Your wedding gown, veil and keepsakes created cherished memories and preserving those pieces for future generations can be done with just a bit of care. The key to preserving a wedding gown or any type of fabric is to protect it from the elements, especially light and moisture. With proper handling, the gown and accessories should last for hundreds of years.
How To Clean A Wedding Gown
Planning for the future preservation of your wedding gown starts when shopping for your gown.
Be sure to ask the sales consultant how the dress should be cleaned. Look for special instructions for the delicate trim, beads or sequins. The Federal Trade Commission requires that each gown have a care label that you should read.
All gowns should be cleaned before storage even if it doesn't look soiled. Perspiration, food stains and makeup stains can show up later and become more difficult to remove. Look for a professional dry cleaner that specializes in wedding gown preservation. Be sure to point out any stains and any loose trim or buttons. Also discuss, if you know, how the trim is attached to the gown. Some designers use an adhesive that could dissolve during the dry cleaning process.
If the cleaner is going to pack your gown for storage, ask your cleaner to allow you to inspect your gown before it is packed in an acid-free box to help prevent contamination. This will prevent surprises when you open your sealed box years from now.
There are horror stories of missing gowns and veils or the wrong gown packed away.
If your gown is one that can be hand-washed at home, treat the stains and be sure to allow the gown to dry completely before storing. Keep the gown away from both artificial light and natural sunlight to prevent fabric damage.
How To Store A Wedding Gown
If you plan to do your own storage, be sure every piece is clean and completely dry before storing. Items that have metal buttons or decorations like a belt or head band should be stored separately from the fabric items, as well as leather goods such as shoes or handbags.
As much as possible, wedding gowns should be stored flat in an appropriately-sized container. Garments that are left hanging can become misshapen from the stress on seams. You should use storage boxes sold for archival storage. These are made of acid-free paper and are perfectly safe to use. Buy the largest size needed because the fewer folds in the gowns, the better to prevent breakage of fibers.
However, if you cannot find the storage boxes or if you are concerned about the box getting crushed, purchase a plastic storage box. The box must be made of cast polypropylene to be safe for your fabric keepsakes. Look for the #5 within the recycling triangle or the letters "PP" to be sure that you have the correct type of box.
Other types of plastic can cause yellowing. Never store a wedding gown in the plastic bag furnished by a dry cleaner. If you plan to leave the dress hanging, cover with a white, 100 percent cotton garment bag or make one from a cotton bed sheet.
You will also need to purchase archival tissue paper. It must be both acid and lignin – a chemical compound derived from wood - free. You will need the tissue to soften folds, wrap individual pieces and stuff sleeves and headpieces so they will not be crushed.
Before you begin, wash and dry your hands – no lotion or creams should be used that can stain clothing. For best results, wear clean white cotton gloves. Begin by lightly stuffing headpieces and gown shoulders and/or bust with the acid-free tissue paper to help them hold their shape. Then, lay the gown onto a layer of tissue with in the box. Be sure that there is tissue cushioning each fold. This will prevent heavy creasing.
Repeat steps with each individual item including the veil. Do not over stuff the storage box. You may want to store heavier items like shoes in a smaller individual boxes.
Choose a dark, cool, dry space for storage. Avoid extreme temperatures areas like attics, basements and garages. The ideal spot is an interior space away from exterior walls and pipes that might burst and off the floor away from pets.
Inspect your wedding treasures at least once per year. Look for any stains that may appear and treat them promptly. You'll have better success with removal the sooner the stains are caught. With clean hands, fold items slightly differently with the tissue to minimize creases and stress to fabric.