a guide to creating an heirloom
Get it cleaned
Your gown should be professionally cleaned within several days (or weeks at most) after wear. If you will be off on your honeymoon, enlist someone to take it to your dry cleaner as soon as possible. Even if your dress appears clean after the wedding, spills from alcoholic beverages or soda can turn brown with time and become more difficult to remove. Body oils may also cause the dress lining to turn brittle eventually. Tip: Not all dry cleaners are the same. Check with your local bridal shops to find out which they recommend.
Have you dry cleaner WET CLEAN your gown; that is, clean with water and mild detergents. This will prevent any damage to the beadwork or sequins by chemicals used in traditional dry cleaning. Wet-cleaning also ensures that invisible stains from body oils, soda or alcohol are removed. Once the dress has been well rinsed, no chemicals or residue should be left. Package well
Before you send your gown to be cleaned, you should:
- Know what fabric your dress is made of; silks are notoriously difficult to have cleaned.
- Check to see if there are cleaning instructions on the dress label. These may read: Dry Clean Only or Professional Wet-Cleaning Recommended
- Identify any visible stains or dirt on the dress for your dry cleaner’s attention.
- Note whether your dress has any sequins or beads that may need protecting and whether they are glued or sewed on. Embellishments that are glued on are more prone to coming off during the cleaning process.
Store your gown in a way that will protect and preserve it.
One of the absolute worst ways to store your wedding gown is in the plastic bag from your dry cleaner or a plastic storage bag. Most plastics will give off chemical fumes that can cause your gown to become discolored over time. Plastics are also very good at sealing in moisture from excess humidity, which can lead to the growth of mold and mildew.
If your wedding gown has covered metal buttons, pins or sponge shoulder pads or padding, these should be removed and stored separately. These items can break down at different rates and release chemicals that may damage your gown.
If you’re going to hang your dress in a closet, use a plastic or padded hanger; if you use the wooden or wire ones, the weight of the dress can cause the fabric to stretch and distort.
It is recommended that the gowns be packed with white acid-free or pH-neutral tissue paper and boxes. Ordinary paper contains acid which can literally scorch your gown. Packaging in the box and using the tissue paper will also allow the gown to ‘breathe’ and get rid of excess moisture. Estimated cost of box, TT$350.00; cost of 10 sheets of tissue TT$20.00.
The tissue is rolled up and stuffed inside the bodice and sleeves of the gown to prevent wrinkles and preserve the shape. It’s best to avoid folding if possible as folds can become permanent with time and weaken the fabric. If you do fold your gown, ensure the radius of the curve is as large as possible to avoid sharp creases.
A dark, cool, dry place.
Store your gown, either hanging or boxed, in cool, dry areas, free from drastic temperature changes. Select an area with adequate air circulation, but away from light. Interior closets that meet the temperature and circulation requirements can be ideal.
Note: Even with proper treatment, some garments will turn yellow with age. This is typical with the ageing of silk and wool and is considered the ‘patina of age’.