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Why Saving Your Wedding Dress is not a DIY Project

The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists has written blogs about it. Do-it-yourselfers have published articles about it. Bridal magazines have sold advertising devoted to it. But does anyone really know the best practices for cleaning and preserving an expensive, well-adorned wedding drress? And when I say “best practices,” I mean, who is using the most tried and true, proven methods for getting excellent results in both cleaning and protecting the heirloom that is your wedding gown so that it lasts decades? Well – Marquard’s is, but let’s not oversell that point right now. Let’s talk about some common questions and answers that get to the heart of what every bride is really looking for… flawlessly preserving a memory of a memorable day and how to make that happen without spending a fortune.

The vacuum seal approach

Let’s be realistic; your wedding dress is made with high quality, woven or spun materials. It’s not a salmon that you seal and freeze. All fabrics, both natural and synthetic, need to “breathe”. Specifically, wools, cottons, porous acrylic fibers, all need to breathe during both short and long term storage because they are hygroscopic, meaning that the material has the unique ability to attract and absorb moisture from the air. Archival quality restoration practices today include allowing vintage garments (and that’s what your dress will be) to be exposed to clean and filtered air. Trapped moisture can spell disaster for preservation.

Another issue with vacuum sealed containers and space bags are that they are manufactured from plastic which emits fumes that cause discoloration over time. If you vacuum seal your treasured gown, it’s better to just toss it in the trash heap now.  In 20 years, you’ll be devastated by the condition of the dress and your daughter will instantly reject the idea of wearing it for her wedding.

Avoiding cleaning when the dress looks and smells clean

If it looks clean it must be ok. Not so fast. If the dress was worn at all, it will have body oil, dead skin cells, and potentially other common invisible blemishes such as candle wax, cake icing, white wine, Champaign, or ginger ale, rain water, floor dust or outdoor dirt in the hems and train, etc. Truthfully, there is no such thing as an invisible stain because in a year or less, those remnants will oxidize into ugly, yellowed blotches that can become permanent if left alone in storage.

Not cleaning your wedding gown, whether you preserve and store the gown or not, is an invitation to insects like moths, beetles and ants, attracted by the food particles left behind. Moths that find their way into your home and eventually your closet or chest, will permanently damage fabric- especially if it has not been cleaned or properly preserved.

Get the dress cleaned and then simply hang it in a protected area

Under the right conditions, a properly cleaned wedding gown that is not wrapped in plastic, can survive hanging for a few years.  But many experts give the dress a 10% chance of lasting in pristine condition not more than a decade. One obvious culprit to this idea is the stretching that occurs against seams when heavy dresses are hung. As the fabric ages, it can become more brittle and delicate, especially over dozens of years’ time, and often the pressure against the hangar can create separations where seams are sewn together throughout the dress.

Hung dresses tend to have other risks too, such as regular handling- moving them out of the way in the closet or storage area, direct sunlight, dust and even pet dander which can collect in the fibers and begin to cause problems. Cigarette smoke is also a killer of hanging dresses. If you, or someone else in your home smokes on a regular basis, those toxins will most certainly take a toll on your wedding gown and everything else in your home made of fabric.

A clean gown stored safely in archival-quality boxes with 100% acid-free packing, is the safest method of keeping your gown for years. Marquard’s offers this service and stands behind our ability to preserve your most precious heirlooms.

 

Don’t waste time and money cleaning a dress you plan to sell

Would you buy a dirty dress?  Do you know where it’s been and the sanitary practices of the one who wore it? Do you suppose the bride ever had a moment where she had to use the bathroom and drug the dress through whatever unspeakable substances adorn the restroom floors at a reception hall? Every reputable consignment shop requires their wedding gowns to be cleaned before they’ll accept and resell a wedding dress. In many cases, a freshly cleaned wedding gown will have more value to a resale shop and will present far better to a buyer, so they are likely to pay your top asking price if the dress is obviously professionally cleaned.

 

If you wait too long after the wedding to get the dress cleaned, it’s too late

Not necessarily. Some stains and dirt will set after about 48 hours, but it is not a death sentence. The right cleaner, like Marquard’s, will be able to expertly remove almost any stain, within reason. However, some brides neglect cleaning their dresses for months and even years. Those cases are far more difficult to deal with, but not impossible. Yellowing of the fabric can occur in just a few years’ time, and in certain climates, even sooner. It’s better to deal with the dress cleaning sooner rather than later- it will cost less, requiring less effort to restore and will be less fragile.

 

For more about Marquard’s Cleaners and expert wedding gown cleaning and preservation, visit marquardscleaners.com/wedding-gowns or call us at 314-428-3700.