Cleaning and preserving your wedding dress is something that you should tend to soon after your wedding is over – ideally even before you jet off on your honeymoon. This will help prevent any stains from setting in and becoming permanent. Even stains that you can’t see, like perspiration, can immediately start to damage the delicate fabric of a wedding dress.
The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists is the network of specialty cleaners that you should turn to when it is time to clean and preserve your wedding dress. AWGS cleaners are represented in over 500 cities (and offer a Courier Service if there is not a member near you). Each member is certified to ensure your gown is cleaned to established museum care standards and preserved in archival-quality materials. Over 70 manufacturers and designers (such as Priscilla of Boston, Romona Keveza, Augusta Jones, Matthew Christopher, and the list goes on) recommend the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists and sew AWGS care labels inside of their gowns.
The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists offers a written lifetime guarantee of their cleaning, and will even press your gown free of charge the next time it will be worn.
Sally Lorensen Conant, PhD, is the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, and has offered this information on proper wedding dress cleaning:
Professionally cleaning and preserving your dress after your wedding will prevent your gown from yellowing from exposure to light and air. Further, any stains, especially if they were caused by red wine or mud, will bond with the fibers of your gown and should be removed as soon as possible.
So what is preservation anyway? Believe it not, cleaning is the most important part of the process. All stains must be removed—not just the ones you can see but also latent stains from alcohol and other sugar-based stains that do not dissolve during ordinary drycleaning. (Latent sugar-based stains will caramelize and turn brown over time if they are not completely removed). So be sure and ask your cleaner how they guard against latent stains.
Packaging is also an important part of the process. When the gown is packed, the folds of the gown should be buffered with tissue that is completely acid-free (not just pH neutral) and the container should also be completely acid-free. If the storage materials are not archival quality, they can discolor or damage the fabric of your gown.
Some preservationists use muslin when they package the gown, but muslin is not strictly necessary, and paper—as long as it is completely acid-free—is just as effective. Also, some preservationists close the container with tape and others leave it open. Either is acceptable, but shrink-wrapping in plastic is not. Plastic traps moisture, and experience has shown that it is next to impossible to press the folds from a gown that has been shrink-wrapped.
Next, never store your gown where there are extreme changes in heat or humidity. It is tempting to put it in the attic where it is out of the way, but the summer heat will damage the fibers in your gown. And it is a law that if a pipe breaks in the basement, the water will find your gown!
Finally, be sure you ask about the preservation guarantee. Does the service guarantee the gown will not be stained or discolored when the gown is to be worn again? Does the guarantee depend upon an unbroken seal? Today or twenty-five years from today, who will honor the guarantee?
Be sure you are comfortable with the answers to all of your questions about cleaning and preservation. After all, your wedding gown was the perfect wedding dress for you, and you want to give your beautiful gown the care that will keep it perfect.