After the big day is all said and done, you are left with the most expensive and meaningful dress you have ever bought, how do you preserve and protect it for the future? There are many options here, you can even pay bridal shops to preserve the dress for you, but this comes with a heavy price tag.
Most wedding dresses manufactured are made out of a combination of cotton or bleached wool. However, most dresses also contain some elements that are made of polyester or other synthetic materials. In most cases, these types of materials are extremely durable. However, certain types of activities and storage conditions can expose them to an increased risk of mould and mildew growth.
Understanding the Fabrics of Your Wedding Dress and How they Age Over Time
The modern wedding dress has evolved into a beautiful, luxurious, and extremely complicated weave of fabrics. Satin, silk, charmeuse, chiffon, organza, tulle, and lace are just a few of the many materials fashion designers craft their runway-worthy wedding gowns from and each has their own set of unique properties. The one property most all hold true to is that they are all organic. As all organic materials age, they slowly break down and are constantly in a state of deterioration. While our wedding gown preservation process acts to slow down this process to a near stand-still drastically, it is simply a function of the natural fibres. This deterioration is caused by the breakdown of long-chain molecules into shorter chains which over time will cause the fabrics of your wedding gown to become brittle if left untreated.
Why Your Wedding Gown Should Be Cleaned Before Storage
Did you know that dust particles on the surface of your wedding gown can actually cut through the fibres in the fabrics of your gown through microscopic friction and abrasion over time? This is just one of the many reasons why your wedding gown should be professionally cleaned before being placed in long term storage. Another strong case for cleaning is invisible stains from your wedding day, which can include makeup, body oils and sweat, oils from perfumes, and many other contaminants. These invisible stains will slowly break down natural fibres, resulting in unsightly yellow and brown staining along with making fabrics weak and brittle. Ensuring these stains are removed before storing your gown is the only way to be sure spot staining won’t ruin your gown many years down the road.Check out our wedding dress dry cleaning services.
Why You Shouldn’t Store Your Wedding Gown in a Vacuum Bag
Vacuum Sealing Your Wedding Gown Traps in Moisture
Textile fibres need to be stored in an environment where adequate air movement exists. Fabrics should not be sealed in air-tight plastic bags or containers to prevent long term damage from moisture condensation.
Never store your dress in a vacuum-sealed bag or plastic container! While this may seem like a great way to preserve your gown, plastic containers or bags emit fumes that can yellow or discolour the fabric. Additionally, moisture trapped within the container can cause a buildup of mildew or mould.
What is the end result of moisture trapped in an air-tight storage container along with your wedding dress? Dry rot. Dry rot has little to do with rotting but instead has everything to do with mould damage. The most common cause of dry rot in fabrics is storage in a humid environment. When you are packaging your dress into a vacuum-sealed container, it’s impossible to keep microscopic mould and mildew spores off the surface of your gown. These spores that naturally circulate in the air are fed by the moisture trapped within the fabrics of your gown, breaking down delicate fibres. Unfortunately, dry rot and fabric weakening happen over a long period of time and will most likely not be noticeable until deterioration is extreme.
Vacuum Sealing Your Wedding Gown Ruins Your Gown’s Natural Shape
Fragile fabrics, like those your wedding gown, was lovingly crafted from, like to wear thin along sharp folds. Rather than folding your wedding gown, your gown should be rolled over safe materials so that no sharp creases exist.
The process of vacuum sealing your wedding dress creates extremely sharp and unavoidable creases as air is rapidly removed from the plastic bag.
Vacuum Sealing Your Wedding Gown Exposes your Dress to Plastic Fumes
Many plastics, especially those not designed for long-term storage, don’t hold up well over time. This is especially true of the typical DIY vacuum-sealed containers that you’d normally use to store seasonal clothing. As they age, these plastics give off fumes due to molecular-level decomposition. These plastics and the fumes they give off should never come into contact with your wedding gown, an impossibility with these types of DIY vacuum-sealed containers. If you’ve considered storing your wedding dress in a vacuum-sealed container to ward off moths and other little critters, this can easily be accomplished by storing your wedding dress in a clean, dry, cool environment and by conducting regular yearly inspections of your wedding gown.
Elements that Affect Your Wedding Gown
How Humidity Impacts Wedding Gown Storage
When storing a wedding dress, it’s important to understand how heat and humidity can cause damage over time. If a wedding dress is stored in a humid environment, it can experience severe damage. For example, many types of fabric that are left in a humid environment will develop grey and black patches over time. Those patches indicate the growth of mould.
Wedding dress textiles are hygroscopic, which means that over time they will naturally absorb and release water vapour found in the air as relative humidity levels rise and fall. At very high relative humidity levels, fibres will swell, dyes will transfer, and mould can grow. The Canadian Conservation Institute states that mould growth on garments can happen in as little as 2-3 days in an area where humidity levels are 90% and above, whereas humidity levels at 50% and below virtually eliminates mould growth when kept at a constant temperature of 77°F. In a worst-case scenario, mould and the consequent growth of microorganisms, cause deep staining, which is unfortunately impossible to remove. Mould growth can also weaken fibres, many times to the point of disintegration. If the living space in your home is air-conditioned, your gown should be fine during those hot, humid summer months. If not, it may be best to give your cleaned and preserved gown to a family member or friend for storage in their humidity-controlled home.
How Temperature Impacts Wedding Gown Storage
High temperatures can also greatly impact the longevity of your wedding dress. Chemically unstable fabrics, such as weighted silk, common in wedding gowns, are especially susceptible to high-temperature deterioration. Low temperatures have many benefits to textiles, including reducing the rate of chemical decay and lowering the risk of insect infestation. In an extreme example, the rate of fabric decay in an ideal temperature of 32°F and 86°F is respectfully 20,000+ years and 250 years. This example is a great case for not storing your wedding dress in extreme conditions that often occur in an attic space.
To avoid these types of problems, it’s essential to make sure that a wedding dress is stored in a dry, cool environment. If possible, it should be stored in an area that is away from clothes that an individual wears on a regular basis. If an individual puts a wedding dress in a closet, it could be exposed to clothes that have dirt, oil or liquids on them. This can cause damage to dress overtime.
If an individual is storing a dress in an attic or basement, it’s a good idea to install a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier works by condensing moisture out of the air. However, it’s important to understand some of the limitations of a dehumidifier. In many cases, a dehumidifier will require one to empty a water reservoir on a regular basis. However, it’s possible to avoid this task by hooking up a dehumidifier to a plumbing drain in one’s home.
A dehumidifier works like an air conditioning system. Because of this, it may not be necessary for homeowners with air conditioning systems to purchase a dehumidifier. In many cases, air-conditioned homes have humidity levels that won’t damage the fabric in a wedding dress.
Pests can also be a problem when storing a wedding dress. To avoid pests like moths, it’s a good idea to make sure that there are moth traps and mothballs in the storage area where a wedding dress will be kept.
How UV Light Impacts Wedding Gown Storage
UV light is also one of the worst offenders when it comes to long term fabric storage. UV radiation occurs through the process of photooxidation, often referred to as photo rendering, and results in fabrics becoming weakened and embrittled over time. Traditional dyes can increase photooxidation, and silk fabrics are especially prone to self-destruction in a short amount of time if exposed in length to UV light. Storing your wedding gown in a dark place, rather than in direct sunlight, can mean the difference between a gown that lasts 2000 years vs. 100 years.
Ideal Conditions for the Storage of Your Wedding Dress
Now that you know all the reasons why you shouldn’t vacuum seal your wedding dress let’s take a look at the ideal conditions to store your wedding gown after it is professionally cleaned and preserved.
The general rule of thumb, which all of our sources agree on, is that the ideal conditions to store your wedding dress are the same as which you’d be comfortable in. This eliminates places like musty, humid basements and the extreme temperature changes you’d find in an attic space.
Want to know more about preserving your wedding dress? Check out our blogs.