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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Summer 2001 > Preserving your Wedding Dress

Preserving your Wedding Dress

Story1Wedding dresses are meant to be treasured. SPNEA carefully preserves about seventy gowns that were worn by brides as long ago as the eighteenth century. Your dress deserves the same care to ensure that it will remain as beautiful as the day it was worn. Be sure to have it cleaned soon after the wedding. Left untreated, invisible stains from frosting, champagne, perfume, makeup, and perspiration may appear as brown spots months or even years later. If you have an heirloom textile, we recommend consulting a conservator before any treatment. Be wary in selecting a dry cleaner; even those that offer special services may not be aware of the best techniques for your gown. There are several companies that deal specifically in wedding gown preservation, using museum-quality techniques and materials. They will not only clean the dress but return it to you appropriately packed.

If you choose to do the packing yourself, you can obtain a large, acid-free box and unbuffered, acid-free wrapping tissue from an archival supply company. Make sure your hands are freshly washed or wear a pair of clean white gloves when handling the garment. Start by lining the box with tissue or well washed and rinsed (never bleached) cotton sheets. Use tissue paper to support the body and sleeves of the gown, surround any flowers or bows to prevent them from being crushed, and cushion the folds of the gown to prevent creases. You may put the veil in the same box with the dress, but store shoes separately, as the materials and adhesives in them may cause damage over time.

Store the box in a safe, dark place away from extremes of temperature and humidity, avoiding the attic and basement. A closet on an inside wall is usually the best place. Proper preservation will prevent damage and discoloration of your gown, so that someday it may be passed on to another family member when she is planning for her wedding day.

—Melinda Talbot, Assistant Curator

Preserving your Wedding Dress