After paying all the bills for your big day, the last thing you want to do is to spend a small fortune preserving your wedding dress. But in order to keep your gown for years to come, whether just for yourself to look at or to pass down to a daughter, it needs to be properly protected.
Thankfully, you can do part of the process yourself to keep costs down. And if you’ve done a little planning before the wedding, your dress can be taken care of while you are away sitting on a beach with your new spouse. (This is a perfect task to give one of those family members who keeps asking how they can help!)
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Inspect It For Stains
Before you head out for your honeymoon, thoroughly inspect your dress for stains. This way, you’ll be familiar with the condition of your dress before handing it over to a professional and you can keep an eye on it for years to come. Sugars—from cake, drinks, your hubby’s hands—are the biggest concern since they can cause fabric to turn brown over the years. Mark stains with straight sewing pins.
Get It Cleaned
During the wedding planning process, be sure to add “Choose a Cleaner” to your to-do list. “If the cleaner does not do at least 75 gowns year, they are not very experienced,” says Sally Lorensen Conant, Ph.D., Executive Director, Association of Wedding Gown Specialists. You want experience. Find out whether they clean it in house or send it out, what their policies are if damage is done, and how they treat gowns.
“Ideally the specialist will treat the spots by hand,” Conant explains. Stains are either wet, such as coffee and wine, dry stains such as grease and makeup, or both such as gravy. “Then the gown needs to be immersed in solvent to rinse out the various products used to remove the stains. Many specialists use wet cleaning techniques, but ordinarily silk—especially silk satin–should never be wet-cleaned. Unless there are very special circumstances such as heavy soil or mud, silk should be dry cleaned so that the sheen of the silk fibers and the way the fibers are woven are not disturbed with water.” The more experienced the cleaner, the better they will be able to handle these variations. $250 is about the average, though the price can vary depending on where you live, the amount of stains, and the volume of the dress.
If you have a friend or two getting married around the same time as you, team up with them and get your dresses cleaned together. You may be able to work out a group discount, suggests Conant.
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Choose a Storage Box
Gown preservation companies insist on using acid-free storage boxes because they help maintain the integrity of fabric for years, but you don’t necessarily have to hire someone to pack the dress for you. You need the entire box to be acid-free, so try styles from Foster-Stephens, Hollinger or University Products. If the box you choose doesn’t come with acid-free tissue paper, pick some up or buy a few yards of pre-washed, unbleached plain muslin and plan to wrap it around your dress. Prices for boxes start at around $40 and increase based on the size you need.
Fold the Dress
Hanging a heavy dress can cause strain on the fabric, so experts recommend that you store a wedding dress folded for the longterm. Lay out a clean flat sheet and wash your hands thoroughly to remove any residual oils and dirt. Place your box on top, line it with acid-free white tissue paper or muslin, and fold the dress, adding tissue or muslin between each layer. Be gentle as you fold the gown and avoiding pressing down to reduce creases and compressing the fabric. Do not store your dress in plastic since it could cause the fabric to yellow.
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Store it Safely
You want to avoid temperature and humidity fluctuations as much as possible, as well as direct light, to keep the fabric looking great over the years. Experts recommend storing your dress in a closet or even under your bed, if you are short on space. Avoid the basement, attic, and garage since they often have unpredictable climates (and might be prone to floods or water damage).
You may also want to air the dress out every year both to keep the fabric healthy and to inspect it for any new stains or deterioration. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before you handle the dress to avoid getting any new residue onto the gown.
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