|Storing Your Wedding Gown
|You have invested in the perfect gown for your
wedding day, 'heirlooming' or 'preserving' your dress properly afterwards
will reduce the risk of permanent damage or deterioration to the gown.
|What is the aim of preservation?
|Storing your wedding gown without consideration,
planning or care can lead to damage or deterioration over a period
of time. This can include stain formation, fabric breakdown, discolouration
and permanent creasing. Your wedding dress can be maintained as a
family heirloom for many years provided that some simple attention
is given to its care and preservation. There are two basic steps to
caring for your dress:
|1. To understand and minimize or eliminate those
factors that can cause damage
|2. Follow basic guidelines for handling, cleaning
and storing your gown.
|What are the main causes of textile damage?
|There are a variety of factors that contribute
to the degradation of textiles. These include poor environment, inappropriate
storage, chemical pollution and careless handling. Chemical pollution
is the main cause of damage and is the result of the migration of
acids from surrounding materials into the fabric of your gown. The
following factors all contribute to textile damage:
direct exposure to both natural and artificial light can threaten
the longevity of textiles. Visible light causes fading and fibre
damage. Ultraviolet is the most damaging type of light and is
capable of causing the greatest amount of damage within the shortest
period of time.
Temperature and Humidity - these
environmental factors are interrelated. Extremes and fluctuations
in temperatures and humidity (moisture levels) can cause permanent
damage. Textiles can become brittle when humidity levels are low
and, conversely, permanent staining can occur from mould growth
when humidity levels are very high. Expansion and contraction
of fibres due to extreme fluctuations in heat can discolour and
weaken textiles. Trapped moisture will encourage bacteria and
insects and cause permanent watermarking stains on fine silks.
a variety of pests can cause structural damage and staining to
stored textiles, including moths, beetles, silverfish and mice.
Poor Cleaning -
storing your gown when the usage stains such as perspiration,
make-up, wine, perfume, cigarette smoke and grass have not been
removed allows those stains to migrate through the material and
create permanent marks.
Physical Stress -
long-term storage of heavy gowns or fragile silks on hangers (even
padded ones) is not recommended. Stress weighting can cause misshapen
seams and permanent creasing; metal or wood hangers can increase
acid pollution and oil and grease from frequent handling can oxidize
in time to cause brown staining on the gown. Never hang your gown
in a plastic slip-cover or dry cleaning bag (see below).
frequent handling with bare hands can transfer grease, salts and
dirt to the gown which can oxidize over time to leave brown stains.
Avoid pins and marking pens to label your gown. Do not eat, drink
or smoke in the vicinity of your dress. Do not store with metal
or plastic jewellery, buckles or belts since these will also increase
the risk of acid formation.
Chemical Pollution -
inappropriate storage of your gown will contribute to degradation
of the textile fibres due to acid migration from the storage materials.
a. Plastic Covers - the worst storage
medium for your gown is a plastic bag or cover. Storage boxes
with plastic viewing windows are also not recommended. The plastic
chemicals react with the fabric enhancing acid formation and causing
excessive yellowing and tarnishing of white gowns and fading of
coloured fabrics. Plastics also trap moisture (see above).
b. Cardboard Boxes - commercial storage boxes
are not made of acid-free board. The acid can migrate and react
with the contents of the box within only a few months causing
gradual yellowing and deterioration.
c. Glues, Tapes and Adhesives - used to make
commercial packaging is highly acidic and also attracts certain
d. Wooden Chests- often sold for Wedding Trouseaux,
the high acid and lignin content of the natural wood will cause
more rapid deterioration and discolouration of a dress stored
in this way.
e. Inks and Dyes - the dyes and colourings contained
within commercial tissue paper, printed fabrics or wrapping papers
may be highly acidic and turn contacted areas yellow. Never use
perfumed and patterned drawer liners to store precious textiles.
f. Sealing - preserving your gown in a vacuum
packed, oxygen free container is not particularly ideal or recommended.
This method is usually a last-resort conservation method used
by museums or archivists to preserve fragile items. The packaging
may not always provide an acid-free environment, may trap moisture
and does not allow for access and inspection at regular intervals.
|What measures can be taken to reduce these risk
|There is no such thing as 'permanent preservation'
as all things will eventually deteriorate due to the wearing effects
of time and the environment. Archival institutions and museums have
developed certain methods and archival materials for the long term
conservation of precious textiles. By adopting a realistic level of
care, correct handling and suitable archival storage for your wedding
gown you can achieve a good level of protection from many of the factors
that lead to degradation.
1.Pre-plan - treat the preservation of your
gown as part of the wedding planning process and not as an afterthought.
Understand the fabric and accessories that make-up your wedding
gown and find a good dry cleaner who specializes in cleaning gowns.
Some organized brides keep an emergency stain cleaner to hand
during the big day, otherwise arrange for someone reliable to
take the dress for cleaning as soon as possible.
2.Storage - aim to store your dress in an environment
that is as chemically (acid) neutral as possible:
a.flat storage- provides even support which
helps to minimize fibre damage. Avoid hanging your gown for too
long on hangers or in plastic dry cleaning covers. Transfer to
a flat box / storage container as soon as time allows.
b. acid (pH) neutral archival box - invest in a sturdy archival
quality storage container that is specially made for textile preservation
and does not contain harmful acids or alkalis. The correct box
will protect against light and dust and reduce the risk of minor
c. stacking - don't store more than one item in a container (mixed
materials will have different acid content and migration may occur
into your dress). Store shoes, veils and purses separately.
d.folding - Ensure the storage container is adequate for the size
of dress. Too small and permanent creasing may occur, too big
and your dress will slide around too freely. Ideally the dress
should be folded as little as possible. Fold lines are the places
where splitting or shattering of the fabric will occur over time.
Therefore taking extra care from the outset will benefit your
gown later. Ideally the box should be long enough to take the
full skirt length without folding and deep enough for the bodice
and skirt to lay over each other without crushing the shape of
the gown. Practice first (using the gloves included in the pack)
by laying the gown in the box to ensure you achieve the minimum
number of folds necessary BEFORE making the final packing. Use
only white tissue never blue, black or commercially produced paper.
Use the tissue paper in flat sheets between the layers of fabric
and rolled into soft scrolls to pad the folds in the material
and protect the edges from becoming flattened and crushed. Fold
once at waist level (bodice onto skirt). Layer tissue between
the skirt and the bodice and pad the fold with rolled tissue.
(Fold again at thigh level but only if this is necessary - see
size of Archival Box above). Line and support the actual bodice
with sheets or softly rolled scrolls of the acid free tissue paper.
Then bring the skirt into the centre in vertical soft pleats lined
with flat tissue sheets. For excess fabric in full skirts make
folds down the length of the gown supported by rolls of tissue.
Cover the folded gown with sheets of tissue and place the lid
firmly on the box. Store appropriately - see below.
e.handling- wash your hands before handling to avoid transfer
of grease and salts. Ideally use white lint free cotton gloves
when folding and packing your gown (these can be washed and kept
for this purpose). Once packed away, try to avoid opening the
box and handling again unnecessarily. However, we would recommend
checking the dress each year. Carefully unpack and examine the
gown for any signs of staining or creasing. Repack again following
the above guidelines to prevent permanent folds and creases from
developing. If your archival box has been supplied with cotton
covers wash these in mild non-biological washing medium (no additives
or enzymes) to remove dust. Dry flat and iron carefully.
f.environment- plan where you are going to store your dress so
that it will not be affected by radiators, underfloor heating
systems, damp or pests. Keep out of direct sunlight in a dark
place but never in the attic, loft or basement. Storing in a living
part of the house such as the bedroom will provide an environment
with more stable temperatures and moderate humidity levels.
|Please do enjoy your gown and your wedding day
but, remember, by taking a little time and care beforehand you will
be also be able to heirloom your dress properly for you and your family
to treasure long into the future.