After the big day is all said and done, you are left with the most expensive and meaningful dress you have ever bought, how do you preserve and protect it for the future? There are many options here, you can even pay bridal shops to preserve the wedding dress for you, but this comes with a heavy price tag.
Most wedding dresses manufactured are made out of a combination of cotton or bleached wool. However, most dresses also contain some elements that are made of polyester or other synthetic materials. In most cases, these types of materials are extremely durable. However, certain types of activities and storage conditions can expose them to an increased risk of mould and mildew growth.
Table of Contents
- 1 How long does a fabric wedding dressage over time?
- 2 Should you clean your wedding gown before storage?
- 3 What are the elements affecting your wedding gown?
- 4 Why shouldn’t you store your wedding gown in a vacuum bag?
- 5 How to Preserve Your Wedding Dress?
- 6 What are the ideal conditions in storing your wedding dress?
How long does a fabric wedding dressage over time?
The modern wedding dress has evolved into a beautiful, luxurious, and extremely complicated weave of fabrics. Satin, silk, charmeuse, chiffon, organza, tulle, and lace are just a few of the many materials fashion designers craft their runway-worthy wedding gowns from and each has their own set of unique properties. The one property most all hold true to is that they are all organic. As all organic materials age, they slowly break down and are constantly in a state of deterioration. While our wedding gown preservation process acts to slow down this process to a near stand-still drastically, it is simply a function of the natural fibres. This deterioration is caused by the breakdown of long-chain molecules into shorter chains which over time will cause the fabrics of your wedding gown to become brittle if left untreated.
Should you clean your wedding gown before storage?
Did you know that dust particles on the surface of your wedding gown can cut through the fibres in the fabrics of your gown through microscopic friction and abrasion over time? This is just one of the many reasons why your wedding gown should be professionally cleaned before being placed in long term storage. Another strong case for cleaning is invisible stains from your wedding day, which can include makeup, body oils and sweat, oils from perfumes, and many other contaminants. These invisible stains will slowly break down natural fibres, resulting in unsightly yellow and brown staining along with making fabrics weak and brittle. Ensuring these stains are removed before storing your gown is the only way to be sure spot staining won’t ruin your gown many years down the road.
What are the elements affecting your wedding gown?
How Humidity Impacts Wedding Gown Storage
When storing a wedding dress, it’s important to understand how heat and humidity can cause damage over time. If a wedding dress is stored in a humid environment, it can experience severe damage. For example, many types of fabric that are left in a humid environment will develop grey and black patches over time. Those patches indicate the growth of mould.
Wedding dress textiles are hygroscopic, which means that over time they will naturally absorb and release water vapour found in the air as relative humidity levels rise and fall. At very high relative humidity levels, fibres will swell, dyes will transfer, and mould can grow. The Canadian Conservation Institute states that mould growth on garments can happen in as little as 2-3 days in an area where humidity levels are 90% and above, whereas humidity levels at 50% and below virtually eliminates mould growth when kept at a constant temperature of 77°F. In a worst-case scenario, mould and the consequent growth of microorganisms, cause deep staining, which is unfortunately impossible to remove. Mould growth can also weaken fibres, many times to the point of disintegration. If the living space in your home is air-conditioned, your gown should be fine during those hot, humid summer months. If not, it may be best to give your cleaned and preserved gown to a family member or friend for storage in their humidity-controlled home.
How Temperature Impacts Wedding Gown Storage
High temperatures can also greatly impact the longevity of your wedding dress. Chemically unstable fabrics, such as weighted silk, common in wedding gowns, are especially susceptible to high-temperature deterioration. Low temperatures have many benefits to textiles, including reducing the rate of chemical decay and lowering the risk of insect infestation. In an extreme example, the rate of fabric decay in an ideal temperature of 32°F and 86°F is respectfully 20,000+ years and 250 years. This example is a great case for not storing your wedding dress in extreme conditions that often occur in an attic space.
To avoid these types of problems, it’s essential to make sure that a wedding dress is stored in a dry, cool environment. If possible, it should be stored in an area that is away from clothes that an individual wears on a regular basis. If an individual puts a wedding dress in a closet, it could be exposed to clothes that have dirt, oil or liquids on them. This can cause damage to dress overtime.
If an individual is storing a dress in an attic or basement, it’s a good idea to install a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier works by condensing moisture out of the air. However, it’s important to understand some of the limitations of a dehumidifier. In many cases, a dehumidifier will require one to empty a water reservoir regularly. However, it’s possible to avoid this task by hooking up a dehumidifier to a plumbing drain in one’s home.
A dehumidifier works like an air conditioning system. Because of this, it may not be necessary for homeowners with air conditioning systems to purchase a dehumidifier. In many cases, air-conditioned homes have humidity levels that won’t damage the fabric in a wedding dress.
Pests can also be a problem when storing a wedding dress. To avoid pests like moths, it’s a good idea to make sure that there are moth traps and mothballs in the storage area where a wedding dress will be kept.
How UV Light Impacts Wedding Gown Storage
UV light is also one of the worst offenders when it comes to long term fabric storage. UV radiation occurs through the process of photooxidation, often referred to as photo rendering, and results in fabrics becoming weakened and embrittled over time. Traditional dyes can increase photooxidation, and silk fabrics are especially prone to self-destruction in a short amount of time if exposed in length to UV light. Storing your wedding gown in a dark place, rather than in direct sunlight, can mean the difference between a gown that lasts 2000 years vs. 100 years.
It can be challenging to manage all these steps to keep a wedding dress in pristine condition. In many cases, it may be easier to store a wedding dress in a vacuum space bag. A vacuum bag will allow one to store a wedding dress in a partial vacuum. Since there won’t be any humidity inside a vacuum bag, this can be a great way to reduce the risk of mould and mildew damage. In addition, there’s no need to worry about humidity problems when storing a wedding dress in a vacuum bag. However, it’s still important to make sure that a wedding dress isn’t exposed to excessive heat levels in a home.
However, vacuum bags can have several potential downsides. In some cases, a vacuum bag can cause the deformation of some elements of a wedding dress. This can cause a wedding dress to have a poor fit after it is taken out of storage. To avoid these types of issues, it’s a good idea to use a foam filler. With a foam filler, it’s possible to ensure that a dress will retain its original shape with any type of deformation.
If you have any questions on storing your gown and why vacuum sealing your wedding gown could end up in disaster, feel free to reach out to our fabric experts.
We have compiled a list of Melbourne Wedding Dress Shops to make the search as easy as possible for your perfect gown.
Why shouldn’t you store your wedding gown in a vacuum bag?
Vacuum Sealing Your Wedding Gown Traps in Moisture
Textile fibres need to be stored in an environment where adequate air movement exists. Fabrics should not be sealed in air-tight plastic bags or containers to prevent long term damage from moisture condensation.
Never store your dress in a vacuum-sealed bag or plastic container! While this may seem like a great way to preserve your gown, plastic containers or bags emit fumes that can yellow or discolour the fabric. Additionally, moisture trapped within the container can cause a buildup of mildew or mould.
What is the end result of moisture trapped in an air-tight storage container along with your wedding dress? Dry rot. Dry rot has little to do with rotting but instead has everything to do with mould damage. The most common cause of dry rot in fabrics is storage in a humid environment. When you are packaging your dress into a vacuum-sealed container, it’s impossible to keep microscopic mould and mildew spores off the surface of your gown. These spores that naturally circulate in the air are fed by the moisture trapped within the fabrics of your gown, breaking down delicate fibres. Unfortunately, dry rot and fabric weakening happen over a long period of time and will most likely not be noticeable until deterioration is extreme.
Vacuum Sealing Your Wedding Gown Ruins Your Gown’s Natural Shape
Fragile fabrics, like those your wedding gown, was lovingly crafted from, like to wear thin along sharp folds. Rather than folding your wedding gown, your gown should be rolled over safe materials so that no sharp creases exist.
The bust we utilize in our Wedding Gown Preservation Kit, combined with our acid-free tissue paper, allows our professional fabric handlers to package your gown using a roll-over technique that eliminates any fabric creases in your wedding gown. The process of vacuum sealing your wedding dress creates extremely sharp and unavoidable creases as air is rapidly removed from the plastic bag.
Vacuum Sealing Your Wedding Gown Exposes your Dress to Plastic Fumes
Many plastics, especially those not designed for long-term storage, don’t hold up well over time. This is especially true of the typical DIY vacuum-sealed containers that you’d normally use to store seasonal clothing. As they age, these plastics give off fumes due to molecular-level decomposition. These plastics and the fumes they give off should never come into contact with your wedding gown, an impossibility with these types of DIY vacuum-sealed containers. Suppose you’ve considered storing your wedding dress in a vacuum-sealed container to ward off moths and other little critters. In that case, this can easily be accomplished by storing your wedding dress in a clean, dry, cool environment and by conducting regular yearly inspections of your wedding gown.
Consider professional wedding dress preservation.
How to Preserve Your Wedding Dress?
Proper preservation can protect your dress from yellowing, permanent creasing, mildew and mould, oxidation spots, light and dust.
Since wedding gowns can be quite expensive, Kelsey McLellan from Prestige Preservation explains that most women choose to have them professionally preserved in order to protect that investment. Even if their daughters don’t plan on re-wearing the gown (if they don’t have any daughters of their own), certain pieces can be incorporated into memorabilia to be passed down to future generations.
Preservationists will usually remove stains, make necessary repairs (within reason), press or steam the dress, wrap in acid-free tissue and store it. Generally, there are three types of preservation methods:
- Sealing: Some companies choose to actually vacuum seal the wedding dress before storing it in an acid-free box. Many museum conservators discourage this method, since sealing promotes mould and mildew, gives the fabric permanent creases and eliminates your ability to inspect your gown regularly.
- Boxing: With this method, your dress is still folded and placed in an acid-free box, but acid-free tissue is used to protect it from permanent creases (this tissue should be white any coloured paper risks bleeding into the dress). Since the box is not sealed, the fabric can still breathe, and you can remove the dress periodically to inspect and refold it. Note: It’s best to use boxes made from the actual acid-free board, not boxes with an acid-free coating.
- Bagging: Similar to what museums have used for preserving heirloom costumes, this option leaves your dress hanging and unfolded. The gown is reinforced with twill tape to add support and eliminate long-term damage from hanging and then placed in a specialty cotton bag to be hung somewhere safe (with a padded hanger).
Consider professional wedding dress preservation
The cost of professional preservation can average anywhere from $150 to $500 — so if you do choose to work with a wedding dress preservation company, know the facts. Be sure to ask who is responsible for any damages if they occur during the preservation process and if they offer a warranty (some may only reimburse you for the cost of their services).
Be smart about where you store your wedding dress.
Once you’ve carefully packaged your dress, be sure to store it somewhere safe from extreme temperatures, light and humidity.
It is recommended to keep your gown somewhere you would be physically comfortable. Aim for a cool, dark and dry environment with a relative humidity of 50 per cent. This rules out attics and basements. Attics are too hot–so hot that temperature could reach 140 degrees–and basements are damp and prone to flooding.
Many women chose to store their dresses under their bed or in a dry closet. If you don’t have any room to store your gown, we have a variety of self-storage unit climates and types that will keep it cool, dry and protected.
Open the wedding dress bag with caution.
Whether you’re taking out your dress to examine its state (the experts recommend taking it out every two to three years to refold it), eliminating the chance of permanent creases) or simply reminiscing with your loved ones, always handle it with proper care. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Since your body produces natural oils, be sure always to wash your hands first.
- Make sure you’re not wearing any lotions or perfumes, since these can also transfer onto your fabric — and always be careful of nail polish.
- Invest in a pair of clean, white cotton gloves (which some preservationists provide). These will keep your dress white and sparkly.
Since you may be sharing these moments with fellow friends and family, always encourage them to take the same steps (especially with young children).
For help preserving your gown, keeping it looking fresh and nearly wrinkle-free, Shores offers you these DIY tips for the budget-minded.
- If possible, use an acid-free storage bag – most professional providers of gown preservation services will provide this bag after any cleaning, which is another great reason to have your gown cleaned and pressed before storing it!
- If you don’t have a gown storage bag handy, use 2 large sheets – one to cover the front of the dress, another for the back and pin them together. Fitted sheets work best for this.
- The box you choose should be about one-third the length of the front of your gown. Line this box with tissue and lay the gown over it, centred and face down. Make sure that the front of the gown is flat to avoid any creases or folds.
- Fold the skirt lengthwise over bunched tissue, beginning at the side seams, until the skirt is no wider than the box.
- Adding more bunched tissue as needed, fold the bottom of the skirt into the box.
- Now fold the top of the gown over into the box – the top should now be facing up.
- Stuff the bodice with additional tissue for cushioning, as well as any sleeves or bows that should be protected. Remember, the goal here is that the dress should not move at all, even when the box is shaken.
To get more ideas on preserving your wedding dress, check out our post on How do you get dirt stains out of a wedding dress?
What are the ideal conditions in storing your wedding dress?
Now that you know all the reasons why you shouldn’t vacuum seal your wedding dress, let’s take a look at the ideal conditions to store your wedding gown after it is professionally cleaned and preserved.
The general rule of thumb, which all of our sources agree on, is that the ideal conditions to store your wedding dress are the same as which you’d be comfortable in. This eliminates places like musty, humid basements and the extreme temperature changes you’d find in an attic space.