Garment Fabrics and Treatments

Silk Fabrics     Polyester Fabrics     Tulle Fabrics     Cotton Fabrics     Wool Fabrics     Lace Fabrics

All About Fabrics

Fabric consists of two elements: the fiber and the weave. This surprises many people who believe their wedding gown is silk, not satin. When actually, there are silk satin, polyester satin and even acetate satin fabrics.

  • Fabric fibers can be silk, polyester, nylon, rayon, acetate, spandex, etc.
  • The weaves can be satin, taffeta, organza, chiffon, shantung, mikado, twill, lace, etc.

Each fabric fiber is made differently. It may come from an animal (i.e. silk and wool), a plant (i.e. cotton and ramie) or from man made materials (i.e. polyester and nylon) or even combining plant products and technology (i.e. acetate and rayon)!

Fabric weaves will then give the fabric it’s unique appearance. For instance satin is woven with long fibers to give it the lustrous look that is so elegant. Or woven differently, it may look like taffeta, etc.

Read below some common fabrics used for wedding gowns and other heirloom garments. We will also discuss our standard cleaning methods, and some risks with each fabric.

Silk Fabric

Silk is such a lovely fabric, but more difficult to clean than synthetic fabrics. Silk is available in many different weaves such as organza, satin, shantung, taffeta, chiffon, mikado and charmeuse. No matter the weave, all silk is woven from a thin, strong silk thread fibers. Silk drapes fluidly and is very soft by it’s nature.

Some silk weaves are so lightweight that manufacturers alter it through added sizing or by backing it with a heavier fabric during garment construction to give the appearance of a heavier silk.
Silk quality is often indicated by momme measurement (mm). This is a Japanese term that indicates the weight of 100 yards of silk cloth 45 inches wide in pounds. Heavier weights are usually more durable. Heavier silk satins that do not rely on added sizing or fabric backing are also more easily cleaned, pressed and returned to optimal condition.

Silk Wedding Dress Cleaning

Expert Silk wedding dress cleaning

HGP’s silk wedding gown cleaning methods vary and are determined by the fabric, stains and trims of the silk gown.

All cleaning solvents will likely remove some added sizing from silk fabrics (although less sizing is usually removed with dry-cleaning). Consequently, it is possible that your silk gown will have less body after cleaning.

Usually silk garment care labels will indicate “dry-clean only.”  Unfortunately dry-cleaning does not remove all stains. Sugar substances (i.e. spills from soda or wine) and all water based substances are not removed with dry-cleaning solvents and require wet-process cleaning or thorough wet process pre-treating. Some silk garment labels state “Dry clean only” but also have a wet process symbol on the care label. This indicates the manufacturer considers wet process cleaning safe for the garment.

HGP Silk Wedding Dress Cleaning Methods

At Heritage Garment Preservation, we determine the cleaning method for our customer’s silk garments after inspecting the fabric, stains and trims of the item. We may determine to use wet-process or dry-clean with Green Earth™ solvent, or both. (Green Earth is safer for beads and sequins than the more common solvent perchloroethylene.) Our goal is to return every garment that we care for to very best condition possible.
Read more about our expert silk wedding gown care > >

Polyester is a Wonder Fabric

Expert Polyester wedding dress cleaning
Today there are amazing silk look-a-likes, made entirely of polyester fiber. You will find polyester satin, taffeta, organza, tulle, mikado and even charmeuse. Polyester garments are easier to clean, don’t wrinkle as easily as silk, press beautifully and usually are not altered by cleaning. We heartily recommend them to all brides planning an outdoor wedding.

All polyester wedding gowns are cleaned with wet-process cleaning at Heritage Garment Preservation  regardless of what the care label indicates. Our experience has shown us that wet process cleaning safely removes most stains, leaving the gown fresher and cleaner than gowns cleaned in dry-cleaning solvent. All work is done by hand, so your wedding dress will not tumble about in a machine and is less likely to have any trims damaged as well.

We have found that some polyester organza fabrics can have an altered texture after cleaning. We may determine to  spot clean your gown if we determine it is at risk for this problem. However, if your wedding dress gown is too dirty, we will hand clean the entire gown and press it carefully to ensure that it returns to the best condition possible.

Read more about our expert synthetic gown care >>

Tulle Fabrics

Layers of tulle create a soft, beautiful full skirt on many wedding dresses. However, tulle is a very fragile fabric and tears easily. Many dresses have tears at the hemline, or where bustles had been attached after the wedding is over. Some tears can be cut away and others repaired. However, tulle is a transparent fabric so the repairs will show.

When cleaning tulle, we have found that some tulle fabrics can have an altered texture afterward. The tulle fabric may appear to have a dimpled finish even after careful pressing. We may determine to spot clean a tulle gown if we believe it is at risk for this problem.

Cotton Fabrics

Cotton brocade fabrics make lovely wedding gowns. Historically, many older wedding gowns from the 1920’s and earlier are also made of cotton fabrics. And cotton weaves of many types are common for christening and communion gowns.

Cleaning cotton poses some risks as it is subject to shrinkage, particularly with high temperatures. Restoration chemicals are most effective at higher temperatures, so restoring cotton garments does pose additional risks.

Wool Fabrics

Wool is a common fiber for military uniforms and usually requires dry-cleaning. Although some wool garments can be safely cleaned with wet-process with extra care.

It is very unusual to find wedding dresses with wool. We have seen wool occasionally blended with other fabrics. To determine the best treatment, we will determine the percentage of wool and the other fibers and decide which cleaning method will be most effective and safe for the heirloom garment.

Lace Fabrics

Lace wedding gowns are beautiful, delicate, feminine and very popular! They may be made of rayon, polyester, cotton or even silk. They are generally safe to clean with wet process however, we may determine to dry clean it if the under layer of the garment is made of silk satin.