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Household Hints & HELP!

Clean and Storing Wedding Gowns
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

This article appears in the August 14, 2005 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

The wedding and honeymoon are over. It is time to store the memories of the day. What to do with the wedding gown seems to be the next dilemma. It is best to take care of a wedding gown as soon as possible after the wedding. You can do some of this yourself or select a dry cleaner to clean and store the gown.

Choosing the best method of cleaning may be difficult if no fiber content label or care instructions are on the gown. The following suggestions may help you select the best cleaning method for your gown.

Wash with water and detergent at home or commercially:

  • If fabrics, trims, interfacings and linings can be successfully wet cleaned; this depends upon the fiber content, finishes, dyes and preshrinking.

Wash by hand because this method is least stressful for delicate fabrics. Thorough rinsing is essential; increase the number of rinses you ordinarily would think sufficient.

Avoid chlorine bleaches which may remain in the fabric and continue oxidizing.

Commercially dry-clean:

  • If the fabric is silk, acetate, rayon or wool.
  • If the trims should not be washed.
  • To best remove candle wax, greasy food stains, makeup or body oils.

Choosing a good drycleaner may not be simple. Ask others about dry-cleaning firms to determine which have good reputations. If a dry-cleaning and packaging service makes unreasonable claims concerning how its method “unconditionally guarantees” to protect and preserve the color, freshness, etc. of your gown, be wary.

Packing for storage:

You can pack the gown yourself after it has been cleaned, or you can have the packing done by a dry-cleaner. Compare costs and convenience.

Using a dry-cleaner’s packaging service:

  • Arrange to check the gown after it has been cleaned and pressed.
  • Discuss packaging to make sure the gown will not be encased in plastic.
  • Inform the cleaner you intend to check the gown yearly.

Preparing your gown for storage yourself:

  • Gowns with sheer bodices, heavily beaded areas, knitted or bias-cut sections and heavy skirts or trains should be stored horizontally to minimize the effect of gravity.
  • Vertical storage minimizes wrinkling, creasing and stacking.

Horizontal storage:

  • You will need new, white tissue paper and a sturdy box large enough so the gown will require few folds and deep enough to prevent crushing the gown. Avoid brown cardboard boxes because they may quickly give off acids which are particularly harmful to fabrics made of cotton, linen and rayon.
  • Line the box with tissue or a washed and well-rinsed cotton fabric.
  • Do not use plastic bags inside the box. Plastics are chemically unstable and trap moisture allowing mold and mildew to grow.
  • It is not necessary to seal the box.

Vertical storage:

  • Select a hanger the right size and shape to fit the garment. Pad and cover the hanger using quilt batting and cotton fabric.
  • If a gown has a heavy skirt that would wrinkle badly if folded and stored horizontally.
  • Make a white, cotton dust cover which completely encases the gown and protects it from light and dust.
  • Do not use plastic garment bags for long-term storage.

Selecting a Storage Area

Select an area with minimal temperature and humidity fluctuations, good air circulation and a minimum of light. This usually means an interior closet in the living area of your home rather than the basement or attic.

Yearly Inspection

Take your dress out of storage each year, carefully opening and handling it. Check for evidence of unremoved soils darkening. This inspection should be done whether you packaged the gown or had it packaged commercially.

Take time to store your gown correctly. It may be a special wedding gown for a family member in the future or even for your own anniversary celebrations.

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