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Seamstress Rose Ellis is a ‘wedding angel’ to panicked brides in Oklahoma

After a bridal chain abruptly closed with wedding dresses still inside, Ellis rescued dresses and is performing alterations for free

What should have been one of the best parts of the wedding-planning process became a nightmare for brides across America when Alfred Angelo, one of the world’s largest bridal chains, filed bankruptcy and closed its stores.

There was no warning for brides who were expecting gowns. The only messages customers got were “Store Closed” signs on the doors and a statement on the chain’s social media pages detailing its bankruptcy.

“While we have been successful in obtaining customer records and delivering many dresses and accessories for customers all over the country, even after the bankruptcy filing date, it has now become apparent that the logistical and financial strain of fulfilling each and every open order makes continuing that course of action no longer possible,” the message read. “Thus, to the extent any order has not been fully delivered to a customer, it shall have to remain unfilled.” Before filing for bankruptcy in mid-July, the chain was more than $78 million in debt.

That’s when Rose Ellis, a seamstress who worked for Alfred Angelo’s Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, locations, stepped in. Last week, Ellis entered the Tulsa location for a routine gown pickup when she was warned that the company would be closing its 60 U.S. locations permanently the same day.

Ellis knew she wouldn’t be able to save all of the gowns, but she went to two Oklahoma stores and grabbed as many dresses as she could before the doors were locked for good. Although brides had paid Alfred Angelo upfront for alterations, Ellis, who was now out of a job herself, did the work herself for free. With alterations generally averaging $400 per gown, Ellis vowed to do around $30,000 worth of work — money she’d never see.

“I just felt that, with my integrity, I had to do what I could do and if I’m not getting paid for it, so what, you know?” Ellis told Oklahoma’s KFOR. “That’s par for the course.”

Ellis worked diligently to perform alterations on the more than 70 gowns she’d rescued before the shops closed. The last step is reuniting the brides-to-be with their wedding dresses, which Ellis is also handling. She drives an hour and 30 minutes from Tulsa to Oklahoma City weekly to return the dresses to their owners before their big day.

Brides who were spared the heartache of being without their dresses due to the chain’s sudden closure are now calling Ellis their “wedding angel.” Stephanie Huey, a bride who was helped by Ellis, paid for a hotel to save the seamstress from driving back and forth. She also created a GoFundMe page to help offset some of the costs for Ellis. More than $5,600 has been donated to the cause, surpassing its original goal of $2,500.

“Rose has done so many people such a good deed,” Huey wrote on the page. “There are worse things than losing a wedding dress, of course, but it means so much to the brides that she’s helping.”

As for Ellis, the alterations won’t stop until every gown in her possession has been returned to each bride.

“They’re going to get a gown that’s going to fit them perfectly even though they paid Alfred Angelo for the work, not the seamstress for the work,” Ellis said. “They still have a gown they can be happy with.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.