes. We encourage you to use your creativity to create these items. Each one becomes a special gift of love by all who have contributed to it in any way. The main thing to keep in mind is to leave the back of the garment open to facilitate dressing the baby. Snaps or ties in the back are sufficient.
    • Generally speaking sewn items are preferred by hospitals over knitted or crocheted with the exception of blankets.
    • The most requested items are:
      • outfits
      • wraps (envelope like items to use for the tiniest of babies that are difficult to dress – see image below)
      • blankets
      • hats (These are also used by hospital newborn intensive care units as our tube knit hats fit so nicely on the tiniest of babies)
      • flannel diapers (in sets of 2)
      • booties
  • Do you use the entire dress?
    • Tule, netting and similar materials found in undergarments are not used – they are just simply not soft enough. However, the tule used in veils is usually very light weight and we sometimes will use it.
  • Can I ask that the outfits made from my dress be donated to a specific hospital or location?
    • We receive hundreds of dresses each year. Through the process of disassembling them and sending fabric pieces off to seamstresses, it is almost impossible to keep track of materials from a specific dress. We do hope you will understand.
  • How do I package up the items once completed?
    • It is helpful to have them sent to us in plastic baggies just to be sure they stay clean.
    • Many of our seamstresses will include a small personal note to the family that will receive the item. An example might be:
      • This gown was sewn with love in memory of my granddaughter Sophia. I hope it will give you and your family some comfort at this difficult time knowing that there are others who understand your sorrow.
  • Where can I drop off/send my gown to be donated?
    • Please be sure to include your name/address/email when sending us your gown/dresses so we can send you a tax receipt for your donation and postage.
      • Gowns and other dresses & fabrics can be sent to our offices:
        • Star Legacy Foundation
        • 6438 City West Parkway, Suite 100
        • Eden Prairie, MN 55344
      • PLEASE NOTE: We have office hours by appointment. Please contact us in advance to schedule a time to drop off your donation(s).

A small sampling of the beautiful items we have received and given to grieving families and hospitals.