Angel Gowns – Capital Region NY

angel gowns

Across the country, volunteer seamstresses are transforming donated wedding dresses into beautiful infant burial gowns known as angel gowns. The gowns are offered to hospitals, birthing centers and funeral homes free of charge to families who have lost their little one far too soon.

Judi Gibson, a registered nurse at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, was inspired by the program after reading a newspaper article about it. She started recruiting local seamstresses to help her make the tiny outfits for babies who didn’t survive their time in the hospital’s NICU. Gibson enlisted Shirley Travelstead to help, but the need became too much for just one person to handle. That’s when Edith Mangiaracina stepped in.

Mangiaracina, who now lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has been sewing angel gowns for more than 20 years. She has made the garments for hospitals in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, as well as in California, Oregon, Texas, and Minnesota. She also has a team of women in her area who knit tiny hats to go with the dresses.

Many people donate their wedding dresses to Mangiaracina after they get married, and she has a large collection of them. She said she can turn a dress into anywhere from 10 to 20 angel gowns. She also creates sleep sacks and overalls, depending on the family’s needs. In addition to her own work, Mangiaracina said she’s helped with the creation of other angel gown programs in other states.

In our region, more than 1,600 angel gowns have been distributed to 43 hospitals in seven hospitals, including St. Peter’s, Bellevue Woman’s Center, Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville, Albany Medical Center and Saratoga Hospital. Angel Gowns-Capital Region NY is entirely run by volunteers, and each of the gowns are handmade by a seamstress or family member.

Brandy Spurgeon of Glenville, New York, received a gown from the organization after her daughter was delivered via C-section in January 2012. Her little girl was born at 32 weeks, and she had a spontaneous catastrophic uterine rupture that caused her death.

Spurgeon still receives a gown each week in memory of her daughter, and she credits the service with helping her heal. She said the process is therapeutic and helps her feel closer to her daughter.

When a grieving family chooses a gown for their baby, it becomes a symbol of love and a way to remember them. The gowns are used for photos, remembrance ceremonies and to comfort families.

Each gown is made with so much love to honor each child who was taken too soon, and it’s a gift that will be remembered forever.

If you’d like to help, contact us at the address below. We can either send the gowns directly to a location in need, or return them for you to donate yourself. The most needed items include fabric ribbon (she uses about 4 feet per gown), thread and seam rippers. You can also support her through the organization’s Facebook page.