A wedding dress is probably the most sentimental purchase a woman will make in her life – if not one of them. These dresses are considered heirlooms regardless of the financial investment. and if you are contemplating passing it on someday for a future generation to wear as it is or use elements of it, it should be kept as a keepsake.

Imagine a future daughter, daughter-in-law or family member who one day wants to wear your wedding dress, sew a piece of it yourself, or design a christening gown out of vintage lace or silk. If delicate fabrics wear and are improperly stored, there is a risk that the ivory or blushing dress will yellow. and exposes fabrics, embroidery and the details of your dress to the elements.

To give us a glimpse into the process of preserving your wedding dress for decades to come, we pointed out how to care for your dress now and after your wedding to two of the most renowned cleaning and preservation professionals in the industry. Everything you need to know about storing your wedding dress can be found here – straight from the professionals.

What is the difference between normal dry cleaning and clothes preservation?

Dry cleaning and preservation are two completely separate processes. If you’re wondering why you can’t just get your wedding dress professionally cleaned after the wedding and you expect it to last years later, it’s simply because you are missing out on a whole step. “Dry cleaning is the treatment of soiled areas with chemicals,” explains Karen Jean-Aimee, Bridal Specialist at Madame Paulette [the] The dress is clean, we wrap the dress in acid-free tissue paper and put it in an acid-free filing chamber. “Storing your dress is the proper and appropriate way of caring for your dress after the wedding, provided it is placed in an airtight, waterproof location for long-term storage of the dress, once cleaned.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s 67-year-old Dior wedding dress, worn by her grandmother in 1953.

KT Merry

When should you store your wedding dress? How long is too long to wait

The longer you wait, the more likely sunlight and oxidation can cause damage. “Stains and floors react with textile fibers and over time cause the yarns to oxidize, changing the chemistry of the textile and potentially making it much more difficult to safely reverse the damage,” says Jonathan Scheer, founder and CEO of J. Scheer & Co. “Keeping the dress in a cool, dark, dry storage environment after the wedding and before cleaning it will slow the oxidation process and give you more time to wait before cleaning,” he advises. “I would prefer to see the dress as soon as possible after the wedding and advise customers not to wait more than three to six months.”

It is important to note that not all stains are immediately visible. The fabrics that make up wedding dresses are easy to attract contaminants and it is best to plan for your preservation sooner rather than later. Remember, sugar alcohols (wine) and chloride salts will aggressively break down fabrics, and even if you think you cleaned them yourself, the stains will settle and cause permanent damage.

Do certain fabrics and decorations get better than others?

Yes – and each production has its own advantages and disadvantages. Wedding dresses are most commonly made from silk, synthetics, and fleece embellishments like pearls. Certain types of pearls and rhinestones can be especially problematic in preservation if they have metal settings. For example, bugle beads often have a silver foil insert that reflects light. It’s a beautiful element on the dress, but since silver foil is a composite metal and metals are inherently unstable, they can cause conservation problems. “Chemically, they oxidize relatively quickly and this oxidation leads to discoloration,” explains Scheer. “Each setting oxidizes at a different rate, and there is no way of predicting which one will do it faster.” If you want to pass on a beaded dress, keep in mind that with no metal settings, beads and embroidery will retain chemical and structural strength longer.

Left: A silk veil received versus not received; Right: silk decay in process

Courtesy Madame Paulette

Silk is an organic protein tissue made up primarily of fibroin. Like us, this natural fiber will deteriorate over time. Silk is particularly prone to staining and damage from heat and light. “Silk turns brown before it disintegrates – it’s also biodegradable,” says Jean-Aimee. “Have you ever had a favorite silk blouse and over time your armpits started to turn yellow? This is exactly what happens to silk. It will start to turn ivory, then cream, then tan, and shortly afterwards, brown – before the fibers begin to turn.” to decompose, “she says. Properly cleaning and storing your dress is the best way to protect natural fabrics and prevent color changes. If the silk is treated well, it can develop the most beautiful patina, even if the shade changes over time.

Polyester and synthetic fabrics always keep their color – or at least they should. Plastics are more stable; They are unnatural, and therefore their coloring and manufacture are more uniform, but if you’re considering dying something synthetic, don’t. Polyester doesn’t accept dyes at all. “These fabrics all dye at different speeds, which leads to distortions, and they also shrink at different speeds,” recalls Scheer.

What does the maintenance cost?

Depending on the amount of damage done to the dress on the wedding day, how it was stored until the preservation process began, and the complexity of the dress, determine the cost of preserving an item of clothing. “Our most expensive jobs are typically in the $ 2,000 to $ 2,500 range,” says Scheer. “This price is generally for fully embellished custom prom dresses with very full, layered skirts and detachable trains,” he adds. When choosing a company for this important assignment, do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Inquire about training and qualifications; guarantee their work; are they recommended by couture designers? “It can’t hurt to ask your salon for a reference,” recommends Scheer.

The Queen at the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia in 1962

Getty Images

Princess Beatrice wedding

Benjamin Wheeler

How should I store a preserved wedding dress?

Your dress will be delivered preserved in an approved storage box. Please note, however, that even (so-called) “acid-free” cardboard boxes can acidify again over time. Cardboard absorbs moisture, which encourages mold and mildew to grow in a storage chamber, so not every box will do. “We use proprietary boxes made from the same material that the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City uses to store their collections of period costumes. We store dresses in a fully archived fluted polypropylene textile storage box. As a chemically inert polymer and non-absorbent, it offers more comprehensive moisture protection and withstands temperature and humidity fluctuations, “says Scheer.

After the preservation packaging process is complete and your protected garment has been returned to you, keep the box flat and upright. Store your box in a cool, dark and dry environment with a relative humidity of 50% at all times or where the climate is regulated for normal living conditions. Avoid direct sunlight or heat. “Don’t store a dress in an environment that varies in temperature from season to season, such as an attic or basement,” says Jean-Aimee. “The change in the atmosphere from warm to cold could lead to condensation and affect the conservation process,” she adds.

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To check in the dress from time to time, the experts recommend opening the box and inspecting the dress regularly in the rare event that sudden stains, exposure to elements, and more sit too long without treatment. As you remove the dress from the box, keep in mind that your skin contains oils and salts that can damage delicate fabrics. Clean your hands and ideally use white gloves. Remove the top of the box and carefully unfold the dress, noting how it was packed.

If stored correctly, your wardrobe will never be completely sealed. Sealing traps moisture in the box and encourages the growth of mold and mildew, which contaminates and weakens the fibers of the dress. And when you open a sealed box, the airflow quickly re-oxygenates the chamber, causing fiber deterioration.

      Where should a wedding dress be stored before it is worn?

      Keeping the dress in its pristine condition is always an after-sales goal – and pandemic times have created additional concerns as many brides have kept their dresses for postponed weddings instead of keeping them in their point of sale waiting for changes.

      While procuring the dress and between changing sessions, one should never let a dress, especially one that is heavy with a full skirt or embellishments, hang for a long time. If you hang the dress for a long time without distributing the weight of the skirt, the neckline and length of the dress will be pulled and distorted. Avoiding direct sunlight and exposure to elements that may cause staining or discoloration should be a high priority when storing the dress.

      Given the fact that many brides have to hold on to their dress for much longer than planned before their new wedding date, J. Scheer & Co. shared a helpful video showing the best way to store a wedding dress safely at home. All that is needed is a clean white sheet, clean towels, and a ribbon or string.

      Contributing writer for weddings
      Heather Hall is a weddings, fashion, and lifestyle writer and editor.

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