Caring for your gown between now and The Day

This week, I’ve had bride after bride popping in, asking about ways to store their gown until the wedding – how to keep it clean and out of sight until it debuts. As much as I’d love to sell everyone a whiz-bang gadget at 60% markup, my advice is actually: Just hang it, wrapped loosely in a clean old cotton sheet, right at the back of your everyday wardrobe.

Hang It: If possible, hang your gown up by the ribbon loops inside the gown. These loops connect  to the strongest part of the garment, [usually the side seams] taking the pressure off the delicate seams at the shoulder, which may stretch out of shape if left with the whole weight of the gown on them.

Wrap It: Dry Cleaners do it, gown shops do it, but really, storing your gown in any kind of plastic bag is a Bad Idea. You’ll hear people say that plastic doesn’t breathe, what that means is that any moisture in the fabric will stay there, causing a musty smell, and perhaps even allowing mildew staining. Not only that, but many types of plastic can leach chemical residues which can cause discolouration of the fabrics. An old, [really old] well washed cotton sheet shouldn’t leach any colours or chemicals, will keep surface dust and grime away, and keep your gown hidden from prying eyes.

For longer term storage, you’re better not to hang it at all – fold it gently, wrap loosely in that old cotton sheet, and store it inside an acid free box with plenty of room for the gown to just sit loosely. As long as it’s not squashed in or under pressure, you shouldn’t get too many creases, and allowing it to hang again will see most of those drop out again.

Just a quick aside about acid free storage. Paper and card contain a naturally occurring acid, Lignin, which comes from wood pulp. This, and other acids added in the paper making process, can leach out and discolour your fabric.

Luckily, it’s easy to tell if a box is acid free – basically, if any parts of the box are brown, it is not acid-free. Generally, all parts of the box wrapping tissue should be white, including the corrugates between the inner and outer walls of the cardboard. If the corrugates are brown, they contain acids which can still migrate through the white and into fabric.

In Your Ordinary Wardrobe: It may seem sensible to tuck your gown away in a wardrobe in a spare room, but they are often colder and can be damper than one in a room in regular use. Being in your everyday wardrobe also means that if it slips off the hanger, or a leak in the roof develops, or something – you’re much more likely to notice quickly and set it right.

If the worst happens, and for some reason your gown needs cleaning before you wear it, seek professional advice before doing ANYthing! Something that will clean off one type of dirt or mark may set another type – so it’s really important to have as much information about what caused the problem, and get good advice about what to try first.

For spills and staining on the day – Know the fabric of your wedding gown.If possible, go back to the person who made/sold you your gown for advice. Different fabrics need different treatment, too – silk, for example, should never be wetted. Some cleaning solutions will dissolve some polyesters, and so on. When you spill something on artificial fibre, it tends to stay on the surface of the fabric, so it is much easier to get rid of the stain than if you spill something on a natural fibre such as silk, which are hollow, and tend to absorb the spill. In either case, unless the mess is major and makes you uncomfortable, better leave it alone until you can get professional treatment for your bridal gown.

If you must do something and the stain is coffee, wine, mud, blood, tea or some other water-soluble stain, dab the spot gently with cool water and air dry. But remember, silks and rayons are water-sensitive, and you may create permanent water spots.

Try camouflaging [dry] marks on your gown with something white and relatively harmless such as baking soda, cornstarch, or baby powder [NOT twink or white nail polish]—especially if the stain is not water-soluble. Grease, lipstick, and other cosmetics can only cleaned with solvents which can also dissolve any dye that may have been used to color your wedding gown. Again, you are better to leave the spot alone until you can get professional treatment for it, and remember that your wedding is about much more than just your dress – your friends, family, and new husband will be looking at you – not checking for spots or tears on your bridal gown!

Getting It Ready To Wear: Several days before the wedding, look over your wedding gown and wedding accessories and make sure everything is ready to wear. Hang your veil near the shower to smooth any wrinkles. If you are staying away from home, and will be dressing there, double-check that you have everything you may need before you leave the house. Allow plenty of time to get dressed in your wedding gown, and if possible, have someone to help you get it exactly right.

After Care: It’s worth planning ahead for what will happen with your gown after the wedding.  In the longer term, you might plan to pass the dress on to another generation, or simply keep it because of the memories and emotions attachment to it. If so, it’s essential that you take steps to preserve your gown properly, or it may become discolored and, over time, the fabric can even begin to disintegrate. Even if all you plan to do is to pass it on or sell it, you’ll still want to make sure it’s in good condition, and the sooner you have it cleaned, the easier it is to remove all the cake and lipstick and floor dirt you may have picked up the day of the wedding. Perspiration, unnoticed food spills, grass stains, etc, will only get worse with time. The sooner you start, the less damage there is likely to be.

BUT are you really ready to give up your gown? You might want to enjoy it some more and just look at it hanging over the wardrobe door or laying on the bed in your spare room, or even wear it for a second photo shoot – and just remember how much fun it was to wear it on your wedding day. Unless your gown is silk and/or and splattered with red wine or covered with mud, it’s okay to delay the trip to the cleaners for a couple of weeks.

The first step in either storing or selling your gown is in cleaning it. There’s a difference in the level of cleaning required for sale than for preservation. Wedding gown preservation cleaning is something that you should absolutely do if you plan to keep the dress. If you are going to sell it, then a simple cleaning is sufficient. Be realistic – if you know of serious stains – spilt wine or large grass stains – there’s little that will be able to done to remove them. You may need to reconsider your plans, and adjust the cleaning regime accordingly.

As wonderful as that gown is, the most precious part of it is the hopes and dreams, the tears and memories it’s gathered along the way. So, remember to take as much care over preserving them, as the gown itself.

Enjoy your day!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sunken Treasure
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 20:24:00

    An all ’round incredibly written piece!!!


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