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Can I steam my own wedding dress?

It’s true: There is an art to travelling with your wedding dress. One wrong move and you could end up with a lost or damaged dress. Whether you’re travelling near or far, it’s common for a wedding dress to get a little wrinkled. While wrinkles might seem like the least of your problems, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, many fabrics have been flawed from the incorrect wrinkle-removal method. Since it’s your big day, you don’t want a wrinkled wedding dress to get in your way, but you also don’t want to make the problem worse by not doing your research first.

Professional steaming will produce the best results; usually, the bridal salon where you purchased your gown or the place that did your alterations will provide this service. But if you’ve travelled, this likely isn’t a viable option. Relax: To get it in tip-top shape, you have a couple of options to choose from. Here, we rounded up our top four tips for ironing or steaming your wedding dress.

Damage Control

As soon as you get your dress (or when your dress gets to you), be sure to put it on a padded hanger right away. You may find that many of the folds will come right out, but chances are the gown will probably need to be steamed a little. Even if the dress has been hanging in the same spot in your closet for weeks, you should still give it one last steaming before the ceremony so it will look fresh.

Minor Wrinkles

For minor wrinkles, Karen Jean-Aimée, director of client relations at Madame Paulette, swears by the old “hang on the bathroom door during a steamy shower” trick. Think of it as creating your own steam room. Cover a bathroom floor with towels and run a very hot shower, allowing the room to fill with steam. (Just don’t close the door, or the dress may get overly damp.) Next, wrap your arm in a dry, white towel and run it down the length of the gown, smoothing out any wrinkles. This method is much less likely to leave water spots or iron impressions than a home steamer or iron.

Prepare Properly

Fill the steamer with clean water and snap the lid shut. Make sure it’s firmly closed. No water should seep from the machine. Before using the steamer, ensure the hose attachments are entirely secure.

Now, hang the dress either on a door or from the ceiling (somewhere you can efficiently get to work), and turn the steamer on. Not only will this prevent a nasty backache, but it’ll make it easier for you to steam every inch of your gown.

Most steamers will have an indicator light to tell you when it’s ready to use. When it’s time, you should hold the hose approximately 10 inches away from the dress.

Allow Your Steamer at Least 30 Seconds to Warm Up

When you first turn on your steamer, it’s cold, so there’s a good chance there’ll be a few drops of water on the nozzle. Our best advice is to give it at least 30 seconds to warm up and reach its optimum temperature.

Before you point it anywhere near your dress, flick the nozzle toward the ground a few times. This will get rid of any rogue droplets of condensation. The last thing you want is for these drops to dribble onto your dress. This could stain the pristine fabric!

Steam Through a Clean Sheet

Never apply steam directly to your gown. Even if you keep the nozzle a good ten inches away from your dress, still run the risk of water accidentally splattering onto your outfit. Therefore, we suggest steaming your dress through a clean white sheet. You’ll still be able to eradicate the creases without risking any damage.

Start at the top of your dress and gradually make your way down to the bottom. Repeat this motion (front and back of the dress) until you’re happy with the result.

Always Keep the Nozzle Horizontal

Once the steamers warmed up and you’ve made sure the nozzles clean, you’re ready to get to work. Chances are the hose on your steamer looks like a funnel.

So, while you’re using it, condensation will naturally form around the edges. You must hold the nozzle horizontally. This will allow any droplets to roll back into the hose, rather than dripping on your dress.

Do NOT turn the nozzle to its side. This encourages condensation to form within the hose and drops of water are more likely to seep out of the bottom of the steam hole, and onto your bridal gown- which is the last thing you want to happen!

Hang Your Dress Properly

Sometimes, you won’t even need to steam your dress if you hang it up properly while you transport it (however, we understand that sometimes that’s not possible).

We suggest using a padded hanger; this often helps keep the creases at bay. Be sure to consult with your tailor and get their advice on how best to store and transport your gown.

Check your fabric—do you really need a steamer? 

Shantung, dupioni, and taffeta can actually look more wrinkly after steaming, so check the fabric of your gown and ask your tailor if you have any questions. These types of materials aren’t very prominent in today’s styles, but they can be very striking when done well. For gowns made with these fabrics, it is best to use a dry iron (usually medium to low heat) and a CLEAN white press cloth—ideally a thin weave, like a new dish towel. Remember—these fabrics will wrinkle pretty easily throughout the day, so embrace their organic nature!

Too much fuss? Get the bathroom steamy 

Some gowns really won’t need much to help the wrinkles fall out. Especially if you’re travelling or using a non-traditional location to get ready, transporting a steamer might seem like a hassle. If you have a relatively simple dress in polyester or heavy lace, with a minimal skirt and train that hasn’t been squished into a bag, don’t stress about getting a steamer. Hang the dress on the bathroom door or a high hook in the bathroom before you shower, probably the night before the wedding, when you can leave the dress out of its bag safely overnight. Crank the heat in the shower, take your time, and get the room full of steam—this is really all some gowns need! 

Designate a responsible steamer 

If you have room in the budget, the best way to ensure your gown is perfectly cared for is to hire a professional steamer. However, if that seems like an unnecessary expense, or not possible at your location, ask someone you trust who will be getting ready with you the wedding morning. It’s a great job for an eager bridesmaid or future mother-in-law who wants to be helpful in the morning of the big day! Asking your loved ones to help you prepare really can make them feel included, but it’s a great idea to designate someone before the actual wedding morning who feels comfortable steaming the gown and can read up on some tricks, or even practice using a steamer! 

Ask your tailor for any suggestions for maintaining your gown’s shape

The way you hang the dress on the hanger to be steamed is important and may be different than the recommended way to store it. Some dresses will benefit from gently holding a skirt hem taut, using a balled-up towel to help hold the shape of the bust area, or hanging the sleeves in a certain way. Every gown is different, but your tailor can give you some suggestions as they have lots of experience with a variety of shapes and fabrics!

Cover steamer head with fabric 

A clean white t-shirt you don’t care about, or a thin white towel should work just fine. This is to catch any drops of water that could leave marks on the dress, and to prevent any drops from burning your arm as you steam! Do remember that the steam itself can burn as well, so be sure to never put any body part in the direct path of the steam.

Steam from the inside and with distance 

This is another precaution against damaging the fabric. Most dresses you can steam from the outside if you’re using a covering to catch any drops, but it’s still safest to steam from the inside of the fabric. NEVER touch the steamer directly to the fabric—instead, hold it 3-6 inches away. It’s usually best to steam each layer of the skirt separately, but steaming several layers of tulle together usually works just fine.

Don’t forget the veil! 

Veils are often the most easily wrinkled part of the look, and can really detract from your crisp, smooth dress if not attended to! Veils can add a beautiful airbrushing effect when steamed. They’re usually very easy to steam, though they can take a while. Be careful of any rhinestones or decorations that might be glued so as not to melt the glue and slip out of place, or off entirely. And when using vintage veils, make sure to keep the steamer on a low setting, as many of the old polyesters are delicate and could possibly melt. It’s unlikely but better safe than sorry!

Depending on your style of dress and the kind of material you’ve opted for, you might not even need to steam it. If you can get away without doing anything to your gown, we thoroughly recommend doing that.

As the age-old saying goes; ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ By not steaming your dress, you automatically reduce the likelihood of accidentally damaging it. Plus, it’s one less thing you need to worry about on the lead up to your special day.

However, veils are way more likely to wrinkle, so you’ll probably need to fix that. Especially, if your dress is looking beautifully crisp, it’ll only make the creases in your veil stand out all the more.

Luckily for you, steaming a veil is even easier than steaming a dress and the results are worth the effort.

Get into the dress carefully

The trick is not to undo all that beautiful steaming that was just done! Always put your shoes on first, as it is much more difficult after the gown is on. If it’s possible to have someone stand on a chair, dropping the dress over your skirt first, while you protect your hair and makeup with your arms, that is ideal. Most makeup artists will come prepared with a face covering for this process as well. This method is not possible with some dresses, so if that is the case, while you are sitting down, enlist a helper to guide the dress up your legs, until there is a spot of floor you can stand on while your friend helps the gown be situated while bunching as little fabric as possible. Use your alterations appointments to note what works best, and ask your tailor for any specific suggestions.

Remember—this day is about so much more than your gown. No one will notice a few wrinkles when they see the way you look at your fiancé as you walk down that aisle! If your ceremony requires sitting or kneeling, you might add a few creases, but that’s all part of the beauty of the day. Let the photographer and maid of honour worry about adjusting the gown for you—it’s your day to enjoy every little moment!

Get Rid of Any Tough Creases

If you’re struggling with an unusually harsh crease, then use your hand to add a little tension to the fabric and steam over it. This is by far the most straightforward technique for tackling a particularly stubborn crease.

Top Tip: As tempting as it is to keep going over the same piece of fabric to get it perfect, don’t. All you’ll do is make it damp, which not only affects the appearance of the delicate fabric but it’ll make even more prone to creasing, hence diminishing all your hard work and effort!

Does Your Wedding Dress Have Layers?

If your underskirt has plenty of layers, it can be tricky to know where to begin. However, we recommend starting from the bottom layer and gradually working your way out.

Not only will this get rid of any wrinkles, but it’ll also accentuate the layers and help your dress hold its beautiful shape.

Alternatively, if your dress features gather or ruches, we suggest steaming them from the inside of the dress. This technique is less abrasive and will stop any unwanted creases forming in these tricky areas.

Stay Away from Any Detailing

If your gown boasts delicate detailing, then we suggest keeping steam away. By detailing, we mean embellishments like beads, sequins, diamontes, etc.

Just like ruches and gathers, it’s far safer to steam these areas from inside the dress. This ensures that the steam doesn’t weaken the stitches so that every inch of your beautiful dress stays intact before you walk down the aisle.

Is There a Chance I’ll Damage the Dress?

In short, yes, but realistically probably not. If you get good quality steamer, you should be fine. Steamers are different to irons in so much that they use a much lower temperature. Therefore, the chances of burning or melting any of the fabrics are way less in comparison to using a standard bog iron. However, we always suggest consulting with your dressmaker and the manufacturer of the steamer to make sure you’re treating your gown properly. Then, test a small patch of the dress in an area that won’t be seen, just to make doubly sure before you steam your entire outfit.

Can I Use My Steamer for Anything Else?

Brides can use steamers for all sorts of things. For example, you might want to utilize this piece of kit to do any of the following:

  • Shaping silk flowers
  • Removing bruises from satin shoes
  • Ironing out chair covers
  • Removing wrinkles from marquee linings

You get the idea. The bottom line is that steamers come in pretty handy when you’re planning a wedding!

Steam your gown only if your gown needs it and the fabric can handle it! When travelling long distances with your gown, it may need to be touched up. If you cannot have it professionally pressed when you arrive at your location, make sure you use a white, flat sheet as a pressing cloth between the clean soleplate of your iron and your gown. A low heat setting with no steam for chiffon, organza, crepe, georgette, and chantilly lace. Medium heat for satin, mikado, Alencon lace, and stretch fabrics. Higher heat may be used on cotton and linen, but must be done quickly & with the pressing cloth.

Make sure where you will be getting ready either has a quality steamer—most hotels will, especially in Chicago—or purchase your own. A friend may also have one you can borrow, but check that it’s in good condition—some steamers that haven’t been used in a long time and had some water sitting in them can spew some discoloured water that you won’t want anywhere near your pristine, white gown. It can truly be a worthwhile investment if you choose to purchase one—you’ll be amazed by how often you’ll use them once you have the option on your regular work clothes or cocktail dresses! Chances are your bridesmaids will need their dresses steamed as well, so let them know what time the steamer will be available so they can plan accordingly.

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