Preserving Your Wedding Gown
and Other Heirloom Items
Most women put a lot of time, love, and energy into
either finding or making the perfect wedding gown. But, what do you do with that beautiful
and symbolic garment when you get home from the honeymoon? You are most likely planning on
saving the dress, but just hanging it in a closet or stuffing it into a chest is
practically giving it a death sentence. The following preservation guidelines will help
you avoid the dangers associated with long-term textile storage and will make your wedding
dress an heirloom garment that can be enjoyed for generations to come. These guidelines
apply to all fine fabrics and textiles that have historical significance and require
special attention for long-term storage.
Get a Clean Start
Waiting until after the honeymoon to take protective precautions for your wedding gown is
waiting too long. Stains that you may not even see, such as from perspiration, will
immediately begin to take their toll on the delicate fabric. Ideally, you should make
arrangements to have your gown professionally dry cleaned as soon as possible after your
wedding day. Have the gown taken to a reputable cleaner who will also inspect zippers and
buttons that may need to be repaired or tightened. You should make a special note for the
cleaners about any spots or stains, particularly on the train, that may need special
attention. The gown should also be inspected for loose stitches. Once you have the gown
home and clean, you are ready to store it for future generations.
Lay, Fold, Roll, or Hang?
Gravity exerts pressure that can stretch or tear the fibers of hung textiles over time.
Storing your wedding dress on a hanger for a long period of time is not recommended.
Laying the gown flat or storing it in a rolled or folded position is preferable to hanging
it. If you plan to hang your gown for any length of time, you should pad the hangers with
cotton batting covered with unbleached cotton. These materials are commonly found at craft
and quilting supply stores.
If you decide to store your gown in a
folded position, remove it from storage a couple of times a year and fold it along
different lines. Pieces that have been folded on the same lines for a long period of time
will eventually develop stress tears along the folds.
For items that will be stored in a folded
position for a long period of time, acid free tissue paper (non colored) or clean piece of
cloth should be placed between the folds. If you plan to hang your linens for any length
The Dangers of Wood Acid
Do not store your wedding dress in a cedar (or any other type of wood) chest without
protective coverings between the wood and the fabric. All wood contains acid that will,
over a period of time, make an impossible-to-remove brownish stain on any fabric it has
direct contact with. A gown stored in direct contact with wood will eventually be weakened
and destroyed by the acid in the wood. All wood products, including cardboard and regular
paper, also have acid that causes fiber deterioration. This problem can be remedied by
wrapping your wedding dress in acid-free tissue paper or storing it in an acid-free box.
Typical stationery stores don't carry acid-free materials. These are most often found in
archival supply stores.
Room to Breathe
Your wedding gown needs air to circulate through the fibers or it will eventually start to
rot. For this reason, you should not wrap your gown in plastic for a long period of time.
Also, the static in plastic acts as a magnet pulling dust from the air right into your
gown if the plastic covering is unsealed. True, sealed plastic covers keep out dirt and
grime, but they also prevent needed air from circulating through the fibers. Furthermore,
if the piece is even slightly damp when placed in a plastic bag, mold will soon start to
form. Also, some plastics produce textile-destroying hydrochloric acid when in contact
with moisture for long periods of time.
Take your heirloom wedding gown out of storage every few months to check its condition.
Even well-stored items are subject to air pollution, chemical residue from washing and
handling, and mildew.
Extreme changes in temperature are harmful to your wedding gown. Ideal temperatures for
long-term storage are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Unheated attics and basements
are undesirable storage places. Small rooms or closets with space heaters should also be
Too little or too much humidity can also damage your wedding dress. Humidity levels
between 45 and 55 percent are recommended. Avoid storing textiles in bathroom closets or
laundry rooms where humidity often rises above acceptable levels. During dry winters, you
might consider using a humidifier to maintain acceptable levels of humidity.
Fight Ultraviolet Light
Frequent or constant exposure to ultraviolet light, such as sunshine or fluorescent
lights, will eventually cause your wedding dress to disintegrate. Always store the gown in
a dark place.
Avoid Ironing and Starching
Your wedding dress should be cleaned, but not ironed, before storing. Ironing makes fibers
tense and brittle which increases the risk of tears if the piece is stored in a folded
position. Also, starch in fabrics attracts various pests and absorbs mildew-forming
moisture. Starch should be removed from your gown before putting it into long-term
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