Angel Gowns in Virginia turns wedding dresses into gowns for families that have lost newborns

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WJLA) – Inside the neonatal intensive care unit at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, the staff received a very special delivery: petite, hand-stitched, embroidered gowns fit for a prince or princess. “Angels” had transformed wedding dresses once worn by Virginia brides into gowns for families that have lost newborns.

“I was overwhelmed, just overwhelmed with emotion. It just really touched my heart,” said Claire Pagano, the hospital’s NICU director. “The detail in the gowns is amazing—the lace, the beading; the fabric is just absolutely gorgeous.”

Kim Violette saw what a similar Texas organization had done, so she decided to start the Angel Gowns project in the Commonwealth.

“Twenty years ago we had lost a baby, and it hit close and near and dear to my heart,” she said. “So, I thought, what a beautiful way to be able to extend part of love from a bride to a momma who had lost a baby.”

“Each one of these gowns are as pretty, if not more beautiful, than the wedding gowns themselves,” she added.

Violette’s daughter donated the first dress for the Angel Gowns in Virginia project. Then, bride after bride added to the collection.

“We had one wedding gown that actually produced 27 angel gowns,” Violette said. “Depends on the condition, depends on the style, but they use every little bit that they can.”

Violette hopes the project’s efforts will bring comfort to mourning families.

“Every loss is very emotional, and a very difficult time for both the care providers and certainly for the families,” Pagano said. “So, to be able to have this to give to the families, I know will just touch their hearts. It’s something that will be a keepsake forever.”

From a walk down the aisle, to a mother’s arms—forever an angel.

Violette said, “It’s just so heart-touching to see it come full circle.”

Angel Gowns in Virginia is not looking for wedding dresses, but instead for volunteers to help sew more gowns for families in the Commonwealth.