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Wedding Dress Preservation

Once your gown is clean, keeping it in the best possible condition is your goal. You will need to protect it from:

  • Yellowing
  • Permanent creasing
  • Mildew and mold
  • Oxidation spots
  • Light
  • Dust

Yellowing
It's important to note that one of the leading causes of bridal gown yellowing is the plastic bags that many brides keep their gowns in. Most plastics give off damaging fumes that actually promote yellowing. But, even with proper care, some fabrics will yellow more than others and it may be impossible to prevent all yellowing.

Generally, silk fabric yellows more than synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, rayon and acetate. However, nylon, which is a synthetic, has a tendency to yellow more than other synthetic fabrics. Gowns that can be wet cleaned have an advantage, in that if they do yellow, they may be able to be whitened for future use with a fabric whitener.

Preserving your gown in an acid-free environment is your best protection against yellowing. Padding your gown with acid-free tissue will help to prevent acid migration. Buffered tissue should be used for gowns made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and acetate. The buffering agents in the buffered tissue gives added protection against acid migration. But buffering agents may damage gowns made of animal proteins such as silk or wool, therefore un-buffered, acid-free tissue is recommended for silk fabrics.

What about warranties against yellowing?
Some preservation companies advertise that their preservation method will prevent yellowing and they may even offer a warranty. Look carefully at any warranty offered by these companies. One warranty offered by a leading on-line preservation company stated that they will cover discoloration and damages caused by their company's cleaning and preservation processes. Another simply states that the gown may be returned to a participating dealer for inspection and pressing. None of them state that they will replace an aged, yellowed gown with a new gown.

Keeping your gown in the best overall condition should be the primary concern in preserving your bridal gown. So, protect your gown! Get it out of the plastic bag and have it cleaned and preserved in an acid-free environment.

Permanent creasing
Flat storage is recommended for textiles and garments when possible. However, because of the size and dimensions of wedding gowns, it is impractical. Some compromise must be made, either by folding or hanging the gown. To help prevent permanent creasing, boxed gowns should be refolded into a different position every 2 - 3 years. (Cotton gloves should always be worn when handling preserved gowns.) Bagged gowns that are hung in a closet are not at risk for permanent creasing, and will not need to be handled periodically.

Mildew and mold
Keeping your gown in a breatheable environment will protect it best from mildew and mold growth. When fabrics can breathe, the humidity level remains constant around the garment as excess moisture dissipates into the air. But, if moisture can condense inside a box or any container, then the gown is at risk for mildew and mold growth.

Oxidation spots
An oxidation spot can occur when a substance that was not properly cleaned on the dress oxidizies and turns brown. This can happen even if your dress has been cleaned as dry-cleaning solvents do not remove all substances. Spills from clear soda or wine may go unnoticed at the time of the initial cleaning. Unless these spills are pretreated, it is likely they will oxidize over time. Inspecting preserved gowns periodically ensures the gown remains in the best condition. The sooner an oxidized stain is caught, the more likely it will be able to be removed.

Light and dust
Keeping your gown covered will protect it from the damage caused by light and dust.

Preservation Options
There are several different types of gown preservation offered today. While there are slight variations offered, each will usually fall into one of these three categories:

  • Sealing
  • Boxing
  • Bagging

No matter what type of preservation you choose, you should keep your preserved gown in a climate-controlled area. Do not be tempted to put your preserved gown in an attic or damp basement where temperatures and humidity levels will fluctuate dramatically. Fluctuating temperatures increase the deterioration rate of textiles.

Remember, museum conservators recommendations are:
Keep it clean, cool, dry and wrinkle free.

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