‘This means a lot to me’: Utah woman repurposes wedding dresses into burial outfits for babies

Feb 23, 2024, 2:33 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2024, 2:10 pm

SPANISH FORK — A Spanish Fork woman is using wedding dresses for a special project. Michaun Torgersen takes donated dresses and makes beautiful burial clothing for stillborn or miscarried babies.

Michaun Torgersen knows the grief of losing a baby. She had a miscarriage 26 years ago.

It’s something many women will experience in their lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage and stillbirth affects about 1 in 175 births. Each year about 21,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.

Torgersen’s mother also lost a baby.

“And back then they didn’t do anything like this, like she has no idea the gender, she didn’t get to see it,” Torgersen said. “To me, that’s heartbreaking to not even know.”

The death of a baby is never something a parent anticipates, and so when it occurs, it can leave the family scrambling to make funeral plans. Part of those plans is finding burial clothing for the baby.

“So this means a lot to me, because of that, and knowing the heartache that they’ve had to deal with,” Torgersen said.

She decided she wanted every baby to have something beautiful to wear and be buried in and began a project.

“I take wedding dresses, donated wedding dresses, and then I turned them into the burial outfits,” Torgersen said. “What we do is take the wedding dresses, turning them into the little dresses for the girls, these little outfits for the boys, or these little cocoons. They’re kind of like a little sleeping bag for the tinier babies. And then once these are complete, then I turn it over to Ashley.”

Cocoons made for premature babies. (Michaun Torgersen)

Cocoons made for premature babies. (Michaun Torgersen)

Ashley Hone is a bereavement specialist with Intermountain Health in Utah County.

“When a family loses a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant loss, they will call me in, and I will go in and help them.

First I’ll do hand and foot molds and then I’ll help them bathe their baby,” Hone said. “We take lots of photos, we just try to make as many memories with that baby as we can. We want to give them as much as we can in this little amount of time. At the end, we will always offer them burial or cremation clothes and so that’s kind of where Michaun comes in.”

There on the table in front of Torgersen and Hone sat the tiniest white satin dresses, little vest outfits and cocoons of multiple sizes.

Infant outfits made by Michaun Torgersen out of donated wedding dresses. (Michaun Torgersen)

Torgersen has thought of everything. Made with function in mind, each of the outfits has Velcro all the way up the back to make them easy to put on.

For baby girls, there are dresses of different styles, some adorned with lace or a little sash across the bodice, while others are more simple. For baby boys, there are little outfits featuring vests and a cinch bottom. Torgersen said the design is effective since the babies are so small it would be difficult to get their legs into individual pant legs.

“That was one request that I had was the Velcro up the back because when their skin is so fragile and so delicate, it is so hard especially with this material, satin doesn’t stretch,” Hone said.

Torgersen acknowledged that parting with something as sentimental as a wedding dress can be difficult, but said it makes a difference when you know what it means to these families.

“Sometimes it’s hard for them to donate that dress. I have a dress up in my sewing room right now. The lady was in tears when she brought me this dress. It was really hard for her to bring this dress,” Torgersen said. “So I know that there’s a lot of meaning to these dresses that are being donated, that they know it’s going to a really good cause.”

Torgersen said they try to make the most of every donation.

“I do utilize as much of that dress as I can possibly utilize. If I can, I cut out some of the lace pieces on it, it just depends on the dress, every dress is so different,” Torgersen said.

Out of one wedding dress, they can usually make eight to 12 baby outfits.

Wedding dresses provide rich materials with multiple layers and details, giving plenty of material for Torgersen to repurpose into baby clothing.

“I’ve done hundreds. And, yeah, it’s hard work, you know, trying to cut up all these dresses,” Torgersen said. “Some of them, it’s hard to cut up, because they’re pretty fancy. I have to cut out all of that netting and some of them have a ton of netting on them. And so I just have to get those scissors … and then cut out all the lining.”

Torgersen said she even had a dress donated that she had sewed for a bride several years earlier!

Michaun Torgersen holds up a wedding dress she once made that now has been donated. (KSL TV)

The outfits are ethereal — created with the silk, beading, and lace of dresses very sentimental to the people who donate them. Torgersen creates these delicate outfits for people she doesn’t know, and that she’ll likely never meet.

“Knowing that I’ve made a difference, that I’ve helped someone else, that’s what it’s all about. To help someone else, bring comfort to someone else, that’s always what it’s been about.”

Hone delivers the dresses that Torgersen creates to families in need.

“They’re so touched that somebody would put the time and effort or donate their wedding dress like the special special dress for them. They don’t even know them,” Hone said. “And so it’s very meaningful, I think. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody that hasn’t been truly deeply touched by it.”

For Hone, it’s more than just providing a pretty outfit.

“It’s also very important that we give these children dignity. Just because they’ve passed away doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same rights as a living child. So it’s very important for us to put them in a diaper, a hat, the typical things that you would think that we do for these babies,” Hone said. “And so that’s kind of where this comes into play. Like we want them to have something very meaningful, to be laid to rest in or to be cremated in. It makes a big difference for these families.”

“I just felt like, we need something good in this world, there’s so much bad,” Torgersen said. “I’ve told people I’m not going to stop; I’m going to keep doing this for as long as I can.”

Despite her desire to carry on, making as many dresses as possible, Torgersen admits she needs some help. There are various ways to get involved: donating wedding dresses, cutting materials, sewing baby dresses, and donating money or materials like ribbons.

Anyone interested in helping with the project can email myangelbabyproject@gmail.com or contact Torgersen through the Facebook page: My Angel Baby Project.

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‘This means a lot to me’: Utah woman repurposes wedding dresses into burial outfits for babies