Your wedding dress, veil and keepsakes are cherished memories and preserving them for future generations can be done with just a bit of care. The key to preserving fabric is to protect it from the elements especially light and moisture. With proper handling, the dress and accessories should last for hundreds of years.
The first step is to be sure that the dress, veil and accessories are as clean as possible. The dress should be professionally dry cleaned or washed as appropriate. Many dry cleaners offer both cleaning and storage packaging. You will need to determine what is best for you and your budget. If you opt for the cleaner to package the gown, be sure to check that you have received your own gown before storing away. Ask the cleaner to see the gown before final sealing is done.
If you plan to do your own storage, be sure every piece is completely dry before storing. Items that contain metal buttons or pieces should be stored separately as well as leather goods such as shoes or handbags.
As much as possible, wedding dresses should be stored flat in an appropriately-sized container. Garments that are left hanging can become misshapen from the stress on seams. You should use storage boxes sold for archival storage. These are made of acid-free paper and are perfectly safe to use. Buy the largest size needed because the fewer folds in the dress, the longer it will last.
However, if you cannot find the storage boxes or if you are concerned about the box getting crushed, purchase a plastic storage box. The box must be made of cast polypropylene to be safe for your fabric keepsakes. Look for the #5 within the recycling triangle or the letters "PP" to be sure that you have the correct type of box. Other types of plastic can cause yellowing. Never store a wedding dress in the plastic bag furnished by a dry cleaner. If you plan to leave the dress hanging, cover with a white, 100 percent cotton garment bag or make one from a cotton bed sheet.
You will also need to purchase archival tissue paper. It must be both acid and lignin – a chemical compound derived from wood - free. You will need the tissue to soften folds, wrap individual pieces and stuff sleeves and headpieces so they will not be crushed.
Before you begin, wash and dry your hands – no lotion or creams should be used that can stain clothing. For best results, use cotton gloves. Begin by lightly stuffing headpieces and dress shoulders and/or bust with the acid-free tissue paper to help them hold their shape. Then, lay the dress onto a layer of tissue with in the box. Be sure that there is tissue cushioning each fold. This will prevent heavy creasing. Place item in storage box.
Repeat steps with each individual item including the veil. Do not over stuff the storage box. You may want to store heavier items like shoes in a smaller individual boxes.
Choose a dark, cool, dry space for storage. Avoid extreme temperatures areas like attics, basements and garages. The ideal spot is an interior space away from exterior walls and pipes that might burst and off the floor away from pets.
Inspect your wedding treasures at least once per year. Look for any stains that may appear and treat them promptly. You'll have better success the sooner the stains are caught. With clean hands, fold items slightly differently with the tissue to minimize creases and stress to fabric.
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