[How-To] Preserving Your Wedding Dress

Saved money with a used wedding dress

A wedding gown can easily become a tangible piece of a family’s history. An instant heirloom or memory that the couple wants to hold on to, because of the delicacy of the fabric it’s imperative to know what to do after the celebration comes to a close.

Preserving your wedding gown is a must for anyone wanting to keep their dress long-term. These designs usually need a professional cleaning to becoming sparkling new again, and once that’s been done, there are some storage options to consider and decide on.

Why Preserve Your Wedding Gown?

Some brides are not convinced that gown preservation is needed and decide on just a beautiful garment bag or box. Unfortunately, even the most expensive garment bag or box will not give these special designs the protection they need and deserve. By preserving, your dress becomes safe from irreversible damage. And if the damage occurs, how will you be able to pass on your dress to one of your children? Or even one of your grandchildren? Mold and mildew, moisture damage, even the cringe-worthy possibility of pests getting ahold of your dress and ruining it can happen when boxed up in a dusty closet, attic, or basement.

Here’s what you are fighting against when you decide to go with the process of preserving:

  • Water or moisture damage
  • Yellowing
  • Creases
  • Rips and tears
  • Stretched or out-of-shape fabric
  • Mold
  • Pests
  • Minimized value

Boxed vs. Hanging

There are a few different options to consider when deciding on how you want to preserve your wedding gown including:

Boxed: More than likely, when obtaining your own box or having a professional company serve your needs, your gown will be placed in one that is acid-free. Some boxes will have a window so you can see your bodice and accessories.

The boxes will also vary slightly as well. Some will be regular boxes with an acid-free coating, others will be acid-free and lignin-free cardboard themselves. Other boxes will only be acid-free and because it’s not lignin-free will eventually breakdown over the years. Make sure to ask the professionals what type of box they use. It’s important to incorporate both acid and lignin-free components to keep the integrity of your dress intact throughout the decades.

Hanging: Some brides may be more interested in getting their wedidng dress preserved and hung (similar to how we see dresses in museums). Not only is the design protected from the light, from dust, and from folds, but it can be put on display in a way that keeps the memory of your gown alive and well. Preserved in a large shadow box or hung in a storage bag, either one of these options work well.

The bag will provide better air circulation and help to keep the gown safe from mold or mildew damage. But it’s still very important to keep your bagged gown in a climate controlled space – not an attic, basement, or storage unit.

Dry Cleaning vs. Preservation

It’s important to note that dry cleaning a gown is not the same as preserving it. When it comes to the actual process of preservation, with a professional, a specialist will examine your gown, taking into consideration the fabric, the designer, the accents, stitching, stains, and even the hemline. With this examination they’re able to procure a specified treatment plan on how to, first, clean the gown and then how to preserve it for long-term success.

A simple dry-cleaning experience will not do this. Every wedding dress needs a different plan of attack depending on how the dress is made, its style, and the materials used to create the design.

Self Storing vs. Professional Services

We will always recommend hiring a professional service to clean and care for your wedding gown. Knowing how to work with certain fabrics as well as the chemicals and solvents that come with the process is key to not creating any defects or damage to the design.

When finding a professional service, do your research and ask the right questions before you decide to go with their company including: Are you certified? Do you have insurance?

What’s great about a professional company is that they will both clean and preserve the gown for one price. When you leave your gown, they’ll take inventory of its every nook and cranny. They’ll decide on how to remedy any stains and do any repairs before they begin to clean and then, eventually, preserve the gown before sending it back to you.

If you’re really keen on trying to preserve yourself though. We do have some tips and guidelines to follow:

  • Firstly, double check to make sure all parts and pieces of the gown are completely dry.
  • Accessories with metal accents or faux jewels should be stored separately as to not cause any damage from possible tarnishing.
  • Use a box that’s been labeled for archival store or those that are known to be made of acid-free paper or cardboard, as well as archival tissue paper that’s known to be both acid and lignin-free.
  • Make sure your hands are clean without soap residue, cream, or any makeup before you begin to store the dress – wearing gloves may be your best option.
  • You’ll use the tissue paper to stuff your dress. The bodice and sleeves should be given shape.
  • Line the inside of the box with tissue paper before laying the dress down.
  • Any folds or creases made need to be layered with the tissue paper.
  • Gloves and the veil are the only accessories recommended to remain in the box with the dress. Others should be stored elsewhere.
  • Store the gown in a climate-controlled, dark space away from animals, sunlight, or extreme temperatures.  b

Extra Considerations

  • Listen to the label. Check your gown’s label for any special instructions because they might tell you exactly what needs to be done in terms of cleaning before preserving (including the solvent needed).
  • Decide on any accessories you’d like to keep preserved as well. Whether you’re hiring a specialist or deciding to try the process yourself, a lot of brides like to have their sash, gloves, and even their garter go with the gown.
  • There are some kits you can purchase online as well. You won’t have to do your own research on how to DIY your own preservation technique. Instead, you can have one of these kits sent to your home, pack up your gown, and ship it to the specialists and have it done for you – hassle-free and affordably. Sites like Amazon have great options that are well-rated.