There are many ways to keep your wedding gown in use for years to come.

For many brides, choosing the dress is the most crucial part of the wedding planning process. Should you buy off the rack, have one made or wear a vintage gown from mom or grandma? Then, after the big day, most wedding gowns go into a closet never to be seen again.

There are, however, many ways to keep your wedding gown in use for years to come. Julie Kinsey, a Chicago-based costumer, offers ideas and tips for repurposing that special garment.

Something old

Wearing a vintage gown passed down from a relative sounds wonderful, but if it’s the wrong size or style, that may not work. However, you can still take elements from the dress and include them, Kinsey said. Use the lace or beads on your own gown, or use the fabric to make a purse or bouquet wraps for the big day.

Something new

Use your gown to make a household craft, like a quilt, a Christmas tree ornament or a Christmas tree skirt, Kinsey said. Or, take the gown to a seamstress to make into a completely different garment like a cocktail dress. When hiring a pro, Kinsey advises meeting face-to-face, looking at photos together and discussing what you can realistically do with the materials you have.

Something borrowed

A keepsake pillow or scrapbook cover from the big day is a lovely way to i keep your gown in use.

Something blue... or pink

First comes love, then comes marriage. For the next phase, use your wedding dress fabric to make at a christening gown or crib bedding.??

Tips for doing it yourself

Crafters with basic sewing skills can make all kinds of things with their wedding gowns, Kinsey said. The key is knowing what you need, and what you have to work with.

Step 1: Assess the dress. The skirt may have several yards of fabric, but it might not all be useable in one continuous piece, Kinsey said. Take the dress apart at the seams and measure the pieces to see how much workable fabric is actually there.

“It’s all about what fabric you have and how you cut it,” she said.

If you’re working with beads or other accents on the dress, pull them off and count them. If you’re short, you may be able to find supplemental materials at a fabric store.

“You always want to make sure that you have enough supplies,” she said.

Also, consider the integrity of the fabric. Vintage gowns may have deteriorated. If the craft or garment you plan to make will need to be strong and last, a vintage gown may not be the best source.

Step 2: Get a pattern. Fabric stores have all kinds of patterns. Look through them, and choose one that you can understand. How do all the pieces come together?

Step 3: Make a muslin mockup. Muslin is an inexpensive fabric that seamstresses often use to make a simple version of a pattern to make sure the finished product looks the way it should. It’s a good way to practice a new pattern before potentially making a mistake with your dress fabric, Kinsey said.