MISSOULA – For many a wedding dress symbolizes a new beginning. But one Missoula group takes those symbols and uses it to provide peace for parents who have lost their infant children.
Amazing Grace Wedding Dress Rentals and The Emma and Evan Foundation hosted An Evening For Angels on Saturday at the Public House — a fashion show to display some of the beautiful gowns that have been donated to their cause in the past year.
The gowns will later be made into Angel Gowns — dresses that infants will wear when they are buried.
“This dress represents an entire lifetime of formal events of you know prom and christening, wedding; you know how joyful and beautiful those days are. Well, why shouldn’t that infant and that family experience some of that?” said Sherri Howe with The Emma and Evan Foundation. “I’ve had ladies that have received our gowns that have said I didn’t realize that people I didn’t know loved me so much. That’s so cool. That’s why we do what we do.”
Sherri Howe took over the Emma and Evan Foundation after she decided she wanted to do more with her wedding dress. She tore it apart and created the first few angel gowns herself. Her friend Julie Wade later joined her building Amazing Grace Wedding Dress Rentals.
The group received over 700 wedding dresses from women across the U.S. in 2017. Wade said the dresses cost quite a bit to ship out to dressmakers across the country, so she came up with a plan to rent the dresses out to brides until they were ready to be made into Angel Gowns.
For some of the women donating their dresses, it’s about more than just creating space in their closet or giving their dresses away to a good cause. Howe recalled one woman who used it to make a fresh start after escaping an abusive relationship.
“She was going to burn her dress, and it was an amazing dress. She was going to burn it, but she decided not to because she wanted beauty from ashes. I just remember her saying I want beauty to come from my ashes and that was beautiful because there’s been a lot of women since then that have wanted to do that. They’ve had nasty ugly pasts, and they want to pay forward beauty,” said Howe.
Despite the sadness that looms in these hard situations, Howe and Wade have found that from these hardships often comes a new sense of belonging. “Both of us have said, you know, we feel like this has given us a purpose again,” said Wade.
Reporting by Lauren Heiser for MTN News