Part 5. Wedding Gown Preservation Options

You have choices in your wedding dress preservation decision. You can choose a local dry cleaner, a national wedding dress preservation company or even choose to preserve your wedding dress yourself with a do-it-yourself wedding gown preservation kit. But you also can choose which preservation method would be best for your wedding gown. You have three options…

Sealed Wedding Dress Preservation

Most gown preservation companies preserve wedding gowns in an acid-free box. Many have a window in which to see the gown. Acid-free tissue may be used to buffer the folds and a cardboard shape is often used to fill the bodice area of the gown. However, some companies actually seal the gown inside the box.

The assumption for sealed wedding gowns is that the dress needs to be protected from oxygen. However, unless you are NASA, it is nearly impossible to keep oxygen from getting in the preservation box. Sealed wedding dress preservation poses some risks for your wedding gown:

  1. Sealed wedding gown preservation puts your gown at greater risk for contamination from any acidic cardboard or plastic component fumes.
  2. It puts your wedding dress at greater risk for permanent creasing damage (because you cannot refold your gown periodically as recommended by conservators)
  3. Oxidized stains, yellowing, or other problems will not be caught and remedied as sealed wedding dress preservation makes inspection impossible.

Boxed Wedding Gown Preservation

Heritage Box preservation uses museum quality preservation materialsBoxed gown preservation is similar to the sealing method but has some important differences. Like the sealing method, your dress is first cleaned and pressed, and then folded into a wedding dress storage box. Sharp creases are avoided, and acid free tissue is used to buffer the folds. However, unlike the sealing method, the box is not sealed, and you are encouraged to open and inspect your gown.

Because the box is not sealed, you will be able to refold your gown periodically. This will help protect your gown from getting permanent creases. And if you discover any oxidizing stains during inspection, the sooner they are taken care of the better for your gown.

Acid-free box or just acid-free coated? Lignin-free or not?

The quality of the wedding gown storage boxes can vary significantly. Many wedding dress preservation boxes are simply regular cardboard boxes with an acid free coating. These coatings will not hold up as well as authentic archival boxes made from actual acid-free, lignin-free board.

Some boxes are acid-free but not lignin-free. Unfortunately lignin will break down within a few years, releasing acid as it decomposes, and then the acid-free box will no longer be acid-free. Ideal box storage will be in an acid-free and lignin-free box utilizing acid and lignin free tissue or cotton muslin for wrapping and padding.

Box Wedding Dress Preservation Recommendations

The appeal for a boxed or sealed wedding gown is often greatest for brides with large dresses hoping to get their gowns out of their closet. However, this method may work best for smaller gowns that require minimal folding.

Hanging or Bagged Wedding Gown Preservation

This newer wedding gown preservation method is not really so new. It is similar to what museums have used for storing heirloom costumes and gowns for years. This method is an excellent option, as it keeps the dress protected from dust and light. The gown remains un-folded, so permanent creasing risks are reduced.

The cotton wedding dress storage bag has the best air circulation which helps keep the humidity level around the wedding gown stable. This assists in protecting the gown from mold and mildew. A bagged gown is the easiest to inspect periodically and requires no re-folding as the boxed method does.

Strapless and spaghetti strapped gowns, as well as heavy gowns should be reinforced with twill tape suspenders to add support, and eliminate any damage from long-term hanging. A padded hanger is also essential for long-term storage if the gown has sleeves.

It is important to remember that a clean dress should not be left in the dry-cleaner’s plastic wrap or put back into a plastic garment bag. Remember, most plastics are an enemy to textiles. A cotton wedding gown storage bag is naturally acid-free. And remember the bagged gown should always be kept in climate controlled conditions. This is easily done is most interior closets.

Wedding Gown Preservation Options

Sealing Benefits

  • May be acid-free environment (check for lignin-free)
  • Easily stored
  • Protected from dust and light

Boxing Benefits

  • May be acid-free environment (check for lignin-free )
  • Easily stored
  • Protected from dust and light
  • Can be inspected and admired
  • Can be refolded periodically

Bagging Benefits

  • Acid-free environment
  • Easily stored
  • Protected from dust and light
  • Most easily inspected and admired
  • Does not need refolding
  • No permanent creasing
  • Best air circulation
  • Needs minimal maintenance