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Posted on April 29, 2015

Caring for a Hero’s Legacy: Military Uniform Preservation Tips

Connecting to your history is an experience worth preserving.  Many important events in our ancestors’ lives had outfits to match.  Here we’ll share some advice to help you keep them in shape.  Properly caring for and preserving your loved one’s military uniform, whether they served on the Western front in WWI or more current conflicts in the Middle East, will honor their legacy of heroism for generations to come.

When dealing with fragile fabrics, it is important to remember you should not do anything you can’t undo.  You should wear white gloves when handling these articles, because even the oils from your fingers can cause deterioration of the fibers.  Remember that fabric is sensitive to light and humidity.  While it is important for uniforms to be stored as clean as possible, attempting to clean them is only something a certified preservationist should take on.

“Working to restore vintage military uniforms and other family heirlooms has been one of the greatest honors I have had as a professional preservationist over my 40 year career,” says David King, Garment Preservationist for Shores Fine Dry Cleaning in High Point, NC.  When it comes to meaningful and rare items, such as military uniforms or flags, you can trust that Shores Fine Dry Cleaning can safely clean and preserve them for a lifetime.  You will be glad to know that we rely on our extensive knowledge of antique garment and vintage fabric restoration, and apply the same techniques and preservation materials recommended by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., to extend the life of these special pieces of history.  As with any of our preservations, you always have the opportunity to view your treasured piece before it is boxed, ensuring your happiness with the result of our actions taken towards its restoration.

Restoration and preservation of military uniforms can range in price from $150-$250.  When you are researching companies to handle your heirloom, beware of those that require you to sign a release or disclaimer.  Also, it should be a red flag if they are not familiar with fabric restoration processes, or if they don’t allow you access to inspect your pieces after the restoration, prior to boxing.  If you are unable to have your uniform professionally preserved by a restoration specialist now, there are ways to prolong its life until you are able to have it professionally restored.  “I would first recommend removing the uniform from its hanger, and wrapping it in pre-washed, unbleached muslin cloth, or in a 100% cotton sheet—no tissue, no boxes.  The uniform should be placed out of the light in a climate-controlled environment, such as a bedroom closet,” says Brian Harrell, Garment Restoration Specialist for Shores Fine Dry Cleaning in Winston-Salem, NC.  He adds, “It also isn’t a bad idea to keep this and other important heirlooms near each other in order to quickly remove them in the case of an emergency, like a fire.”

In the coming months, we will feature some of the uniforms that we have had the opportunity to restore and preserve, and the men that wore them, in a series titled Real Hero’s Spotlight.  Stay tuned for some grand adventures.

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