Angel Gowns For Stillborn Babies

In the grand tapestry of life, there are moments of tremendous joy and sorrow. In those moments of unimaginable loss, families need a little extra support. At UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, we provide a range of services to help families during this difficult time, including custom-made gowns for infants who are born too soon or pass away before going home. These beautiful gowns, made by volunteers across the country and internationally, help families remember their tiniest angel babies as part of their family forever.

When Stacy Beck lost her own son to a stillbirth in 2017, she was heartbroken. But she found comfort in a quilt that a friend had made him, and from there, grew a passion to do the same for others. Now, she and other seamstresses in the Akron area are using donated wedding dresses to make gowns for families of stillborn or miscarriage babies.

These gowns, which are hand-sewn by volunteers, are designed to fit any baby – from micro-preemies and those who were delivered full term. They also serve as a special keepsake for the parents, who can keep it with them always.

“These gowns give dignity to grieving families and angel babies,” says Beck. “It’s so important to us because we know first-hand the impact that a loss of a child can have on a family and community.”

Across the country, volunteer seamstresses, like Sue Bauer of central Ohio, are using donated wedding dresses to create the angel gowns, which are distributed free of charge to families and hospitals. A typical dress can produce up to 20 angel gowns, and Bauer’s organization — Angel Gowns of Central Ohio — is looking for more seamstresses to join her team. She’s also accepting monetary donations to purchase embellishments as well as yarn, lap blankets, baby items, sew-in Velcro, thread, ribbon, soft fleece and elastic.

A former labor and delivery nurse, Mangiaracina knows the pain of infant loss, so she wrote a column in 2015 to share her story and the work she’s doing to help other women. It prompted an amazing response. She now has a network of 44 seamstresses who sew the angel gowns and wraps for families in the Spokane area, as well as for hospitals in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Groveport, Ohio; and Texas.

At the same time, about an hour west of Minneapolis, in Darwin, Minn., Jean Lee and her team of volunteers are also expanding their work. The group, called NICU Helping Hands, turns donated wedding dresses into the final outfits for infants who die in labor or shortly after birth. The garments include a knitted hat and blanket, a heart or cross charm and a Bible verse. Eventually, the group plans to add vests for boys made from men’s suits and pants. The women meet monthly in the basement of All Saints Lutheran Church in Darwin to work on their creations. “This is the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done,” said Lee, a Pennsauken resident who has worked on the project since 2009. “I don’t get tired of it.”