To ensure that your garment can be handed down as a treasured family heirloom, look for a gown specialist that has the experience and professional knowledge to properlyclean and preserve vintage bridal gowns and evening dresses.
The first step in cleaning a vintage gown is to begin the process as soon as possible after the garment has been worn. Typically, vintage clothing spends the majority of its life in long-term storage, so this alters the cleaning process. It goes without saying that any specialty garment should be taken to a professional cleaner, but also make sure that the cleaner knows proper cleaning procedures for clothing going into storage. Look for a cleaning process that begins with a hand-treating stage. Here, the gown should be examined and repaired individually, never in conjunction with any other garments.
Make sure that your cleaner is familiar with more advanced stain treatment techniques. Spills containing acidic components, salt, or sugar may not appear immediately, but will darken to a nasty brown color while the dress is in storage. An anti-sugar stain treatment can reveal and remove these spots before the preservation process begins.
After the washing stage (which should be done by hand, and with your garment exclusively), make sure that the cleaner uses a final rinse stage to remove any leftover chemicals or detergent. When placed in storage, these detergents can gradually eat away at the fabric, resulting in fading, yellowing, or additional staining. This final rinsing phase, using a solvent or residue-free water, is critical to proper vintage gown cleaning.
Over-drying can also be an issue with vintage dresses. Naturally, the fibers of the garment will retain a certain amount of moisture. This is a good thing, as over-drying via direct sunlight, heat, or traditional dryers will lead to brittle, cracked fibers. Verify with your cleaner that they have a proper drying facility for your vintage gown. This should use the method of continuous cool air, blown gently through the garment.
It’s a common misconception that proper vintage gown preservationmeans storing the dress in an airtight, vacuum sealed bag. In fact, these plastic containers can emit fumes that will, over time, cause the dress the fade or yellow. Additionally, a properly dried garment will naturally retain some moisture in its fibers. If this moisture is blocked from escaping, your vintage dress will mildew.
Instead, the vintage gown preservation kit used by your specialist should incorporate archival-quality materials, such as acid-free tissue or fabric. Most commercial boxes and tissue paper are heavily acidic, and can leave “burn” marks on gowns over time. Additionally, look for a preservation chest that blocks harmful light from reaching the garment. Natural, additive-free fabrics like muslin are ideal for this.
Within the preservation chest, make sure that the cleaner avoids the use of metal or plastic hangers or shaping. Again, these materials can emit fumes or deteriorate over time, causing corrosion of the gown fabric. Similarly, never pack shoes in the same chest as your gown! Leather, glue, and other materials from the shoes can emit the same caustic fumes.
For a proper vintage gown cleaning or a 100% guaranteed preservation service for vintage dresses, we encourage you to contact a professional cleaning specialist certified by the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, such as Shores Fine Dry Cleaners. By spending a little extra effort on a specialty cleaning and preservation, you can ensure that your vintage garment becomes a treasured family heirloom, and can be passed down for generations.
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