Wedding Dress Cleaning, Preservation & Restoration Blog

Tips to Maintain a Vintage Wedding Dress – And What to Avoid

Tips to Maintain a Vintage Wedding Dress – And What to Avoid

2020 may go down in history as the year that changed the way we live, work, and interact with others, but this big and inconvenient disruption in our lives has also moved to the forefront a task we’ve been putting off for years - cleaning house.  Cleaning out closets, attics, basements, and garages has led many to be forced to figure out what to do with a family member’s vintage wedding dress – a living memory from a very special day in the past.  

The desire to keep this memory alive has led to a huge increase in the popularity of our professional wedding dress restoration service and our customers are thrilled with the results.  If you’re yet to make the decision to keep this special memory in the family for the next generation to enjoy, we’ve put together a list of vintage wedding dress maintenance tips for you to follow until your amazing family heirloom can be professionally restored.

Tip #1 – Don’t Attempt to Clean Your Vintage Wedding Dress Yourself

vintage wedding dress cleaning

It’s an all too common phone call we receive.  A loved one has attempted to use over the counter soaps, bleach, and other household chemicals to try and whiten a vintage wedding gown.  After the garment has been hung to dry, they realize that the material has become hard and brittle to the touch and in some cases even leaving fabric particles behind on their hands after handling the garment.

Leave cleaning and restoring a vintage wedding dress to the professionals.  If it’s your desire to save your dress and keep it for future generations to enjoy, you’re better off waiting to have it professionally restored rather than try and attempt this delicate procedure yourself. 

Did you know your vintage wedding dress goes through a series to 20 checkpoints when it arrives at our restoration facility?  This process allows the restoration team to identify fabrics, embellishments, and stain composition to create a custom restoration procedure and restore your vintage gown back to its original beauty.

Tip #2 – Keep Your Vintage Wedding Dress Out of Sunlight and Other Bright Light

It’s a very common misconception that only ultraviolet light (such as light from the sun) can cause textile damage.  Any wavelength of light detectable to the human eye, fluorescent, LED, or incandescent light, can all cause fabric degradation over time.  Ultraviolet light is certainly the most damaging of all the common wavelengths and should be avoided at all costs.  This is why it is so important to store your vintage gown in room, such as a master bedroom closet, that doesn’t receive as much direct sunlight, or light in general, as other areas of your home. 

If you would like the ability to share and enjoy your vintage wedding dress with others, choose a restoration service with a UV-filtering viewing window built into the preservation chest.

Tip #3 – Smell Your Dress... Yes, We’re Serious

This may sound strange, but the way your vintage wedding gown smells can tell you a lot about how the fabric is holding up after all those years in storage.  The most important smell you don’t want to detect is what can best be described as a “funky” or musty smell.  This is a red flag and a good indication that there are microscopic mold spores wreaking havoc on the delicate fibers of your dress which will require professional cleaning to fully remove. 

musty wedding dress cleaning

Mold damage is the top reason why a vintage dress can become too damaged for even a top garment conservator to restore.  Mold spores go beyond simply staining your dress by actually breaking down the delicate organic fibers which can result in permanent fabric rot in the fibers of your dress.

Tip #4 – Store Your Vintage Wedding Dress in a Comfortable Place

What do we mean by “comfortable”? By this we mean your vintage wedding dress will age best in an area of your home that is both temperature and humidity regulated.  If you rediscovered your dress while cleaning out a chest in the attic, it’s time to move it to a master bedroom closet or into an acid free wedding dress preservation box under your bed.

There are multiple reasons why you should store a vintage garment in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

  • Storing your vintage gown in a comfortable area of your home avoids extreme temperature swings.Textiles have a tendency to become embrittled due to the expansion and contraction of fibers as they respond to the drastic temperature changes you’d find in an attic space or garage.
  • Storing your vintage gown in a comfortable area of your home prevents mold growth in the fabrics of your dress.If you read our tip #3, you’ll know why this is so important.In addition, this area of your home is often heated and cooled with a home comfort system utilizing a filtration element that filters out mold spores, pollen, and dust.
  • The most comfortable area of your home will also be the most likely to be void of pests, such as clothing moths, carpet beetles, silverfish, and mice, all of which can cause unrepairable fabric damage to your dress.
  • These areas of your home are less prone to “natural disaster” types of events such as flooding or fire damage.
where to store a restored vintage wedding gown

Under the bed in your master bedroom is the best place to store your restored vintage wedding gown.

Tip #5 – Don’t Store Your Vintage Gown in Plastic or in an Untreated Cardboard Box

Two of the most damaging methods of storing a wedding dress are in a plastic dry cleaning bag or in a standard cardboard box.  There is good reason why the nation’s leading conservators advocate storing textiles in acid-free storage boxes.  Years of storing a dress in plastic allows the garment to absorb the chemical fumes given off as the chemicals in the plastic break down over time.  The same goes for cardboard as over time the chemicals the box was manufactured from leach into your dress where the gown and the cardboard make contact.

  Warning – be sure to store your vintage wedding dress flat and loosely folded.  Years of storing a wedding dress on a hanger will cause fabrics to pull away from each other at the bodice and shoulders of the gown, causing damage that professional cleaning and restoring cannot repair.

Another reason why proper textile storage containers are so important is that storing your dress in an acid-free storage box will prevent external pollutants such as aerosol cleaning sprays and other household chemicals from coming into contact with your vintage wedding dress.  These types of chemicals will increase the rate of fabric decay and yellowing of your wedding dress.

Don’t Worry! Now is a Great Time to Have Your Vintage Wedding Gown Restored

With advancements in delicate fabric dry cleaning technology and the improvements in wet cleaning techniques, your vintage gown will be handled by the top wedding dress restoration experts in the world.  When you purchase your Restoration Kit, your gown will be assessed and restored using a team trained by the highest museum quality standards.  You receive your vintage gown safely back to you home in the same beautiful condition it was when it was loving worn many years ago, along with our industry leading 100 year anti-yellowing and anti-staining guarantee.

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