Photo by: Ary Shutter
After the big day is over what happens to the beautiful, all-important wedding dress? Today brides have plenty of options open to them. Some prefer to sell or donate their wedding dress after it has served its purpose while others find ways to repurpose it for future use such as cocktail wear or lingerie. There is even a trend to “trash” it in a bomb-filled, color photoshoot. However, many sentimental brides want to hang onto their wedding dress that represents so much of the love, celebration, and happiness they experienced on their wedding day. Romantic brides have dreams of passing on their wedding dress to their own daughter in the future.
The process of preserving a wedding gown strikes an even balance between having all the stains and dirt removed and preventing any damage from occurring while in storage. That is why the art of wedding dress preservation has become so popular. It can’t just be cleaned like any other garment as it usually has an intricate design and extremely delicate fabrics. If you prefer to keep your wedding dress, cleaning and preservation are key factors in ensuring that it will last for a lifetime.
Here are 9 important things you should know about wedding dress cleaning and preservation:
1. Wedding Dress Cleaning Methods are not the same as Standard Dry Cleaning Methods
Standard dry cleaning procedures are not appropriate when it comes to wedding gowns. The delicate structure and specialist fabrics used in wedding gowns need special techniques to reduce the risk of damage to a minimum. Wedding gown cleaning and preservation starts with a thorough assessment by an experienced dry cleaning specialist who will create a unique treatment plan after taking into consideration important details like the types of different fabric, stitching details and embellishments. In addition, an analysis will be done on the stains and dirt present, particularly along the hemline of the dress.
You can send your wedding dress to a dry cleaning company that offers specialized wedding gown cleaning and preservation. Usually, they offer trustworthy services, however, you should take some precautions to vet the processes they use before making your decision. For example, you may want to opt for a dry cleaner that uses virgin solvents as opposed to recycled solvents typically used in standard dry cleaning. Recycled solvents redeposit impurities onto clothing which may leave your wedding gown with a peculiar smell. For this reason, only virgin solvents should be used to clean and preserve a wedding gown.
It is important to thoroughly research the methods, cleaning solvents used, and policies of the dry cleaning company before you commit to using their services. Ideally, you want to choose an outfit that guarantees no harm will be done to your dress during the cleaning process. Make sure that the guarantee includes reimbursement of the entire cost of the wedding dress in the event of any damage occurring and not just the cost of the cleaning and preservation. In addition, find out how long the dress is expected to remain in pristine condition after the cleaning and preservation process has been completed.
2. Invisible Stains that May Be Lurking Under the Surface of Your Wedding Dress
According to the Executive Director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, Sally Conant, “the most dangerous stains are the ones you cannot see”. Stains like white wine usually dry clear but these will resurface after a period of time. Latent stains that contain sugar will caramelize over time to form darker brown stains. The dress may look clean but after about 6 months or so, latent stains may start to appear as a pale yellow color, becoming darker with age. Heat seems to accelerate the process.
Professional dry-cleaning specialists are trained to look for stains that cannot be seen by the naked eye. They are highly experienced at spotting and dealing with visible and invisible stains usually associated with wedding gowns. Things they are trained to look for include dirt on the hemline and inside bottom of the dress sustained while in pursuit of that picture-perfect photo shot in the garden. Or someone who sloshed wine on your dress during the reception without your noticing it. Or did an overzealous guest smudge makeup foundation on your shoulder while coming in for a close hug? A separate treatment plan will be created for each type of stain.
3. Pay Attention to the Instructions on the Label of Your Wedding Gown
Special instructions on the label of our wedding gown will contain specific dry cleaning instructions such as “Dry Clean Only With Petroleum Solvent”. Make sure that the dry cleaning company will pay special attention to the directions on the label and that they have the appropriate cleaning solution recommended.
4. Time Is Of The Essence When Cleaning and Preserving a Wedding Dress
Cleaning is the first and most important step in wedding dress preservation. The sooner the dress is sent to dry cleaners for cleaning, the better. Some brides wait for weeks before sending their wedding gowns to be cleaned by which time stains will have had time to really set in, making it more difficult and dangerous to remove them properly.
For the best results, it is recommended to arrange for your wedding dress to be sent to the cleaners the very next day or within a couple of days after the reception. That is why it is important to choose the right dry cleaning company in advance. If you are leaving on your honeymoon immediately after the wedding, ask a bridesmaid or a family member to take care of it for you.
5. Maintain the Airtight Seal of the Wedding Dress Preservation Box
After the cleaning and preservation process, your wedding dress will be stored in an airtight box. The process involves sucking out the oxygen and replacing it with nitrogen to prevent the oxidation process from setting in. Oxidation causes discoloration and accelerated aging that happens to clothes when stored for several years. Wedding gown dry cleaning specialists recommend that the seal should never be broken. If it does happen, you should immediately send it to be preserved and resealed to prevent any damage.
6. Store your Sealed Wedding Dress in a Cool and Dark Place
Store your preserved wedding gown in a cool, dark space, away from direct sunlight that can quickly cause the fabric to fade or turn yellow. Avoid storing it in a regular, zip-up garment bag. Plastic bags hold moisture that can potentially damage and discolor your wedding dress. Wedding dress preservation boxes are made from acid-free plastic so it is always best to choose a professional preservation box or wedding chest from a reputable wedding dress cleaning and preservation company.
Don’t use a hanger, as the weight of the dress can cause it to become misshapen over time. According to Conant, breathable bags can provide short-term, safe storage but hanging a wedding gown long term will affect the shape of the gown. She says the acid-free environment in a professional wedding chest will protect your wedding gown from light and air and is the best way to store a wedding gown for many years.
7. Rules of Thumb for DIY Wedding Dress Preservation
If you want to preserve your wedding gown on your own the following guidelines will help you achieve success:
• Always wear white cotton gloves when handling your wedding dress.
• Before cleaning the entire dress, first test the fabric by spot-checking an inconspicuous area to ensure that the method used will not harm the fabric. Purchase a few soft-bristled toothbrushes to get the job done and gently brush away any stains and dust from the fabric.
• Delicate fabrics can be irreversibly damaged by harsh chemicals so choose the best quality, safe products recommended for home dry cleaning.
• Never bring bleach anywhere near your wedding gown.
• When the gown has been thoroughly cleaned, remove it from the hangar and wrap it in pre-washed, unbleached muslin, or in white, acid-free tissue paper. If using tissue paper, place layers between the sleeves and the body of the dress and between any folds in the dress fabric to avoid creasing. To help maintain the shape of the dress you can stuff the sleeves and bust with tissue paper.
• Place the wrapped gown in an acid-free container and store it in a place with a moderate temperature away from direct sunlight or harsh light. Under the bed is a suitable place to store your wedding gown box. Silica desiccant packets can be added to the box to help control humidity and moisture.
Alternatively, you can store your dress in a plastic, acid-free garment bag in a dark, cool, and dry closet. Avoid using a hanger made of wood or wire which can cause distortion due to the weight and rather use a well-padded hanger. Hanging is the best way to encourage air circulation and to prevent permanent creasing.
Never store your wedding gown in areas like a garage, cellar, or basement because of the extreme humidity and temperature generated in these areas. Check the condition of your dress every 2 to 3 years to ensure there are no problems. If it has been stored in a box, refold it occasionally to prevent permanent creasing.
8. Don’t Forget to Preserve Your Shoes and Bouquet
Both your bouquet and your shoes can be preserved alongside your wedding dress if you take certain precautionary steps. Clean fabric shoes by gently scrubbing with a soft sponge and mild detergent or take them to the dry cleaners. Leather shoes should be cleaned and polished. Wrap your shoes in tissue paper and place them in a shoebox.
Depending on the type of material, your wedding shoes can be placed inside the wedding dress preservation box but first check with your professional preservationist to find out if this is recommended.
Bridal bouquets can be preserved by pressing, hanging, and coating the flowers in wax. Epoxy resin can also be used to preserve the blooms of the bouquet.
9. Proceed to Store Your Wedding Gown Without any Preservation at Your Own Risk
If you choose not to use a preservation method to store your wedding gown, be aware that you will be risking the following:
- Yellowing of the fabric
- Brown spots from oxidation
- Permanent creasing of the fabric
- Mold and mildew growth
Kunal Madan is the founder and CEO of Trusted Wedding Gown Preservation. The number 1 trusted online avenue for wedding dress preservation, gown cleaning, and gown restoration. His company’s primary focus is to provide the highest standards of cleaning and care to every gown brought to them.