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How Not to Clean and Preserve a Wedding Gown
by Anne Thompson
I wasn't there, but I'm sure you had a blast at your wedding. Food, dancing, and drinking maybe? Hopefully someone took a lot of nice pictures. It's the only way to document all the fun everyone had, right?
Well, not quite. One's wedding dress also tells the tale.
Dirt, grass, mud, dust, food, wine and mystery stains - if your dress doesn't have any of these 'good time indicators' on them, then you probably didn't get married yet. Show me a worn wedding gown, and I will announce - like a palm reader - where the ceremony took place, whether your cake was vanilla, chocolate or 'marbled', and how many toasters you received as presents.
Of course, if you do have plenty of pictures, and don't need evidence of the day's festivities on your cherished gown, then protocol dictates that you clean it. That's where I come in. Read on if you dare.
Do Not Do This:
Don't spot clean your gown using your aunt's soda-water trick. Sugars will oxidize and yellow your gown - not immediately, but months later. Depending on who cleans it, the yellowing may not come out. If the wedding hasn't occurred yet, you can use these tips from my aunt instead (these really work!):
- Red wine stain: apply salt and blot with towel.
- Water stain: steam iron if possible, or rub with a white handkerchief.
- Ink stain: apply hairspray to cotton swab, then, blot the stain lightly.
Of course, these nuggets of wisdom are only quick fixes while in the course of getting married. If your wedding has already happened, don't bother with either of our aunts' advice because it'll only make set-in stains worse.
And Don't Do Any of This:
Hang your gown in the closet - It will become permanently stretched and sagged. Those little loops are for quick car rides on the way to the cleaner, or on the way to the tailor for a fitting.
Misinterpret the care labels - Nowadays, care labels use international symbols similar to those used on airplanes. They're not always a pleasure to read. For example, a washing machine icon + a hand = handwash. Some folks might not catch the hand part. There are many other symbols indicating when special solvents should be used, and a good cleaner will have all these icons memorized.
Don't Take it to a Dry Cleaner
Send it instead to a wedding gown specialist. I know what you're thinking: 'A specialist, sounds pricey! Sure, I have plenty of money left over after the wedding!' But realize that a true wedding gown specialist will have the cleaning and preservation process down pat - they'll have a system in place. Nine times out of ten, they'd be able to clean it for less than an average dry-cleaner, who may get overwhelmed with your gown's special needs.
Don't Store Your Gown Chest in the Basement, Attic, in Plastic, or Underwater
(Hint: All have the same reason).
Your gown will get wet.
If you've picked the right cleaner, they will have provided you with a museum quality, archival wedding gown chest. This glorified box will be lined with acid-free paper, and will allow your gown to breathe - something that vacuum sealing or plastic won't. I should note that the box alone is worth a pretty penny - so try to find a cleaner who will throw in the box for free when you clean your gown with them.
Once your gown has been cleaned and placed lovingly into its chest, you'll want to store it in a dark, environmentally controlled (read 'air conditioned') place. So the basement is out, and so is the attic and most caves. The following will work fine:
- Under your bed
- Under the bed in the guest room
- Under your Mother's bed.
The choice is up to you. Jokes aside, the goal is to have an environment where sunlight won't be hitting it. If you have a dark closet, that will work.
Preservation is the art of cleaning an item properly, then maintaining a controlled, ideal environment for that object, well, forever. This won't be a problem if you've chosen your cleaner and preservationist well, and followed the advice in this article. I hope I've been able to help.
As for my final "don't," here it is: Don't ever forget how beautiful you looked in it.
Thanks for your interest.