New Jersey librarian lends wedding dresses out for free from her collection of 100 – NBC New York

Choosing a wedding dress can be one of the most emotional — not to mention expensive — aspects of planning a wedding. And all too often, that dress ends up packed away in storage, never to be worn again.

Librarian Adele Puccio aims to give once-loved gowns a second chance at life.

In addition to her day job as the director of Maurice M. Pine Free Public Library in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Puccio collects previously worn wedding dresses as a hobby.

However, she isn’t just a curator; Puccio freely gives away her dresses to any bride who asks — even her very own wedding gown from 1985.

With a current stock of over 100 wedding dresses, Puccio has witnessed a near-constant stream of brides-to-be visit the library in hopes of saying “yes” to a dress among the stacks.

“The sheer number of dresses that have gone out of here this year is incredible,” she says.

Puccio’s word-of-mouth collection became a neighborhood phenomenon after a local paper, The Star-Ledger, published an article about Puccio’s dress collection in February 2024.

“After that, things exploded,” Puccio says of the resulting dress donations that began to pour in.

Bride Estefani Hernadez Soler at the New Milford Public Library
Bride Estefani Hernadez Soler, a librarian at the New Milford Public Library, wore a ‘70s gown from Puccio’s collection. (Courtesy Adele Puccio)

Much like a miniature Kleinfeld Bridal, Puccio’s crowded office is lined with racks of tulle and lace. Prior to this spring, Puccio says that she rarely had more than five to ten gowns available at one time. Now, she fields daily donations from former brides across the country, as well as from bridal stores hoping to contribute to the cause.

“I always enjoyed vintage fashion,” she says.

As a child, Puccio lived only a few blocks away from the original Brooklyn location of Kleinfeld Bridal — the iconic New York wedding dress destination of TLC fame — and seized any opportunity to visit the store.

While other girls her age were reading teen magazines, Puccio perused the pages of BRIDES — not because she was dreaming of her wedding day, she says, but because she loved the dress designs inside.

When she began her collection 20 years ago, Puccio sourced looks from thrift stores and vintage shops. Sometimes she used the dresses as Halloween costumes, and she frequently donated them to local brides or loaned them through Shared Dream Dresses, a Facebook group where brides can borrow wedding dresses for the cost of shipping.

Word began to spread about Puccio’s collection after she helped Estefani Hernadez Soler, a local librarian, find her dream dress for her May 2023 nuptials.

A lace gown from the ‘50s in Puccio's collection.
A lace gown from the ‘50s in Puccio’s collection. (Courtesy Adele Puccio)

“Someone told her, ‘Hey, go see Adele, she’s got dresses,’” Puccio recalls of being introduced to Soler.

Soler selected a ‘70s sleeved gown trimmed with lace for her wedding, which took place at the New Milford Public Library.

“She looked lovely,” Puccio says. “I mean, it was a dress from the 70s. It was beautiful.”

Since then, dress donors and newlyweds have shared personal photos and stories from their weddings with Puccio.

One such dress — a “very pretty Maggie Sottero” — belonged to a woman who had passed away a few years after her wedding. The woman’s mother donated her daughter’s wedding dress to Puccio after hearing about her collection on the radio.

“She heard that and she was like, ‘That’s what I want to do with my daughter’s dress,’” Puccio recalls.

Puccio, who married her late husband in 1985, even donated her own wedding dress to the collection. The gown was later chosen by a bride while Puccio was out of the office, but she doesn’t mind.

“It should live again,” she says. “It’s better than sitting in a closet for all those years.”

Puccio’s ever-growing collection is a welcome lifeline for brides struggling to find a dress within their budget. While she never asks for anything in return, she has received a few memorable tokens of appreciation.

A beaded Scaasi for Eva Forsyth gown from 1992.
A beaded Scaasi for Eva Forsyth gown from 1992. (Courtesy Adele Puccio)

“A Polish grandmother from a nearby town selected a 1990s white satin gown to mail to her granddaughter back in Poland,” she says. “She was so happy, she came back to the library with a tray of pierogies.”

Library staff and patrons have grown accustomed to seeing brides parade their dress options down the library halls.

“Once someone is in a dress, the ladies from circulation come over and comment on it, and sometimes patrons will come, too,” Puccio says.

As Puccio’s collection continues to garner publicity, dress donations have threatened to overwhelm her office, forcing her to move in additional clothing racks. Due to the high demand, Puccio now requires brides and dress donors to make an appointment before dropping by.

Puccio isn’t overly precious about alterations, or even about getting the dresses back. Dresses are simply replaced on the rack almost as soon as they leave.

“There’s probably another 10 dresses that people have dropped off at my house that I haven’t brought in yet, because there’s no space,” she says. “It’s just great.”

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