A good way to determine the best wedding gown preservation technique would be to check with museum textile conservators to see how they preserve heirloom garments and what their recommendations are for wedding dress preservation. But who has the time?
That is why we have done the research for you. We have consulted with museum conservators at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and summarized the information they gave to us.
How Museums Store Heirloom Dresses
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a wonderful collection of gowns that are hundreds of years old. The dresses in storage are hung on padded hangers and covered with cotton sheeting to protect them.
Garment preservation at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. is similar. Heirloom garments that are not currently on display are cleaned and carefully stored in climate controlled conditions. Most dresses are hung on padded hangers, while some garments are laid in drawers or acid free boxes with acid free tissue. Sharp creases are avoided, as they can damage fabric. To keep the folds from becoming permanent creases, the garments stored in boxes or drawers are refolded into a different position every few years.
Neither of these museums seals any of their heirloom garments. Museum conservators discourage sealing any garment in any container for three reasons:
- Fabric weakens where it is folded. Fabric weakens in the same way that paper weakens where it is folded, so that creases from the folds may become permanent. (You may have experienced this if you have ever let down the hem on a garment.) Or worse, the fabric may tear at the weakened creases. This is why the Smithsonian refolds the garments stored in drawers and boxes periodically.
- Inspection is critical. Periodic inspection ensures that the garment does not develop permanent damage from oxidizing stains or any other problems. The sooner problems are discovered, the more likely they can be remedied.
- Sealing promotes mold and mildew. If the textile can breathe, then the humidity remains constant around the garment. If any moisture were to condense inside a storage container, it would likely develop mildew.
Museum Recommendations for Wedding Dress Preservation
Museum conservators recommend keeping wedding gowns and all heirloom garments: clean, cool, dry and wrinkle-free. So cleaning your wedding gown is the first step in proper wedding gown preservation.
Museum Bridal Gown Cleaning and Preservation Recommendations
From An Interview with Museum Curators at Victoria Albert Museum, London, England
How V&A Museum Stores Their Wedding Dress Collections
How Women at Home Should Store Heirloom Garments
Love the hanging garment bag
Heritage did an amazing job on my wedding dress – fixing a hem tear and cleaning the dress in general. I love that they offer the option to get your dress sent back in a nice hanging garment bag, rather than stuffed in that cardboard box with the thin plastic window. I liked the idea that any time I wanted to, I could just open the garment bag up and see my entire gown. Throughout the process, if I had a question about where my dress was in the process, their customer service was very helpful and responded to my questions quickly. Out of all the wedding dress preservation companies that I researched, Heritage offered the best options.