The wedding is over. Perhaps you wore your grandmother’s elegant silk gown with the flowing train and the delicately embroidered veil that matched, or maybe you and your girlfriends spent weeks searching for the perfect wedding dress that you felt best reflected your personality. Now, you need to store this treasure so that the years do not steal any of its beauty. You may want to leave the possibility open for your little girl to one day carry on the family tradition and walk down the aisle in that very wedding gown. To best maintain its timeless grandeur, follow a few important steps:
- Check the gown’s label for care instructions. Some must be dry cleaned while others can be “wet-cleaned,” which means cleaned with water, a process that can be handled by a professional. Often polyester dresses can be hand washed, but test a small, hidden area to be sure. Labels may provide special instructions that specify the type of cleaning solvent that the dress requires. Check with your bridal shop for an experienced dry cleaner that carries the type of supplies and equipment your dress needs.
- Have the gown cleaned as soon as possible to prevent stains from setting. Check out the dry-cleaner and make sure the individual who will handle your dress has solid experience cleaning wedding gowns. Not all gowns require the same type of treatment. Some chemicals work great on silk but will damage sequins. Look for a cleaner that uses virgin solvent, rather than recycled. A gown cleaned in impure solvent will smell likes it has been dry cleaned, and it shouldn’t.
- Avoid storing the gown in a plastic dry cleaning bag or a plastic garment bag for very long, even if the wedding boutique sent the dress home with you in such a bag. Plastic may emit fumes that could yellow or otherwise damage your gown. In addition, if moisture gets trapped in the bag, the dress could mildew.
Decide whether you want to have the gown professionally boxed or hung or if you are going to handle it yourself. The following professional procedures should help you protect this heirloom.
- If you choose to have the gown boxed by a company that specializes in preserving wedding gowns, they will likely use an acid-free wedding box, preferably not simply one with an acid-free coating as it will not provide as much protection in the long run. They should pad the bodice and folds with acid-free tissue. Fabrics like rayon or polyester should use buffered tissue while natural material like silk should use un-buffered tissue. If you have the gown boxed, do not get it sealed. A dress that has been folded will need to be taken out and rearranged every year or so to prevent folds from creasing and permanently damaging the dress. An added benefit of storing your dress in an unsealed container is that you may take it out, try it on and enjoy it occasionally.
- Choosing to have a wedding dress preservation company professionally hang the gown will help prevent wrinkles and will require less care in the future. Since it will not be folded, creases will not develop; therefore, the dress will not have to be removed from its packaging every couple of years to be rearranged. The dress should be placed in a cloth bag that contains no dye and hung on a thickly padded hanger. Dresses with narrow straps or none at all should be reinforced to prevent breakage. The bodice may be filled with acid-free tissue to help it retain its shape.
- Check the dress at least once a year for problems. A spilled drink may be invisible when it dries, but over time it can oxidize and turn the area where it spilled brown. Have such spots cleaned right away. They can become harder to remove once they have been there awhile. Normally, they will show up in the first year after the wedding.
When removing the gown from storage, even for a little while, wear plain white cotton gloves to prevent sweat or dirt from leaving residue on the dress. This could lead to stains later. In addition, perspiration might cause the cloth to become brittle.
- After the wedding dress has been cleaned and preserved, keep it in a location where the temperature is cool and the air is dry. Minimize light. Ultraviolet radiation can hurt textiles over a long period of time. A dehumidifier may help, or you may want to lease a self storage unit with climate control features that allow you to keep the temperature low and the air dry to better protect all your stored clothing, most especially this one-of-a-kind symbol of your family’s beginning that when preserved, may bring happiness to generations.