Your wedding gown is one of your most prized possessions. A symbol of one of life's most important rites of passages, it should be treated with the special care it deserves.
Picking the Right Wedding Gown
Wedding planners agree - if you're buying a new wedding gown, begin shopping at least six months before the big day. That may seem long, but it's just enough time to allow you to find the perfect style, fabric, and accessories, or get them specially ordered from a designer and tailor. Some of the most popular fabrics used for bridal gowns include satin, taffeta, chiffon, organza, brocade, and lace.
Because of the delicate nature of the garment, it is imperative that the proper care instructions are known at the time of purchase. Make sure you understand the recommended cleaning instructions by referring to the care label and ask the salesperson whether both the dress and trim are dry cleanable and obtain the information in writing for future reference.
A Note About Trim
Many wedding gowns feature dainty trims and accents of beads, seed pearls, sequins, embroidery, lace, and applique. These may be problematic to dry clean. For example, while higher quality gowns have trim that is sewn on, for some it may be attached by adhesive. This adhesive sometimes endure the dry cleaning process. Cleaning solvents may also dissolve beads, pearls and glitter as some are made of plastics or covered with surface coatings that are not solvent resistant. As a result, the trim becomes separated from the dress or altered in some way. Colouring of accents can change as well, such as the yellowing which occurs when finishes oxidize or the fading of ivory or ecru dyes. Please note that colour failures of this nature are not due to improper cleaning methods. Rather, they are attributed to the poor colourfastness of the dye. Therefore, to preserve your wedding gown, ensure that the entire garment including the trim is dry cleanable.
For heirloom gowns, allow ample time for professional cleaning and alterations, if necessary. Many fabrics tend to yellow naturally with age, therefore it is imperative that you check the gown carefully for any discolouration. Fortunately, yellowing may be removed by wet cleaning. However, it is best to seek a professional cleaner who has the knowledge and experience dealing with antique fabrics and delicate trims.
After the Wedding - Professionally Cleaning Your Gown
Many wedding gowns are preserved as keepsakes. To protect their longevity, the dress should be professionally cleaned before placing in storage. Doing so will ensure that all stains are removed, preventing their permanence. While visible stains such as those from food and wine are easy to detect, invisible stains may also exist, such as those from body oil and champagne.
You can help maintain and preserve the beauty of your keepsake by choosing a professional cleaner who has the training and experience in dealing with these special garments and letting them know the proper care instructions. You can also point out any visible stains so that they may concentrate on those areas. Remember to examine the trim with your cleaner prior to cleaning since many trims are not made to withstand the dry cleaning process.
The care label attached to any wedding gown covers all component parts of the gown, including all decorative trim. If your gown fails to withstand the care procedure as specified on the label, it should be returned to the retailer for an adjustment.
Storing Your Wedding Gown
There is no guarantee when storing your wedding gown that yellowing or deterioration can be prevented, no matter what the storage method. However, there are things that you can do to help minimize the damage that may occur, such as packing your gown in a specially designed box provided by your professional dry cleaner and storing it in a cool, dry place. Avoid keeping it in typical storage locations such as the basement or attic, as dampness in the basement could cause mildew, while heat in the attic may promote yellowing and discolouration. Stuff the bodice of the gown with white tissue paper to maintain it's shape and eliminate wrinkling, wrap in muslin covering or a protective white sheet and remove fabric-covered buttons, pins, sponge padding and perspiration shields to prevent damage. You should also store headpieces, shoes and other accessories separately. Long and heavy gowns stored on hangers can warp, therefore extra support from straps sewn to the dress's waistline should be provided to relieve pressure on the shoulders from the weight of the skirt.
And remember: just because your wedding gown is in storage, it should not be left to be ignored, slowly collecting dust. Occasionally, inspect your gown to ensure your storage method is appropriate. You may notice discolouration or even stains that you hadn't noticed before - problems that should be tended to immediately.