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How to Store and Preserve a Christening Gown
Few things are as beautiful and heartfelt as a christening gown which has been lovingly preserved and handed down through generations of a family. Maybe you've had the good fortune to use a gown like this for your son or daughter, and now you need to know how to keep up the good work and preserve it for the next generation. Or maybe you've decided to start a brand new tradition in your family, and need to know how to store a relativley new gown to it stays in optimal condition.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to preserving your child's christening gown:
Step 1 - Washing and drying
After using the gown, wash it gently and carefully according to the instructions on the gown. You can either take it to a dry cleaner (if the gown instructions allow), or you can wash it yourself by hand. If you wash it by hand, use a biological washing powder or liquid, but don't use anything unecessary eg: softener, whitener and certainly not bleach! The reason you want a biological cleanser is because the enzymes it contains will break down the protein and starch in stains, removing them more effectively. (Some stains may be hidden right now, and only start to yellow the fabric over time, so you want to be as sure as you can!) The water temperature should be "tepid" ie: neither hot nor stone-cold.
After you've washed it, rinse it really well (repeatedly) and lay it out to dry completely. Try to dry it in such a way that there are minimal creases in the fabric. Don't use a tumble drier and don't iron the garment at any stage - both of these will suck all the moisture from the fibres. Although we all know that damp will damage fabric over time, you still want a natural amount of moisture within the fibres so they stay in supple good condition over time.
Step 2 - Storage types
The best way to store a christening gown is to hang it. This minmises creases - which are the enemy of a happily preserved garment! Over time, fabric weakens along creases, so we want to ensure there are as few as possible.
The hanger should be a plain white/cream padded hanger - the type which is padded with foam then covered in fabric. Not only are plastic, wooden or metal hangers unforgiving in shape, but they will damage and discolour fabric over time (either by exuding chemicals or by corroding). The bag you choose should be a plain natural fabric like cotton - absolutely no plastic allowed. Plastic, as I said, exudes chemicals over time and also will not allow the garment to breathe. Metal is also an absolute no-no for gown storage: it's vital that there is no metal present including the hanger, zippers on the storage bag and embellishments on the outfit itself.
Unfortunately some christening gown manufacturers will supply you with a plastic garment bag, which may make you think it's safe to use this for long-term storage: it's not...those bags are for short-term transportation of the gown only. The bag should also be an ample size to store the gown without having to bunch it up....for the same reason above (creases).
If you absolutely must put the gown in a box, ensure that it's an acid-free box, and that you protect the gown with acid-free tissue paper. Standard boxes and tissue paper will cause damage to the gown over time. Use the mimum number of folds when folding the garment. You will then need to pad the sleeves and any creases with the acid-free tissue.
Step 3 - Storage places
This step is very simple. Whether you have chosen to hang or box your gown, you'll need to find somewhere dry, safe and reasonably dark to store it. The place cannot be subject to extreme temperature fluctuations - so that rules out the attic then! The obvious place to hang a gown would just be in a quiet corner of your wardrobe.
Step 4 - Keep giving the love
Remember to check in on the gown once in a while. Check it over, make sure there are no stains developing. If there are, simply follow the steps listed here again starting with cleaning.
I've written a whole lot more articles on the subject of christening outfits and shoes etc. Please feel free to read them at my Christening Outfit info site!