Your wedding gown is undoubtedly one of the most important articles of clothing you'll ever purchase, and likely the most expensive. After the big day, you'll need to put some thought into the cleaning, preservation, and storage of your gown, since it cannot simply be hung in your closet with the rest of your wardrobe.
Shop the best items for both long term and short term wedding dress storage now.
If you're not sure where to start, we've outlined the basics of wedding dress storage below so that you can make an educated purchase and protect your beautiful wedding gown for years to come.
The first decision you'll want to make is whether you're looking for short term storage (less than a year) or long term storage (up to 30 years). If you only want to store your gown for a short time (maybe you're selling it or are waiting to tackle the preservation process), a high-quality garment bag is enough.
Look for thick fabrics that won't rip or tear, pH neutral fabrics, or bags made of muslin which is commonly used for textile preservation.
Use an acid-free, sturdy cardboard storage box or sweater bag, and line it with tissue paper. For dresses, especially heavily beaded gowns, lay the hem in the box first, then fold the dress. If the dress is very long, lay it down accordion-style with tissue paper between each fold. Make sure you wrap each garment like this and lay them one on top of another in the box.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Store a Wedding Dress to Preserve It?
- 2 Consider Hiring a Professional to Preserve Your Wedding Bouquet
- 3 Create a Wedding-Card Book to Make Memories Accessible
- 4 Do not expect miracles from low-quality clothes
- 5 Do proper preparation before storage
- 6 Clean clothes properly before storage
- 7 Storage ideas
- 8 Prevent and stop moth attacks
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions About Restoring Wedding Gown
- 10 How much does it cost to restore an old wedding dress?
- 11 Can a yellowed wedding dress be restored?
- 12 How long does it take to restore a wedding dress?
- 13 What is the best way to preserve a wedding dress?
How to Store a Wedding Dress to Preserve It?
The average bride spends $1,469 on a wedding dress, according to a recent wedding spending survey conducted by The Knot website. Paying about $225 to preserve the dress may be a wise investment if you want to keep it.
"Ninety per cent of preserving a dress is properly cleaning it," said Sally Conant, who has been preserving wedding dresses for 25 years and is the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.
Taking the dress for regular dry cleaning isn't enough, she said, because latent stains from sugar – like cake frosting and champagne – will not dissolve.
"The dress will look ok (after dry cleaning), but the sugar residue will still be in the fabric, and over time those residues will turn brown and look like coffee was spilled on it," Conant said.
Hanson had the gown professionally preserved from her second ceremony, an elaborate Sicilian-Catholic ceremony held in her now-husband's hometown of St. Louis, but she keeps the dress from the first ceremony accessible to put on from time to time.
Specialized cleaners like Conant recommend preserving wedding dresses in acid-free boxes and storing them in a climate-controlled environment.
"You want it somewhere in the house where it's comfortable," Conant said. "You don't want it in the attic – the temperature is too high – and you don't want it in a basement or garage. I've seen dresses that were grey because of car exhaust."
Simone Perry of Time in a Box Preservation Co. recommends storing the dress under the bed, so it's away from light and moisture.
She created a specialized preservation kit for storing wedding gowns and has worked in the wedding business for 25 years.
"Consumers aren't usually told they have to change out the cardboard boxes every 15 to 20 years," Perry said. "Since (the kit) is not cardboard, it's not attractive to rodents, and it's in a breathable plastic box."
Conant also warned about storing the dress in the closet.
"If you're just going to hang it in the closet, you might as well donate it or throw it away because the fabric will oxidize," she said.
Consider Hiring a Professional to Preserve Your Wedding Bouquet
Many brides want to display their bouquet long after the ceremony is over, but it can be challenging to keep flowers looking good long term.
"I tried to home-dry the (wedding) flowers to a rather bad, mildewy end," Hanson said.
Unfortunately, she's not the only bride who has attempted to preserve her bouquet at home and failed, said Perry, who has professionally preserved wedding flowers for most of her career.
"Air drying is something you can do with flowers, but you have to do it the right way," said Perry. "A bouquet that is bunched up tight won't dry because the flowers won't get airflow."
Professionals will typically freeze-dry wedding bouquets.
"The freezing process holds the flower in place," Perry said. "It's pretty much like freezer burn. The moisture of the flower escapes and turns into vapour."
It takes about two weeks to freeze-dry flowers and some very expensive equipment, but "it results in beautifully-dried flowers," Perry added.
On average – depending on where you live and how many flowers are in your bouquet – the process usually costs $300 to $500.
"The last thing I really wanted to dedicate more money to was flower preservation," Hanson said.
So, for brides like her, Perry recommends either air drying, but to dry the flowers individually or to use silica gel.
"You have to bury each flower in the silica gel completely," Perry said. "And each flower head needs to be dried separately."
After the flowers are dried, you can recreate the bouquet with wires or, like Hanson, put the flowers in a shadow box or frame.
Create a Wedding-Card Book to Make Memories Accessible
Around the time Jen Evans was preparing to get married in 2010, she helped her parents move out of her childhood home.
"My mom had all their wedding cards just thrown into a box," she said. "And my mom said 'I wish I had a way to look at these once in a while.'"
Her mom was the inspiration for her DIY wedding-card book that she created with her wedding cards later and wrote about on her blog, The Creative Cubby.
"Wedding cards are really expensive, and people leave you really nice notes in them," Evans said. "The book is something that we kept right next to our wedding album."
After gathering all her wedding cards, she lined them up and measured out where to hole punch before binding them together with a cover and metal rings.
(For more detailed instructions on how to make a wedding card book, make sure to read Evans' blog.)
"The skinny, small cards are hard to accommodate," Evans said. "For all those little cards – like the ones taped to the tops of packages – I ended up gluing them to pieces of paper that are the average size."
Evans said her mom later made a book, and now her parents look at the craft project on their anniversary.
"When you throw things in a box it becomes 'out of sight, out of mind,' and now there's something in that box that she wants to look at instead of being cumbersome to go through," Evans said.
Our new bride Hanson liked the idea and plans to make her own wedding-card book in the future.
"I put (my cards) in a Ziploc bag, then in a box," Hanson said. "The future for those cards lies in being hole-punched and bound together."
In an ideal situation, you will keep your clothes in a vacuum with no bacteria or insects, and your clothes will last forever. But this is not possible ( at least not at home ) for you and me. So what do I do to keep my favourite clothes – my wedding dress, those silk blouses and pashmina shawls from self-destructing in the wardrobe?
Yes, there are tips for storing them properly, which almost recreates an ideal situation – well close enough.
Do not expect miracles from low-quality clothes
Remember that good quality fabric will last without much damage for a long time. And in the same coin, cheap fabrics will not last long – whatever you do. It will yellow. It will deteriorate, or the creases will break down, and holes will appear out of nowhere.
Do not buy clothes just because they are on sale. Look at the quality of the fabric, sturdiness of the seams and ease of maintenance. If you are ok with throwing away clothes after some use or you want disposable clothes for soiling work, it is ok to look at the price, but if you want keepers – buy quality.
Do proper preparation before storage
Remove pins and other decorations like brooches from the cloth before storing. The pins may rust on the cloth or leave visible holes.
Do not throw good clothes with heavily soiled clothes in the laundry bin; Also check for clothes which you know may bleed in the bin or in the wardrobe; do not keep them together with other clothes. I have lost a beautiful white tunic this way. It emerged blotched in pink stains after contact with a pink scarf in the laundry bin.
Do not keep shoes in the cupboard where you hang clothes. At least keep them in a shoe bag if you must.
Ensure that you have enough space in the wardrobe for all your clothes. An overflowing overstuffed wardrobe is not the best start for great storage. There is no way delicate clothes will survive stuffing and careless handling.
Ensure your clothes are not exposed to sunlight for long.
Clean clothes properly before storage
Store garments which are clean. Keeping a dress with food stains and such dirt will surely destroy the fibres at some point. There will be some unseen spots with dirt in your dress which you may not be easily visible; so for clothes which you do not plan to wear for some time, it is better to get it cleaned – yourself or by a dry cleaner
You can give the dress to a dry cleaner, and they will clean it and keep it in a box for storage if you request. Some fabrics like wool and silk may have to be dry cleaned.
If you have the courage, clean the clothes by hand washing them yourself. But do not attempt this if the dress is heavily embroidered (check out this post on hand washing clothes to see which are the clothes you can easily wash at home and which you cannot). The thread used in the embroidery may run, and this is enough for panic.
If you are washing the clothes at home yourself, you should ensure that you have rinsed all the soap residue from the cloth before storing. The soap residue will gradually destroy the fibres. Five rinses would not be too much for your heirloom.
Remember not to use bleach on any of your delicate clothes, especially in white clothes. Bleach will cause the fabric to yellow over time.
Hand wash your clothes in cold water – distilled water can be good for an extremely precious piece of clothing. Make sure the detergent you use is ph balanced and fragrance-free. Do not scrub hard if you do not want fabric fibres damaged. And do not tumble dry if possible for longer-lasting clothes.
Check out the post on washing bras and lingerie properly so that they last long.
Check out the post on washing delicate clothing here for more details. Soaking very delicate clothes repeatedly to replace the agitation you give in usual washing may keep the delicate fibres of your garment intact.
Do you know that you can vacuum your clothes – use the hand vacuum to take out dust particles in clothes which are not suitable to be laundered? If you have a very delicate fabric, the vacuuming may damage it so keep a protective layer/screen over it before attempting vacuuming.
Ensure that the storage area is dry and clean. Your damp basement is generally not a great space for storing your precious clothes.
Check for Humidity inside the wardrobe – high Humidity means moisture will be present inside, and this is not good. Mildew will soon follow.
Make sure that the place you have chosen is not near any heat source.
Hanging your gown for a long time as storage is generally a bad idea. After some time the hanging will take a toll on the fabric. Storing the clothes flat in a cupboard is recommended.
If your wardrobe has metal anywhere inside, do not keep your clothes in contact with this surface. Use a muslin lining and then keep clothes. In the same token, do not use metal hangers.
Plastic boxes will sweat, so it is not a great idea for storing clothes. They also give out toxic and harmful gases; Plastic bags are also out of the question for long term storage of clothes.
You can choose large clean cardboard boxes to store the clothes. Make sure that there are large holes in the box for air to circulate. Some cardboard boxes will come moth infected. They should be avoided.
Line the box with the acid-free lignin-free neutral ph tissue paper so that the fabric doesn't come into direct contact with the cardboard. You can also use washed thin muslin/ mull cloth. Keep the garment and then place the tissue/cloth over it as well.
The dress should not be cramped or stuffed inside the box. They should lie flat and without creases, if there are deep creases, after some time the fibres may crack there. It is a good idea to take it out and change the position of the folds from time to time. This way, the creases would not set permanently. Some people roll the garments rather than fold it to avoid permanent creases.
Fabric bags with zips may also be used to keep precious dresses neatly arranged.
Do not arrange your wardrobe so that the thin, delicate clothing are weighed down by heavy clothes on top.
Prevent and stop moth attacks
Make sure that there are no bugs in the cupboard. Cloth moths and carpet beetles are small insects that eat fabric fibres in the dark corners of wardrobes. They leave holes behind which are unsightly. They are not easy to spot until you notice your clothes getting holes.
But once you have seen the moths, be aggressive in cleaning them out. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove every drop of their trace. Dispose of the vacuum bag without delay or even better burn it.
Keeping mothballs in a sachet inside the wardrobe is a good preventive measure against cloth moths. These balls ( also known by the chemical name paradichlorobenzene crystals) will have to be kept inside a closed wardrobe for it to be effective. Do not let them come in direct contact with the clothes.
How to keep the mothballs so that they do not touch your clothes
- hang the balls from a small sachet on the clothes rod
- keep inside a box with holes so that the vapour will spread inside the wardrobe( this is important – the vapour kills the moths).
Keeping the mothballs along with a sachet of herbs like orange peels, lavender sprigs will make sure that the horrible smell of mothballs is somewhat lessened. The herb sachet may not be enough to keep the insects away, so keeping them along with mothballs offer a better realistic solution than some claim.
If you're looking for long term storage, you'll need to purchase a box or bag made specifically for wedding dress storage. You'll also need a large amount of acid-free tissue paper, which you'll place both inside and outside your dress to preserve the shape and protect it against the elements (dust, moths, moisture, light, etc.).
If the process sounds too overwhelming to tackle on your own, a few companies will handle the wedding dress preservation for you. We've included two options below where you can simply ship you dress and receive it back within a few weeks, preserved and ready for storage.
Frequently Asked Questions About Restoring Wedding Gown
If the gown has holes in the fabric, is stained, or doesn't fit, the wedding dress restoration cost can range from $300 to $800 or more depending on how much work needs to be done. If your gown is very fragile, it may need to be lined and mended onto the lining so that the lining will support it.
Through a process of wet cleaning, dry cleaning, and spot cleaning, your yellowed wedding dress can be restored to its original brilliance to be enjoyed by future generations.
Completing Your Wedding Dress Restoration. Your wedding dress restoration will be complete in 6-10 weeks.