Originally Published: February 24, 2013 6:01 a.m.
Picking the perfect wedding gown is a very personal choice and considering what you will do with the gown after the wedding can be an important part of saving your memories of this special day. After the reception most brides end up stuffing the gown back into its plastic bag, stains and all, where it will probably stay for the next two to five years. This unfortunate scenario happens with more than 50 percent of the gowns that dry cleaners are asked to clean and preserve.
This is certainly understandable, given the multitude of details and decisions brides-to-be face. Gown preservation is a detail that a best friend or mother should be asked to handle. A gift certificate for cleaning and preservation can be a wedding gift from an individual or even a group that the bride will always remember.
If the gown is to be preserved, this should start even before the bride decides upon her gown. Colored fabrics may bleed or fade. Beads, sequins, and trim may be glued on, making the gown almost impossible to clean without destroying its embellishments. Make sure the gown is cleanable.
When bringing the gown home, use a clean vehicle. Put down a clean sheet and have enough space to lay the gown so it won't crease. When the gown arrives at home, the plastic bag should be discarded. The gases from the plastic can yellow fabrics over time, and it is too easy to reuse the bag if it is kept. A fabric bag or a white cotton sheet should be used for storage.
If your gown is rumpled during transportation you may need to relax the wrinkles by creating a steam room. Cover the bathroom floor with towels and run a very hot shower, allowing the room to fill with steam. Turn the water off, then hang the gown on the back of the bathroom door. Wrap your hand in a dry, white towel and run it down the length of the gown, smoothing out any wrinkles. This method is much less likely to leave water spots or iron impressions than a home steamer or iron.
Be sure to wear a clear deodorant that is also an antiperspirant to help prevent staining. If your gown must go over your head, place a small towel over your face to prevent the transfer of makeup. Be sure to drape a towel around your shoulders to do final makeup touch-ups.
Take care to avoid makeup and perspiration stains during fittings. Be aware of vehicle grease and oil as well as grass and dirt if taking outside photos before the wedding. The wedding ceremony and reception are not the time to worry about stains. Have fun and enjoy the day.
Keep in mind that many stains such as food, beverages, and body oils are all but invisible until they have begun to turn yellow and set. Dirt, grass, food, makeup, and oil stains can transfer and spread over time. Bring along your pre-laundered white sheet to wrap your gown in after the reception. Have a trusted friend deliver the gown to the dry cleaner within a week. Gowns are as individual as their brides because of the wide variety of materials, the number of layers, the size of the train, and the amount of beading and lace. Any stains or repairs must also be considered in any estimate for cleaning and preservation. An estimate given over the phone is at best a guess.
A firm price should be given by the dry cleaner when the gown is examined. A deposit may be required.
Long-term storage on a hanger can be a problem. Heavier gowns can distort and stretch over the years and be flattened in overcrowded closets. After cleaning, the gown should be kept at household temperatures in a dry environment, not in an attic or basement. A gown that is properly stain-treated, cleaned, pressed, shaped, and folded into an acid-free storage box will ensure that the gown will last for a lifetime of memories.
Written by: Steve Harms, Artisan Cleaners, Prescott