Angel Gowns Provide Comfort to Families Who Have Lost a Baby

For families who have lost their infants, a special garment known as an angel gown provides a little piece of comfort. The dresses are made from donated wedding gowns and are handed over to grieving parents at no cost. The nonprofit group Angel Gowns has a warehouse full of old bridal dresses and hundreds of volunteers across the country make the gowns.

Often, the gowns are delivered with a blanket, a keepsake angel, and a prayer card. “The idea of giving a burial dress to a family that is going through such a traumatic loss, I think is one of the most loving things that we can do,” said Angel Gowns volunteer Shirley Barnett from Ozark, Missouri. “It really is a gift from our hearts.”

When she began working for the NICU Helping Hands program at Riley Hospital, Judi Gaber realized that the nurses and families who work with the tiny babies in the hospital sometimes don’t have the proper clothing to put their babies in when they leave the hospital. That’s why she started an angel gown program to help these families.

The volunteers take used wedding dresses and turn them into tiny burial garments for newborns who will never get to go home. They’re often delivered to hospitals, birthing centers, funeral homes, or directly to the family at no charge.

In addition to creating the gowns, NICU Helping Hands has a quilting team that makes blankets and pillows for grieving families. The organization also helps with memorial services and funeral arrangements, and it’s a place for parents to share their stories and find support. “We try to be that support system for them, because it’s so traumatic,” says volunteer Kathy Costa from Bridgewater, New Jersey. She recently received a donation of more than 200 dresses from a bridal shop that closed at the end of 2020. The dresses will be sold in her new boutique, which opens this month.

The group also accepts donations from women who can’t donate their own wedding dress but would like to participate in the project. These women can choose to “sponsor” a dress for a woman who can’t afford the $100 monetary donation to cover the cost of materials.

The program is a huge part of the fabric that holds up this community, Gaber says. “It is a group of dedicated people that work hard to serve their communities,” she said. And she wants the public to know that their work is making a difference in the lives of so many families. “It just gives me hope, and I want to encourage others to do what they can, too,” she said. “It is so rewarding.” To learn more about the program or to get involved, visit To donate a wedding dress, email [email protected] or call 480-279-4411.