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Choosing the Best Wedding Dress Preservation

Choosing  the best wedding dress preservation method can be confusing.  Asking experts should help you make a wise decision.   Museum textile conservators could tell you the best storage methods for heirloom garments and what they suggest  for wedding dress preservation.   

To save you the time, we have contacted museum conservators at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and asked them how they store heirloom dresses.

Heirloom Dress Storage at Museums

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has one of the best collections of heirloom dresses any where.  Some are hundreds of years old.   To store them safely, they are usually hung on padded hangers and covered with cotton sheeting for protection.

The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.  stores their heirloom gowns in a similar way. Dresses that are not on display are carefully stored in a climate controlled environment. Most gowns are hung on acid-free, padded hangers, while other garments are laid in acid-free drawers or acid free boxes with archival tissue.   Sharp folds are avoided, because they can damage fabric.   The garments stored in drawers or boxes are refolded periodically to prevent permanent creases.

Neither museum seals  heirloom garments.   Museum conservators do not recommend sealing  garments for several reasons:

Victorian wedding dress preservation - not stored in box

  1. Folds in fabric weakens garments. Similar to the way paper weakens when folded,  creases in fabric may become permanent over time  (if you have ever let down a hem you may have experience this.) Or even worse,  the fabric might tear where it has been weakened.  This is why museums will refold their boxed garments periodically.
  2. Inspection is essential.   Occasionally inspecting a garment ensures that any oxidized stains or other problems that are developing can be remedied before they are permanent.
  3. Mildew and Mold Risks.  If a garment is stored in an environment of  over 60% humidity, mold and mildew spores can develop. Moisture trapped in a storage container increases the risks of mold and mildew as well. If a garment has not been cleaned it also increases the risk.

Wedding Dress Preservation Recommendations from Museums

Textile conservators recommend that you keep your wedding dress: cool, clean, cool, dry, wrinkle-free and in the dark. So  having your wedding dress properly cleaned is the first step in proper wedding dress preservation.

Next: Part 4. Wedding Dress Cleaning