Guest post by Joelle Caputa
I trashed my wedding dress to celebrate my divorce, but dress trashing actually originated with newlyweds! Let me explain.
“Trash the dress” is a style of post-wedding photography. Typically, newlyweds re-create their elegant wedding day look and pose for photos in a contrasting environment. For example, a husband and wife may choose to “trash the dress” during a beach photo shoot by rolling around in the sand and running into the ocean. Or, the couple may opt to throw cupcakes on each other, or splatter one another with paint. Think cute, romantic and colorful.
As young divorcées, we’re taking the art of wedding dress destruction to a whole other level by trashing the dress and everything it represents. We’re metamorphosing an ugly and often shameful social status into a beautiful, celebratory moment. And, we’re giving our mothers a reason to take down those photos of us as brides that still loom on the living room walls!
By doing “trash the dress” divorce photo shoots, we are leading an empowering movement that declares commitment only to our brand new selves.
Not only do “trash the dress” divorce photo shoots provide an outlet to unleash pent up anger, but also an opportunity to get pampered with professional hair and makeup services. After your physical and emotional transformation is complete, you’ll feel way hotter than you ever did when you were married. The resulting photos will be your sweet revenge.
Fiona from Maryland knows firsthand. The former beach bride appropriately trashed her low-cut, sheer, flowy dress in the ocean. “It was my absolute dream beach wedding dress. I had it picked out long before I had even met my future ex-husband,” admitted Fiona.
She told me, “I debated for a very long time about what to do with my dress. I had paid $300 to preserve it—almost as much as the dress cost—so originally I was going to sell it.”
While her son was on his first vacation with his father, Fiona decided a photo shoot would be the perfect way to stay busy. So she took a day trip and made some waves of her own, as an audience gathered to watch.
“The photographer kept telling me to look angry and I told him I wasn’t angry at the dress, just at my ex! The dress reminded me of my perfect wedding day, but really I didn’t feel much. It was fun and sexy!”
She continued, “I was going to rip the dress, but decided that after I would donate it a cancer website.”
Fiona doesn’t regret parting with her dream dress. “I think they are beautiful shots and honestly what does anyone ever do with an old wedding dress anyway? I have a son, but even if I had a daughter, in 25 years she wouldn’t want my dress,” she concluded
Vera, a 28-year-old butcher from Australia, slaughtered her dress. Calling her gown “a cheap version of what I really wanted,” Vera custom designed on a tight budget. There was no sweet sorrow in this parting.
Describing her photo session, Vera told me, “I ripped it apart just like he did to my heart. Then, I spray-painted it black and pink, as my ex was a trade spray-painter and I thought it was appropriate! I then rubbed grease from my car on it, as my dream dress was sacrificed because my ex bought a car that cut into my wedding budget. Finally, I burned it, along with a photo of my ex and I from our honeymoon. I wanted it to be gone out of my life once and for all!”
Vera savored every moment as she created a beautiful disaster. “I loved ripping it apart giving it a new look with the paint, but the best part was seeing that sucker go up in flames! It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The dress was no longer left hanging in the wardrobe; it was in a pile of ashes with me having the biggest smile I’ve smiled in a long, long time. It was the most exhilarating feeling, as I made it fun. It wasn’t about him, it was all about me moving forward in my life and having fun getting there!”
Though she received negative feedback from some family and friends, Vera affirmed, “I have not one regret. Those comments aren’t worth my time, I did it for me and not them!” She also noted, “I’ve had some real positives come out of it, too. It’s inspired me to do more photo shoots with some lovely ladies in my life, who need a boost like this has done for me.
Caroline, 24 from Pennsylvania, said, “Trashing my dress was the most liberating, empowering feeling in the world.”
Of the moment, she told me, “There I stood, in my perfectly clean wedding dress, with my veil on thinking to myself, ‘I really hate this dress.’ When my photographer said, ‘Sit down in the meadow and look pissed off,’ I looked at her and said, ‘I’m happily divorced, how do I look pissed off?’ She responded with, ‘Think of your ex.’ That line alone made my face goes sour.”
Caroline’s “trash the dress” shoot started in a meadow with her dressed as a visionary bride, including bunches of flowers in her hair and wedding rings on her finger. Slowly, her bored expressions turned to smiles, as she threw off her veil, let her up-do loose and moved the shoot to the back of a dump truck. After that, things got really dirty.
“I took a deep breath and walked right into a huge mud puddle,” said Caroline. “The water was murky and my dress started to disappear. I then picked up slimy globs of mud and threw it down on my white, beaded dress. I proceeded to rip it, put sticks through it, and stubbed a cigarette butt out on it.”
She hated her dress to begin with, citing, “This was the first dress my mom picked out, and the first and only dress I tried on. She fell in love with it, and would not let me try on any other dresses. I didn’t have any say in this because she was paying. I then had to get straps added to it, which I did not want either. I was miserable and very glad to get rid of that thing.”
Now, she announced, “I’m finally laughing, and smiling at everything.”
Ready to get glam and forget about the ball and chain for good? Here are some divorcée “trash the dress” style photo shoot ideas:
Light it on fire—at your own risk. Be sure to take all precautionary measures on this one. “If I had thought about this before I had thrown my dress in the trash, I would’ve kept the dress for my divorce party. I would’ve had it on display with sharpies for all my guests to write my ex-husband a message, or write me a blessing, or whatever they felt like writing to celebrate my divorce. Then, I would’ve built a fire and set the dress ablaze,” sighed Mae from Massachusetts.
Graffiti with your girls. Have your former bridesmaids spray paint words of encouragement on the dress as you wear it.
Reconstruct your gown. Cut it into a mini dress or chop off the corset and turn it into a sexy night on the town top! “I’ll change it into a wild mini-skirt, crazy party dress!” exclaimed Monica from Hong Kong.
Get crafty. Dye your dress a vibrant color. Then cover it in glitter. “I would shorten it to my knees to make it a super cute, flowing number. I would dye it a bright color, orange or blue maybe. Then I would get an amazing pair of shoes to go with it,” fantasized Lily from Virginia.
Wax poetic. Write lyrics from your favorite break-up song all over the dress.
Go vintage. Put on pin-up girl clothing, rent a vintage car and then drive over your dress.
Smock-it-up. Wear it while you paint the walls of your new or improved home.
Paws for a good time. Love dogs? Frolic in the dog park and let your four-legged friends cover you in kisses and mud.
Go Wild West. Grab your cowboy boots and go horseback riding. “I would go horseback riding through some mud puddles with it on,” said Rory from Massachusetts. “I’ve never been horseback riding before and it is on my bucket list. Also, it is something my ex-husband never would have done with me.”
Stop whining and make some wine! Go grape stomping in your gown. Everyone looks good in purple.
Ink it. Have your favorite tattoo artist create a mural on your dress. After your shoot, auction it for charity.
Turn it into an art project for your kids. Divorced with children? Hand your kids finger paints and let them go crazy. This is also a fun way to show them that divorce is not necessarily a bad thing.
Jump in a mosh pit. This one is for the music lovers. Just be careful if you’re stage diving at festivals. Those crowds are rowdy!
Make it a family event. “All of my friends and family would each get a pair of scissors and help me cut it up. I would save the neckline with the beautiful beading, though. Maybe use it in something else,” pondered Chloe from Texas.
Make throw pillows! Love to sew? Cut up the fabric, dye it, and add cute buttons. Or, make a brand new dress like Cherie from California suggested: “I want to have all my closest friends find some ridiculously cheesy wedding dresses from thrift stores and pick their favorite part of the dress and take it off. Then I want to sew those parts onto my dress.”
Host an art therapy party. Invite friends over, cut the dress into squares and have everyone paint one. Then, frame each square and hang on your walls.
Suit up. Turn your dress into a bikini! Justine from New York says she’d enjoy “trashing it on a beautiful beach to symbolize that beach wedding I didn’t get!”
Make your own freedom flag. Cut it up, sew on patterns, paint phrases. Make it represent you!
Participate in a color run. You’ll have a rainbow revamp of your gown after the marathon.
Look hot. If your wedding dress doesn’t fit anymore, don’t fret! Buy a sexy new dress and wear it as you destroy your gown.
Get revenge. Pick a setting or theme that reminds you of your ex-husband and incorporate that into your shoot.
Get on track. “I would make it into a track outfit and run my first half marathon in it,” imagined Hadley from New York.
If you choose to trash your dress, remember to put safety first. Take all precautions when partaking in photo shoots near water. Do not attempt to pose near raging water or in large, deep bodies of water. Remember, wedding gowns are even heavier when wet and will drag you down. The above suggestions are meant to spark creativity, but each situation is unique. Make sure you are in a harmless setting.
One last reminder: Trash your dress at your own risk. The point of these photo shoots is to celebrate the end of your marriage, not to prove you’re a daredevil. Though, I’m sure you can be a bit risqué in the right situation!
What The Divorce Coach Says
I love the work that Joelle has done capturing these stories. I know many women who still have their wedding dress, not necessarily for sentimental reasons but because they want to do something more meaningful than throwing it in the garbage or donating it.
Trashing your dress could be a symbolic and meaningful part of a divorce ritual. If this appeals to you then I encourage you not to be in a hurry to go grab the dress and trash it but rather to put some thought into what the dress means to you and then to make some conscious and intentional decisions around what you’re saying goodbye to and what you’re welcoming into your life. I have two one-on-one coaching packages that would help you – Accepting Your Marriage AND Your Divorce and Getting To Forgiveness. Both of these packages can be structured to include a ‘trash your dress’ ceremony. Feel free to contact me with any questions.