Monday, January 10, 2011

Dress Preservation

Your wedding dress is probably the most expensive dress you will ever buy, and whether or not you think your daughter or granddaughter will want to wear it someday, chances are you'd like it to be in good condition for years to come. Here are some tips on what to do with The Dress after your Big Day.

DIY Wedding Dress Details: How to Preserve Your Wedding Dress
The big day's over and your wedding gown, the most expensive item of clothing you've ever bought, is hanging in your closet. What do you do with it now?

After countless hours spent searching for your dream wedding gown (not to mention the dollars spent), you're not going to say goodbye to it as it lays crumpled on the floor of the honeymoon suite, right? Take a moment to remember why you chose this dress in the first place: the daring neckline, the fur-trimmed cuffs, the perfectly plump bustle -- all reasons to save it for posterity (and maybe even so your daughter can enjoy it when she struts down the aisle.)

What Is Gown Preservation?
The special cleaning and packaging techniques called gown preservation ensure your gown maintains its beauty. A professional preservationist will survey your gown: the materials used, ornamentation, and various stains, then formulate a specialized cleaning procedure. After cleaning, your gown is wrapped and placed in a box. Preservationists recommend having your gown cleaned as soon as possible after your wedding because if you wait too long, some stains can set permanently. Keep in mind that if you wait a while, certain materials, such as silk, will be harder to treat -- as will particular stains such as red wine and mud.

Finding a Preservationist
A few weeks before your wedding, you'll need to investigate where to take your gown for cleaning. Ask family members, friends, bridal shops, or your wedding consultant for preservationist referrals, or check out to find a specialist in your area. Though many dry cleaners claim to clean wedding gowns, most are not specialists. Unless the dry cleaner you are thinking about using processes more than 100 wedding gowns a year, consider going instead to a professional gown preservationist with a noted track record. Keep in mind that if you wait a while to have your gown preserved, certain materials, such as silk, will be harder to treat -- as will particular stains such as red wine and mud.

Cleaning Techniques
Some gown specialists use the wetcleaning method, which consists of gently washing the gown by hand with gentle cleansers that remove noticeable stains and unseen stains, such as champagne and sugar, as well. If left untreated, unseen stains can oxidize and turn yellow over time. Other companies use a more traditional dry-cleaning method, which involves pre-treating the stains and then placing the garment in a dry-cleaning machine. Solvents such as perchloroethylene (perc for short) or petroleum-based cleansers are used as stain removers. Petroleum-based solvents aren't as aggressive as perc, and they're also not as powerful in stain removal, but, due to its high oil content, petroleum nourishes certain fabrics and can give them a lovely sheen.

Wrapping It Up
The correct packaging materials are utterly imperative for guaranteeing the life of your gown. Most gown preservationists highly discourage packing your dress in plastic, because it can cause permanent wrinkles and trap moisture which promotes mildew. Most preservationists agree that white acid-free tissue paper or unbleached muslin are the ideal packaging materials. Ordinary tissue paper contains acid which can literally scorch your gown. Don't use colored tissue paper either. If the box accidentally becomes wet, it could stain your gown.

Packaging for Posterity
To protect your gown, many professionals recommend it be placed in an acid-free or pH-neutral box, such as sturdy paperboard boxes which allow the gown to breathe and adjust with changing temperatures. Some boxes feature a viewing window: a clear panel designed so you can see your gown without opening the box. If your box features a window, look for acetate rather than plastic, and keep the box out of direct light, which can yellow the fabric over time. Some companies utilize boxes with Coroplast, a specially designed plastic known for its durability.

Sealed With a...?
While some companies choose to seal the box to keep out insects and vermin, others say sealing is unnecessary, if the gown is packaged correctly. If you do open the box, remember to use discretion when handling the dress. Don't bother with white gloves. Just make sure you have clean hands, to prevent body oils from invisibly transferring to the gown and causing yellowing over time. Many brides want to include items such as shoes and jewelry in the box, along with the gown. Some preservationists believe these objects may emit damaging fumes and ruin the gown, but others find these can be added if they are cleaned and wrapped separately; for instance, invitations and programs can be placed in acid-free envelopes. Talk to your preservationist who will have an opinion based on the types of materials you'll want to include.

Money Matters
Materials, ornamentation, and degree of stain damage usually determine the preservation price of a gown. Costs vary across the country, with higher prices in metropolitan areas. Expect to pay $200-$400, though prices can go as high as $800 depending on the gown and location.

Know It All
Before choosing a preservationist, do a little detective work. First, find out if the company in question does the work on location or if they ship gowns elsewhere to be cleaned and packaged though don't rule out a company soley because it doesn't do the work in-house, especially if the company has a good, clean record. Second, ask them whether you must sign a release or disclaimer because these documents sometimes state that the company isn't responsible for any damage done to the gown during the cleaning process. You will want to find someone who will guarantee every last bead and sequin. Next, ask if the company offers a warranty and how they will reimburse you if you find the gown to be damaged after a certain number of years. Read the fine print of the agreement: some companies will refund the preservation cost -- not the replacement value of the dress. And consider it a red flag if they claim the warranty is void if you open the box. Finally, beware of companies that give quotes over the phone -- different materials and stains require specialized care. Your gown will receive the best care if it's individually inspected before a price is given.

Before & After
To help maintain the integrity of your gown, there are some things you should not do before sending it to be cleaned and preserved. First, don't wrap your dress in plastic. This can seal in off-gassing vapors and trap moisture, inviting mold and mildew. Don't hang your dress on an ordinary wooden or wire hanger -- the weight of the dress will stretch and distort the weave of the fabric -- try a plactic or padded hanger instead. Don't try to clean the stains yourself -- you risk setting them in the fabric. Once your gown is back from the preservationist, pay attention to storage. Most professionals agree that light and heat play the most damaging roles when it comes to gown preservation. As a guideline, store your preserved gown in a place where you would feel physically comfortable. That rules out a hot attic or damp basement. Under your bed or in a dry closet are your best bets.

But I'm Broke!
If your bank account is dry as a desert post-wedding it is possible to preserve it at home, though it won't be perfect and may retain stains. For storage, professionals recommend wrapping the gown in a white sheet or pre-washed unbleached muslin, and then placing it in a sturdy box under your bed. That way, if you decide to preserve your gown down the road, it will be right there waiting for you.

Source: The Knot

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