Angel Gowns for Premature Babies

The loss of a baby is a heartbreaking and often traumatic experience for any family. But if that child was born premature, the experience is all the more painful. In addition to the loss, parents are left with medical bills, grief, and a void that never seems to heal.

One group of seamstresses is trying to lessen this traumatic experience for families in the United States by turning donated wedding dresses into beautiful infant burial gowns, also known as angel gowns. These gowns are given to hospitals, birthing centers, funeral homes, and directly to grieving families completely free of charge.

Little Angel Gowns was started in Indiana by a registered nurse named Judi Gibson, who noticed the need for gowns in hospitals with newborn intensive care units. Her idea has since spread across the country. Many women who have lost children are able to find comfort in these gowns, and families of babies who die before making it to the hospital are also able to use these beautiful keepsakes.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, mother and daughter Dawn Crippen and Krystle Black are working to bring this program to a greater audience by starting their own chapter of Little Angel Gowns SW MI. They have already started working with Bronson Methodist Hospital, Sturgis Hospital and Borgess Medical Center. The two have a goal of reaching a total of 10 local hospitals by this fall.

Both women are trained seamstresses who work on the gowns on a volunteer basis. They are also mothers and wives. The gowns are sewn from a variety of fabrics, including silk, satin, lace and chiffon. They are often adorned with beautiful embroidery and other details, such as lace flowers, tiny beads or baby hats. Some have phrases, such as “heaven’s angel,” stitched on them.

Judi Gibson notes that losing a baby is like a nightmare for parents, and having these gowns available helps to relieve some of the stress and worry. Her team of volunteers has been able to provide more than 200 dresses at Riley, but she hopes to expand the program to other hospitals around the state.

Edith Podge, a 66-year-old retiree from Spokane, Washington, first saw an advertisement for Little Angel Gowns in the newspaper and immediately knew she had to get involved. She has made 80 gowns so far. She has even splurged on a new sewing machine to make the gowns and adds antique buttons she has collected from thrift stores. She has also sewed bells on the gowns, inspired by the ending of It’s A Wonderful Life, in which Jimmy Stewart’s character rings the bell to signal that Clarence the angel has received his wings.

The number of families who could benefit from the service is hard to estimate, but it’s important that this service be available nationwide. Anyone can help by donating a dress to an angel gown organization, spreading the word about this project, and/or donating money to help cover the cost of materials.