Aside from wondering how to dress your wedding party, you need to think in advance about how to properly clean, protect, and store your wedding dress after the big day. The first and most important task before storing a wedding dress is to clean it properly. Hence, the preparation for storage starts at the tailor or the wedding dress store. The ones who made the dress should be able to instruct you and advise you about the cleaning method clearly. Every gown must possess a care label with symbols you should carefully follow.
After the wedding, a gown becomes a remembrance of one of the most significant moments in the lives of most women. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that ladies like to keep their wedding dresses as a keepsake for future generations. The good news is, by following a few simple rules, storing a wedding dress is not complicated.
Tips on storing your wedding dress
Check the gown’s label for care instructions.
Some must be dry cleaned while others can be “wet-cleaned,” which means cleaned with water, a process that can be handled by a professional. Often polyester dresses can be hand-washed but test a small, hidden area to be sure. Labels may provide special instructions that specify the type of cleaning solvent that the dress requires. Check with your bridal shop for an experienced dry cleaner that carries the type of supplies and equipment your dress needs.
Remember to consult the cleaning experts.
You may be overwhelmed by deciding where to put your new wedding gifts, but don’t let that slow down your wedding dress preservation process. While you may choose to hold off for a bit, the experts recommend waiting no longer than six months to get your dress professionally cleaned (if it’s silk, you actually shouldn’t wait at all).
According to Kathy Wright from Heritage Garment Preservation, some stains are unseen but can develop over time. For example, spills from clear beverages (alcohol or soda) dry clear but will oxidize and turn brown, and body perspiration on your dress lining can also discolour the dress and turn brittle over time.
Even if there’s no visible dirt or stains on the dress, have it cleaned. Your body oils and sweat are trapped in the fabric. Storing a dress that hasn’t been cleaned first is a recipe for smells, yellowing, and mould or mildew down the line. Be sure to choose a cleaner who offers wedding dress preservation specifically — a regular dry clean won’t do. Also, check the label on your gown in case there are certain solvents or products it can’t be cleaned with.
It’s important to remember not to trust just anyone with cleaning your wedding gown. While your local cleaners may be great at getting the stains out of your jeans, they may not have the experience and resources to clean antique dresses, delicate fabric and embellishments. If you choose to bring your wedding dress to a professional cleaner, you can expect the following:
- Thorough-but-delicate hand-washed cleaning (some businesses even use organic-only solvents, with no harmful chemicals or bleaches)
- Treatment with special ingredients to remove visible stains
- Pressing or steaming as needed
Cleaning tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Different techniques will need to be used depending on the age, colour and fabric of the gown, as well as various beads, sequins and pearls. Ask if the cleaning is performed on-site, how they package the dress after cleaning and if they have a warranty.
We have compiled a list of the Top Wedding Dress Shops in Melbourne to help you select your perfect gown.
Consider professional wedding dress preservation.
Proper preservation can protect your dress from yellowing, permanent creasing, mildew and mould, oxidation spots, light and dust.
Since wedding gowns can be quite expensive, Kelsey McLellan from Prestige Preservation explains that most women choose to have them professionally preserved in order to protect that investment. Even if their daughters don’t plan on re-wearing the gown (if they don’t have any daughters of their own), certain pieces can be incorporated into memorabilia to be passed down to future generations.
Preservationists will usually remove stains, make necessary repairs (within reason), press or steam the dress, wrap in acid-free tissue and store it. Generally, there are three types of preservation methods:
- Sealing: Some companies choose to vacuum seal the wedding dress before storing it in an acid-free box. Many museum conservators discourage this method, since sealing promotes mould and mildew, gives the fabric permanent creases and eliminates your ability to inspect your gown regularly.
- Boxing: With this method, your dress is still folded and placed in an acid-free box, but acid-free tissue is used to protect it from permanent creases (this tissue should be white any coloured paper risks bleeding into the dress). Since the box is not sealed, the fabric can still breathe, and you can remove the dress periodically to inspect and refold it. Note: It’s best to use boxes made from the actual acid-free board, not boxes with an acid-free coating.
- Bagging: Similar to what museums have used for preserving heirloom costumes, this option leaves your dress hanging and unfolded. The gown is reinforced with twill tape to add support and eliminate long-term damage from hanging and then placed in a specialty cotton bag to be hung somewhere safe (with a padded hanger).
The cost of professional preservation can average anywhere from $150 to $500 — so if you do choose to work with a wedding dress preservation company, know the facts. Be sure to ask who is responsible for any damages if they occur during the preservation process and if they offer a warranty (some may only reimburse you for the cost of their services).
Be smart about where you store your wedding dress
Once you’ve carefully packaged your dress, be sure to store it somewhere safe from extreme temperatures, light and humidity.
Sally Conant, executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, recommends keeping your gown somewhere you would be physically comfortable. Aim for a cool, dark and dry environment with a relative humidity of 50 per cent. This rules out attics and basements. Attics are too hot–so hot that temperature could reach 140 degrees–and basements are damp and prone to flooding.
Many women chose to store their dresses under their bed or in a dry closet. If you don’t have any room to store your gown, we have a variety of self-storage unit climates and types that will keep it cool, dry and protected.
Check out our post on How to ship a wedding dress overseas?
Open the wedding dress bag with caution.
Whether you’re taking out your dress to examine its state (the experts recommend taking it out every two to three years to refold it), eliminating the chance of permanent creases) or simply reminiscing with your loved ones, always handle it with proper care. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Since your body produces natural oils, be sure always to wash your hands first.
- Make sure you’re not wearing any lotions or perfumes since these can also transfer onto your fabric — and always be careful of nail polish.
- Invest in a pair of clean, white cotton gloves (which some preservationists provide). These will keep your dress white and sparkly.
Since you may be sharing these moments with fellow friends and family, always encourage them to take the same steps (especially with young children).
What are the do’s and don’ts of storing your wedding dress?
- Make sure that your dress is cleaned before you store and protect it. This can be done right after your honeymoon or perhaps ask your maid of honour or a family member to send it to the dry cleaners the day after your wedding. It is important to choose a reputable company that specializes in wedding dress cleaning, given that their trained eyes can pick up marks and stains that can be difficult to detect on your own.
- Keep your wedding gown away from heat, any sort of dampness, and light. Store it in a dry room, especially one that does not have any history of insects or mould buildup.
- Check out the dry-cleaner and make sure the individual who will handle your dress has solid experience cleaning wedding gowns. Not all gowns require the same type of treatment. Some chemicals work great on silk but will damage sequins. Look for a cleaner that uses virgin solvent, rather than recycled. A gown cleaned in impure solvent will smell likes it has been dry cleaned, and it shouldn’t.
- Make sure that your gown is surrounded by acid-free tissue and stored in a PH-neutral surrounding, for instance, a sturdy box.
- Choose to have the gown boxed by a company that specializes in preserving wedding gowns. They will likely use an acid-free wedding box, preferably not simply one with an acid-free coating as it will not provide as much protection in the long run. They should pad the bodice and folds with acid-free tissue. Fabrics like rayon or polyester should use buffered tissue while natural material like silk should use unbuffered tissue. If you have the gown boxed, do not get it sealed. A dress that has been folded will need to be taken out and rearranged every year or so to prevent folds from creasing and permanently damaging the dress. An added benefit of storing your dress in an unsealed container is that you may take it out, try it on and enjoy it occasionally.
- Avoid choosing a wedding dress box that is made of plastic. The box should allow the dress to breathe and protect it from dust and dirt. It is better to buy a sturdy box that may cost more than you expect, compared to opting for one that cannot protect your dress for a lifetime. The idea that plastic bags are a good storage method for wedding gowns is a common myth among brides.
- Use a garment bag. Wrapping your dress in plastic traps moisture, which means mould and mildew, and plastic also emits fumes that can yellow your gown. Store your wedding dress in its proper garment bag away from light. While it is true that plastic bags can protect your dress from spills and dirt, they introduce other, little-known issues. Because they emit fumes, plastic bags can actually cause your gown to turn yellow. This risk increases the longer your dress is stored in plastic. Post-wedding, storing your gown in a shrink-wrapped plastic bag also introduces problems, as these bags trap moisture. Any amount of moisture on your gown can rapidly cause mildew to form. When storing your gown prior to your wedding, choosing a breathable wedding gown garment bag is ideal. After your wedding, the only way to ensure the longevity of your dress is by having a professional wedding dress preservation.
- Lay it flat (or hang properly). Ideally, your bridal store will keep your dress for you, but if not, lay it as flat as possible. If you must hang your dress, hang it by the loops located inside (never the shoulder straps) to avoid stretching and sagging at the seams. Every dress is specific, so ask the specialists at your boutique how it should be stored after the wedding.
- Leave the cleaning to the experts. This is a tricky process. One wrong move could set the stain and make it worse. Remember that sometimes the best course of action is to leave the spot until it can be professionally treated.
- Once your dress is stored away safely and securely, you should check it every few months to be certain nothing has occurred unexpectedly. You may need to consider re-packing your wedding dress at least once a year to prevent any creases from becoming permanent.
- Consider how you’d like to use your dress in the future. Brides Magazine reports that “46% of brides preserve their wedding dress for their children or grandchildren.” Before storing your dress after the wedding, consider how you might use your dress in future years. Do you want to wear it for a 10th-anniversary photo session? Do you want to turn it into a pillow or other keepsake for your future children? Or do you want to preserve it so well that your daughter may wear it for her wedding? If you have any kind of long-term goals with your dress, it will be necessary to schedule an expert preservation service.
- Choose a specialist who will process your bridal gown on-site. When looking to have your wedding gown preserved, it is best to have it processed on-site. Doing this allows you to speak with the specialists who will be directly handling your gown. This is especially helpful if you have concerns regarding your dress, specific stains, or if you have questions about the process itself. Our team works to carefully remove visible and hidden stains on your gown with gentle cleaning agents. In addition to this, many local cleaners certified in wedding gown cleaning and preservation through the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.
- If you are planning to pass down your wedding dress to your children or relatives, it is highly recommended that you store and preserve it in a quality wedding dress box, rather than in a simple plastic dress cover. Plastic dress covers do not permit changes in humidity, and they cannot acceptably protect your dress from light. Therefore, they are not suitable for permanent storage.
- When choosing a wedding dress box, avoid picking a fabric or cardboard box, as it normally contains acids that can cause your gown to fade or discolour in due course.
- You should never store your wedding gown next to a suitcase lining, the wood of your wardrobe, in a drawer (without covers), or close to other clothes because all of these tend to have an effect on the gown’s authentic fabrics.
- It is not a good idea to wrap your wedding gown in coloured tissue paper. Use only white and acid-free tissue paper.
- Do not hang your wedding gown, because the hanger may put pressure on the seams. Ultimately, this can cause your gown to go out of shape.
- Do not store your wedding gown in the attic or loft. Dampness, a leakage, small insects, rodents, or changes in humidity could damage the dress when stored in these places, particularly if it is not properly protected.
- Store your gown where there are moisture and big temperature changes. Although your gown may be bulky and take up a significant amount of space, it is essential to store it in a safe spot. This means avoiding any places in your home or apartment that experience extreme changes in temperature or humidity. Both of these factors can cause major damage to your gown, including the buildup of mildew.
Wedding dresses are typically huge investments, which is why you need to know what you are doing before you start trying to clean it. Storing your dress in the right way will ensure your dress remains intact for many years into the future. Always consult with a professional before you attempt to wash your dress and make sure that you only use the recommended cleaning detergents on the dress. If you are still in doubt, it is always advisable to take your dress to a professional laundry service provider to safeguard the fabrics in the dress along with all those delicate details.
However, you can also opt for a wedding dress preservation box, which is, in all honesty, a notable expense. The box is air-tight, but instead of air, it is filled with nitrogen. Oxidation being the major foe of most materials, this pricey preservation method ensures a much longer storage period as long as you don’t open the box. If you do, however, it is necessary to repeat the preservation process.