Your wedding gown probably fit you as well as your new spouse does. When you tried it on, it was a dream. Now that the wedding is over, you might not want to part with the perfect dress you wore on your big day. If you want to keep your dress – and keep it in good condition – you’ll have to get it cleaned and preserved, which is the process for cleaning and properly packaging your dress for storage.
“If [brides] don’t properly care for their dress, it’s almost as if they’re throwing it away,” says Kathy Wright, owner of Heritage Garment Preservation in Benicia, Calif. After all, over time, stains will set, the gown may turn yellow, and the fabric could be damaged.
Wedding gown preservation costs anywhere from $150 to $500, depending on the level of service you require and the type of dress you purchased. Usually, you bring or ship your dress to a wedding gown preservation company or dry cleaner that provides this service. Then, a staff person analyzes the fabric, beading, and other details to determine how to best clean it.
The cleaning process often begins with the hem because it is usually the most soiled. Most professionals scrub the hem by hand and spot treat any stains. The biggest culprits are grass, mud, perspiration and body oils, make-up, and sugar (from wedding cake or wine), say professional cleaners. Some of the most difficult stains to remove, say professionals, are Georgia red clay, self-tanner residue, and Wite-Out, which some brides use to cover up other stains that are already appearing before or during the wedding.
After the dress is cleaned and either steamed or pressed, the cleaners properly fold it and place it in an acid-free archival chest with a display window. Sometimes, accessories, such as veils and garters are cleaned and preserved as well. Then, the package is returned to the owner. Depending on the cleaner you use, the waiting time could be anywhere from three to twelve weeks.
Brides who consider wedding gown preservation either want to keep their dress as an heirloom to be passed down to future generations, or they want to resell it. Some want it as a keepsake for themselves or will eventually make it into a Christening outfit or baby bedding for their children, according to the companies that preserve gowns.
If you’re in the market for wedding gown preservation, here are some tips from professionals in the business:
A big mistake many people make is leaving their dress in the closet for many weeks, months, or even years after the wedding. Stains – even invisible ones that will become darker and more visible with age – begin to set over time, which makes them harder to remove down the road. Age and exposure to sunlight can cause the fabric to weaken and yellow. Bring or ship the dress to a cleaner or preservation company within six weeks after the wedding, writes Kelly Crapser, spokesperson for David’s Bridal gown preservation in an e-mail.
All is not lost, however, even if you have waited longer than six weeks to clean your gown. Jim Parham, president of WedClean in Orlando, Fla., says his company handles thousands of dresses per year and sometimes people send them in after 20 years for restoration. Often, if the fibers of the fabric are still strong enough, Parham and his crew can restore the gown, he says.