When a baby passes away during or shortly after birth, the grieving family needs something to dress the child in. The outfit can be a dress, a shirt and pants or a blanket. It can include a keepsake charm, a heart or cross and a Bible verse. Then the little one can rest in peace. Across the country, volunteer seamstresses are transforming donated wedding dresses into these outfits for infants who never get to go home. The volunteers are part of an international organization called Angel Gowns. They meet in places like the basement of All Saints Lutheran Church in Darwin, Minn., or the home of Edith Hauer, 69. Her group has been working on angel gowns for three years now.
Each gown is sewn with love. The group has more than 100 volunteers who work around the country and the world. Each dress makes about 10 burial outfits. The women use beads, ribbons, lace and other embellishments. They sometimes stitch phrases like “heaven’s angel” or add tiny pillows or hats. Hauer and her crew also sew gold bells onto the garments. It’s a reference to the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, where Jimmy Stewart’s character rings a bell when he gets his wings.
The group recently donated a box of the gowns to hospitals, including NICUs. NICU Helping Hands oversees the distribution of the gowns. The volunteers hope to give each family a moment of beauty as they say goodbye to their baby.
Several women who work on the project have lost children or young family members. The volunteers say it’s a way for them to honor their loved ones and give back to families going through this terrible loss.
In addition to gowns, the group also makes outfits for babies who die at other times in life, such as after an accident or during a medical procedure. The organization distributes the outfits free to families who might otherwise not have anything to bury their babies in. The gowns come with a knitted hat and blanket, a keepsake charm and heart or cross and a Bible verse.
As a former labor and delivery nurse, Lee Marsters understands how difficult it can be for a family to lose their baby. That’s why she started an Angel Gown of South Bay sewing group in 2016. She says she’s gathered 44 seamstresses who take wedding dresses and prom dresses and turn them into what are called angel gowns for newborns who pass away during or soon after birth.
Each outfit is sewn with so much love to honor a little life that was taken far too soon. Marsters hopes that every family who receives a gown will feel the comfort of knowing their baby was dressed with so much care and compassion. To learn more about the group or donate your wedding dress, visit Angel Gowns of South Bay on Facebook. You can even follow your dress’s journey to a developing country (Guatemala is the current destination), and virtually meet your seamstress through social media.