After countless hours spent searching for your dream wedding gown (not to mention the dollars spent), you're not going to say goodbye to it as it lays crumpled on the floor of the honeymoon suite, right? Take a moment to remember why you chose this dress in the first place: the daring neckline, the fur-trimmed cuffs, the perfectly plump bustle -- all reasons to save it for posterity (and maybe even so your daughter can enjoy it when she struts down the aisle.)
What Is Gown Preservation?
The special cleaning and packaging techniques called gown preservation ensure your gown maintains its beauty. A professional preservationist will survey your gown: the materials used, ornamentation, and various stains, then formulate a specialized cleaning procedure. After cleaning, your gown is wrapped and placed in a box. Preservationists recommend having your gown cleaned as soon as possible after your wedding because if you wait too long, some stains can set permanently. Keep in mind that if you wait a while, certain materials, such as silk, will be harder to treat -- as will particular stains such as red wine and mud.
Finding a Preservationist
A few weeks before your wedding, you'll need to investigate where to take your gown for cleaning. Ask family members, friends, bridal shops, or your wedding consultant for preservationist referrals, or check out theknot.com/local to find a specialist in your area. Though many dry cleaners claim to clean wedding gowns, most are not specialists. Unless the dry cleaner you are thinking about using processes more than 100 wedding gowns a year, consider going instead to a professional gown preservationist with a noted track record.
Keep in mind that if you wait a while to have your gown preserved, certain materials, such as silk, will be harder to treat -- as will particular stains such as red wine and mud.
Some gown specialists use the wetcleaning method, which consists of gently washing the gown by hand with gentle cleansers that remove noticeable stains and unseen stains, such as champagne and sugar, as well. If left untreated, unseen stains can oxidize and turn yellow over time. Other companies use a more traditional dry-cleaning method, which involves pre-treating the stains and then placing the garment in a dry-cleaning machine. Solvents such as perchloroethylene (perc for short) or petroleum-based cleansers are used as stain removers. Petroleum-based solvents aren't as aggressive as perc, and they're also not as powerful in stain removal, but, due to its high oil content, petroleum nourishes certain fabrics and can give them a lovely sheen.
Wrapping It Up
The correct packaging materials are utterly imperative for guaranteeing the life of your gown. Most gown preservationists highly discourage packing your dress in plastic, because it can cause permanent wrinkles and trap moisture which promotes mildew. Most preservationists agree that white acid-free tissue paper or unbleached muslin are the ideal packaging materials. Ordinary tissue paper contains acid which can literally scorch your gown. Don't use colored tissue paper either. If the box accidentally becomes wet, it could stain your gown.
Packaging for Posterity
To protect your gown, many professionals recommend it be placed in an acid-free or pH-neutral box, such as sturdy paperboard boxes which allow the gown to breathe and adjust with changing temperatures. Some boxes feature a viewing window: a clear panel designed so you can see your gown without opening the box. If your box features a window, look for acetate rather than plastic, and keep the box out of direct light, which can yellow the fabric over time. Some companies utilize boxes with Coroplast, a specially designed plastic known for its durability.
Sealed With a...?
While some companies choose to seal the box to keep out insects and vermin, others say sealing is unnecessary, if the gown is packaged correctly. If you do open the box, remember to use discretion when handling the dress. Don't bother with white gloves. Just make sure you have clean hands, to prevent body oils from invisibly transferring to the gown and causing yellowing over time. Many brides want to include items such as shoes and jewelry in the box, along with the gown. Some preservationists believe these objects may emit damaging fumes and ruin the gown, but others find these can be added if they are cleaned and wrapped separately; for instance, invitations and programs can be placed in acid-free envelopes. Talk to your preservationist who will have an opinion based on the types of materials you'll want to include.