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Preservation and Storage tips for Wedding Gowns

Updated on December 19, 2012
Don't rely on photos or portraits alone to capture the true beauty and detail of your wedding gown. Wedding gown preservation is the best way to maintain your dress and revisit those memories whenever you desire.
Don't rely on photos or portraits alone to capture the true beauty and detail of your wedding gown. Wedding gown preservation is the best way to maintain your dress and revisit those memories whenever you desire. | Source

Chances are you spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars searching for the perfect wedding gown. Your gown was an investment into one of the most important days of your life. Photos may capture a certain degree of the beauty and elegance of your wedding gown but nothing compares to the detail of the real thing. Don't let your memories end up a crumpled mess on the floor. Instead, preserve that treasured keepsake so that it will last for years to come.

Why Wedding Dress Preservation is Important

Your wedding dress is very special and, as such, it deserves to be protected. You may have hopes that your daughter or younger sister wear your gown one day. You may be sentimental and want to hang on to your gown to commemorate that very special day of your life. Regardless of your reasons, wedding dress preservation is essential to making certain your wedding gown remains just a beautiful in the years to come as it does today.

Following the wedding, many women store their gown in the wedding dress garment bag it originally came in. This is often done with the intention of having it cleaned "soon." Unfortunately, for many gowns, "soon" just never comes. This places your gown at great risk as stains will oxidize and become harder (and may be impossible) to get out later. Even if there is no visible staining, there is more than likely something on your dress that can cause permanent damage if left there. A soiled hemline, make-up smears, food stains, body perspiration, even the natural oils of your skin - all of these things can cause permanent damage to your gown if not taken care of timely. In addition, your wedding dress garment bag is likely made of plastic and many plastics give off chemical fumes that can cause your gown to yellow over time. Cleaning and preserving your gown as soon as possible is the best way to ensure it remains in the best condition possible.

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Wedding Gown Cleaning Methods

A good wedding gown cleaning is the first step to preservation. You may find that most of your local dry cleaners do not clean bridal gowns in their facilities. They may, instead, send gowns out to a wholesale cleaners.

How to Find a Good Dry Cleaners

All dry cleaners are not created equally. This is particularly true when talking about high end or specialty garments. Many cleaners opt to recycle the solvent they use for cleaning. While this is less expensive for the cleaners, it can also cause unfiltered impurities to re-deposit themselves on your garment. When searching for a cleaners to clean your wedding gown try to find one that uses virgin solvent.

Wet-Cleaning

Many dry-cleaners actual clean wedding gowns with water. This is the best way to clean food stains, sugar spills, and dirty hems. This method should leave no chemicals on your dress if well rinsed, ensuring your wedding dress remains in top condition. In addition, water washing removes the starch like substance that is often used on fabric during manufacturing (known as fabric sizing). Removing this substance provides extra protection to your dress because the sizing can attract insects and mice.

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Dry-Cleaning

The most common solvent utilized for dry-cleaning is called perchloroethylene. This particular solvent is great for silk, rayon, or acetate and has degreasing properties to clean the dirtiest gowns. Perchloroethylene is likely to damage sequins and beading, however, so may not be the best choice for fabrics containing these details.

Though harder to find, stoddard is safer than perchloroethylen for cleaning sequins and beading. This is a petroleum based solvent that is becoming more and more rare due to fire regulations. It can not be used in strip mall type dry-cleaning establishments. However, you can occasionally find stoddard at older cleaning shops.

Hydro Carbon is a fairly newly formulated petroleum-based solvent. Like stoddard, it is safe for sequins and beading. It is not, however, as effective as effective at degreasing. Lastly, Greenearth is another fairly new solvent that is safe for beads and sequins. It is also not as effective for when it comes to degreasing. Of all the solvents, Greenearth is the safest for the environment. It is silicone based with far less governmental restrictions that the other solvents.

Other Tips for Finding the Perfect Cleaners

The best way to decide which cleaning method is best for your is to know your dress. What fabric is your gown made of? Is there beading detail or sequins? If so, are they sewn on or glued? Knowing this information may prove invaluable as you call around in search of the perfect cleaners. Before you make that first call, however, make sure you read your labels. Quite often the label of your gown will provide information on exactly which solvent and/or method of cleaning would be most beneficial for your wedding gown.

Wedding Dress Preservation Methods

Once your gown is clean, your goal should be to keep it in the best possible condition. There are several dangers that the average wedding gown must be protected against. These are:

  • Yellowing - The wedding garment bag and other forms of plastic coverings is one of the leading causes of wedding gown yellowing. Though it may be impossible to prevent all yellowing, storing your gown in an acid-free environment is your best line of defense.
  • Mildew and mold - to combat these wedding gown killers you must provide your gown a breatheable environment. A breatheable environment will prevent mositure from condensing and prevent mildew and mold from growing.
  • Light and Dust - Protecting your gown from light and dust is as simple as providing a covering.
  • Permanent Creasing - Storing your gown flat is the best way to prevent permanent creasing. This is not always the most practical choice. For boxed gowns, refolding the garment into a different position every 2-3 years is the best defense against permanent creasing.
  • Oxidation Spots - When a wedding gown is not properly cleaned and substances are allowed to remain on the dress, oxidation will occur. This leaves brown spots where those foreign substances were left. Unfortunately, even cleaning your gown may not prevent all forms of oxidation. Dry-cleaning solvents sometime do not remove all stains and those stains left by clear liquids can sometimes be overlooked. Checking your preserved gown periodically is your best defense against oxidation spots. The sooner and oxidated spot is caught, the more successful removal will be.

Benefits of Each Wedding Dress Preservation Method

Benefits of Sealing
Benefits of Boxing
Benefits of Bagging
Acid-free Environment
Acid-free Environment
Acid-free Environment
Stored Easily
Stored Easily
Stored Easily
Protects from dust and light
Protects from dust and light
Protects for dust and light
 
Can be inspected and admired with some effort
Can be inspected and admired easily
 
Dress can breathe
Dress can breathe
 
Can be refolded periodically to decrease the liklihood of permanent creasing
Does not require refolding
 
 
No permanent creasing
 
 
Best air circulation
Hanging your wedding dress on a wooden or wire hanger can cause the fabric to stretch and become distorted. Try a plastic or padded hanger instead.
Hanging your wedding dress on a wooden or wire hanger can cause the fabric to stretch and become distorted. Try a plastic or padded hanger instead. | Source

Though companies offer different variations of each, there are three basic types of wedding gown preservation methods. These are:

  • Sealing - Typically involves a an acid-free box and acid-free tissue paper. Gown is sealed inside the box in an effort to protect the gown from oxygen. The concern with sealing is that it may place your gown at risk for mildew and mold. Also, inspection is impossible with sealing increasing the chances of permanent creasing and oxidation spots.
  • Boxing - Very similar to sealing method, however, the acid -free box is not sealed, allowing your garment to breathe. Garment can be inspected and refolded as needed.
  • Bagging - Often used by museums to preserve vintage gowns and heirloom costumes. Bagging can provide protection against all the dangers your gown could face. Your gown should be stored in a acid-free bag and not kept in a dry-cleaners plastic bag or other plastic bag.Baggying may not be the most practical option, however, and many prefer the compact storage of boxing over baggying.

Regardless of what wedding gown preservation method you choose, your gown should be kept in a climate controlled environment. Again, check the labels of your dress carefeully before seeking any dry-cleaning or preservation. Doing your research regarding the available methods is important, however, nothing beats the advice of the manufacturer.

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