Volunteer dressmakers with Alberta Angel Dresses transform donated wedding gowns into tiny dresses, which are then gifted to parents whose babies were miscarried, stillborn, or died soon after birth. The parents use the dresses for final photos and/or for dressing their child for burial. Metha Alberda, a member of West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alta., is one of 18 volunteer seamstresses from all over the province. Since 2015 she has cut apart many bridal gowns and turned them into hundreds of angel dresses.
It all began when Alberda’s daughter wanted to donate her wedding gown to a charity and they came across the Alberta Angel Dresses during an online search. The program is worldwide but only began in Canada in 2014.
“I contacted the coordinator to ask about donating my daughter’s gown,” Alberda said. “Due to a large backlog of donated gowns, they weren’t able to accept it. They did, however, need a few more seamstresses. The patterns were shared with me online, and I was invited to submit a couple of samples. I sewed some tiny angel dresses and sent them off to be evaluated. A week later I received a call letting me know that I was accepted.” Each year Alberda transforms an average of four wedding gowns. “Some have just enough fabric to make two or three angel dresses. Some have full gathered skirts and long trains, which provide enough fabric to make about 30. We also sew small angel pockets for those who are too tiny to fit a preemie angel dress.”
Alberda learned to sew from her mother, who made many of her clothes when she was a child. “I sewed for myself and my children when they were little, then I moved into sewing quilts, and now I only sew angel dresses,” Alberda said.
Photographs of the original wedding gown and the angel dresses made from it are posted to the Alberta Angel Dresses Facebook page, along with the names of the donor (with permission) and the seamstress. Alberda never personally hears from a recipient. Over the years she has only been asked twice to deliver an angel dress directly to a grieving family who for one reason or another were not offered one at the hospital. “Those were gut-wrenching experiences,” she said.
“What an unbearable heartache it must be for parents who are anticipating the birth of a child to be faced with the loss of that child,” Alberda said. “As I spend time carefully transforming wedding gowns into angel dresses, I am grateful that I am able to participate in this meaningful way so they can know their child is valued, loved and grieved.”