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how to preserve wedding dress

Wedding Keepsakes: How to Preserve Your Gown

Keep your gown around with this handy guide to dress preservation 101.

Photo: Ben Lau Photography

A gown that gorgeous deserves safe-keeping. Here's how to make sure your gown's greatness will live on:

What It Is

Preservation provides a means of maintaining the quality and appearance of a gown through customized cleaning and appropriate storage. Methods range from savvy self-storage (in a temperate, dry, dark location) to museum-quality preservation.

tip

Beware of any vendors that tell you their warranty is void if you open the box in which your gown is stored.

How It Works

Professional preservationists analyze the fabrics, dyes, weaves, and ornaments of your gown, as well as the composition of stains in order to formulate a customized cleaning plan. In removing invisible soils and other stains from the gown, they remove the potential fabric damage that results when these substances embed in the fabric and undergo chemical reactions. After cleaning, the gown is carefully wrapped in stable archival materials and packaged in an archival Coroplast box (the storage box of choice for most major museums) and should be protected from extreme temperatures, moisture, and exposure to direct sunlight.

Cost

The price of cleaning and preservation will vary with the complexity of a gown's beadwork, train length, and stain damage. A local high-end dry cleaner will charge as much as $100 for standard dry cleaning. Specialized gown preservationists will normally charge between $250 and $500.

Why Do It

Preservation is a fab idea for any bride who spent big for her couture-quality gown, and is recommended if the gown will not be used for more than three years. If a dress is not going to be worn ever again, it may seem silly to save it, but consider the amount of time, love, and money that you invested in choosing a gown for your wedding. Preservation can maintain the integrity of this important piece of memorabilia. Also, while you might not agree with your family's fashion sense, you can give them the chance to benefit from your good taste by keeping your gown in beautiful condition so that a future bride -- a sister, daughter, or niece -- can wear it at her wedding.

Tips

Before committing, question several establishments regarding their pricing, procedure, and warranties. Your gown should be preserved as soon as possible after the wedding; however, it is generally safe to wait as long as six months after the ceremony. Until you do send your gown off for preservation, be sure to store it in a dark and dry place, rolled or folded in a clean white sheet.

Shelf Life

Beware of any vendors that tell you their warranty is void if you open the box in which your gown is stored. With professional gown preservation, you can freely remove the gown from the archival box without fear of damaging it in any way -- just wear gloves so the oil from your hands doesn't get on the fabric, and repack it carefully when you're done. Many preservationists claim the gowns will keep for 50-70 years, and some companies even offer a warranty.

-- Julie Komorn

See More: Wedding Planning Basics