December 29, 2011

Ask The Vixen: Preserving Vintage Wedding Gowns

Q: I recently acquired my grandmother's wedding gown and head piece. It's in ok condition, there are a few holes through out but that is all. It is over 50 years old and made of silk. I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to how I can store it properly to keep it from being damaged any further.

A: You wrote us with interest in preserving your grandmother's silk wedding gown and veil. The first thing to do in preparation for long-term storage is to clean the gown. A dry cleaner who is experienced with antique and vintage clothing would be ideal; some who advertise "wedding gown preservation" may be good, but others may not be especially well-educated in the area. J. Scheer and similar companies are renown for their expertise, though this high quality has a corresponding cost.

After it has been cleaned, handle the pieces with clean dry hands, or ideally, with plain white cotton gloves on. Buy a small amount of acid free tissue, enough to pack the gown inside to give it some amount of shape. Usually we pack the bodice and sleeves and roll the skirt and train gently up into a sleeping-bag type roll. Rolling avoids unnecessary creases.

The headpiece should be packed to maintain its shape and the veil rolled similarly. Get a large cardboard box (or even better, an acid-free box) and line its bottom and sides with acid free tissue, and place the gown in first with the veil above it. Make sure the box is large enough that it won't be crushed when closed. The box should not be air tight, because natural clothing fiber like silk has to "breathe" (i.e. expand and contract) with changes in temperature and humidity. Do check on the box after you've stowed it away, every 3 to 4 months. I hope this helps!

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