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All of our information provided refers to the wedding gown which is the family heirloom that is the most likely to be cleaned and boxed. However, all of our recommendations apply to all other fine garments and textiles such as christening gowns, uniforms, quilts, and costumes.
To prepare your gown for preservation, have it cleaned by a professional first. The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute advises that the first 3 weeks after the wedding is the most opportune time to remove stains such as champagne, lipstick, hemline dirt, and perspiration. The longer you wait the more likely stains will become difficult or impossible to remove. Even if you cannot see it, the stains may be there. The sugars from your celebratory drinks like soda and alcohol will caramelize and leave ugly brown stains; dirt will weaken and break down fibers in your gown; food stains will attract insects and perspiration can oxidize and cause yellowing.
The wedding gown is a representation of one of the most wonderful days of your life. It is often a costly part of your wedding day and a very personal statement about yourself. You have dreamed about this day since you were a little girl and the gown you choose represents who you are on this wonderful day. You may also choose to pass it on to a sister, friend, daughter, or granddaughter someday.
Other family heirlooms carry the same emotions as a wedding dress. Christening gowns have been used for generations. Military uniforms remind us of our or our family member’s service to our country. Graduation robes, sports uniforms, costumes, quilts and handmade items can all have special significance for you or your family.
Any of these can cause problems. Although some fabrics, such as silk and wool, naturally yellow with age, yellowing can be minimized by keeping the gown away from light. Light is one of the greatest sources of yellowing. Fumes from poly bags are also very harmful to clothes stored in them for more than a couple of weeks.
Heirlooming and preservation are dry cleaning industry terms for the cleaning and packaging of wedding gowns and other precious textiles for long term storage. Cleaning properly, removing dirt and stains and placing the gown in an archival, acid free box with acid free tissue and/or with natural muslin is the proper way to "heirloom" or "preserve" your wedding gown. Gowns may also be preserved in archival Tyvek or muslin garment bags, but for long-term storage, lying flat is the better choice.
For archivists and conservators, acid free means that a material has a pH level of over 8 but less than 9.5. Archival means the paper is not pH neutral with a buffer of calcium carbonate, but has the correct pH level without a buffered coating. Buffering masks acid that will eventually migrate out of the paper and into the textile. Calcium carbonate buffering is also damaging to protein fibers like silks and wools. Cheap boxes are often pH neutral with buffering.
Lignin is the fiber in a tree that allows it to stand up. It is the second largest component of the wood part of a tree, with cellulose being the principal component. Lignin will decompose over time, releasing acidic and corrosive elements, making the paper yellow, brittle, and weak. This will eventually harm the textile. Our archival, acid free boxes are lignin free. Any paper under 1% lignin is archival; our boxes are 0.09% lignin.
ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) and NISO (National Information Standards Organization) are standard setting organizations. They work closely together.
NISO, published the Z39.48 standard for "Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives." It covers both coated and uncoated papers.It requires several tests to be met - including tests for pH levels, alkaline reserves, tear resistance, lignin, and Kappa number. The paperboard that Foster-Stephens uses in all its paperboard and corrugated products meet or exceed the standards set by ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
There is no guarantee that a cleaning and boxing will prevent deterioration to your gown. A proper cleaning, archival, acid free packaging, and precautions on where you store it can help limit deterioration and maintain a long future for your gown.
You will probably pick up your gown from the bridal store in a plastic bag (PVC). These are only meant for to be used for a few weeks. If your wedding is more than a month in the future, DO NOT keep it in this bag. Storage bags made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can degrade quickly, releasing fumes that are harmful to textiles.
Muslin Garment Bags are a safe way to store your wedding gown. Natural unbleached muslin is stable and non-acidic. It is a great buffer against moisture and contaminants found in your home. This is a material often used by museums. These bags can be personalized.
Tyvek® garment bags made with polyethylene are inert; Tyvek® is often used by conservators. It has the added benefit of breathing, which is good for the gown.
If you decide to hang your gown long term, you should take some precautions to avoid stretching of the fabric in the shoulders and bodice. Make sure you use a sturdy and strong padded hanger; a hanger padded with cotton batting-foam padding will degrade. In addition, a hanger covered in a natural material such as muslin or linen is best. You can sew cotton bias-tape straps into the waistline to reach to the hanger. This takes some of the weight off the gown’s bodice. Stuff the sleeves and bodice with unbuffered, acid free tissue.
We recommend an inside closet or under a bed. Ideally, it should be in a dark, cool (60° to 65°F) clean place with a low relative humidity level of under 50%. It is very important to have constant temperature and humidity levels.
DO NOT STORE your gown in a basement or attic. Temperature and humidity fluctuations can damage the fabric; dampness can encourage mold and mildew. Protect it from molds, dust, fumes, and other contaminants, while still allowing air to circulate. Protect it from insects, and mishandling with a sturdy barrier. Make certain that your gown is completely clean before storing.
Remember, what is comfortable for you is also comfortable for your clothing. Store in a dark place, light can damage your gown. Light can fade and weaken fabric.
If you live in a high humidity area, ask the cleaner what extra protection they can offer you against humidity damage. We have products that will combat this problem and they are recommended highly to prevent mold and mildew. Use an inner Tyvek® Zip Pak or a Muslin Wrap and Cover to protect your gown.
Foster-Stephens' archival acid-free boxes are strong and sturdy, keep out light, stabilize humidity levels, keep out dust, pollutants, mold, mildew and allow for air circulation. You will not find brown or white kraft paper (grocery bag paper) lining the insides of our boxes, unlike many storage boxes. Beware of boxes that are made of kraft paper or pH neutral paperboard. Brown kraft board is acidic and will break down and cause severe damage to your textiles. pH neutral boxes maybe buffered which can damage protein-based cloth like silk and wool. We make our boxes to ANSI/NISO Z39.48 standards. They have been safely storing garments around the world since 1947.
If your cleaner cannot offer you an archival, acid free box, you can buy one from us and pack the gown yourself. The size of the box is important. If you choose too small of a box, the gown is cramped which could cause permanent wrinkles. It should fit comfortably in the box. We have many sizes of boxes from which to choose. If you have a full skirt or a long train, you will definitely need a deeper box. You may need to store your wedding accessories in a smaller box.
Natural unbleached muslin is stable and non-acidic. It is the same material used by museums worldwide such as the Smithsonian. We have taken the perfect material and sewn it into stylized garment bags for easy use. This material is a great buffer against moisture and contaminants found in buildings. We pre-wash our muslin wrap to remove starches so that you can immediately wrap your gown, textiles, or precious heirlooms in it for safekeeping.
Non-Woven PP is short for non-woven Polypropylene. It is a lightweight but very strong plastic fabric that will resist punctures and tears from sharp edges. It is also water resistant and soft. These features make it convenient for transporting textiles. It is reusable, recyclable and occasionally made with recycled products. It also uses less energy to create nonwoven polypropylene bags than it does to create woven materials.
Non-woven fabric is a fabric-like material made from long fibers, bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat or solvent treatment. The term is used in the textile manufacturing industry to denote fabrics which are neither woven nor knitted.
DuPont™ Tyvek® is made of 100% high-density polyethylene; it has all the best characteristics of paper, film, and fabric in one material. This porous material offers a high degree of protection. Tyvek® holds out bacterial spores and particles even under the worst conditions. This lightweight but very strong material will resist punctures and tears from sharp edges. Although air-permeable, it is highly resistant to penetration by water. For these reasons, museums and conservators worldwide use Tyvek®, and we have created garment bags made of Tyvek®.
We can embroider all our muslin products, with either block or cursive script, in one of several colors, up to three lines of embroidery. The lines can be up to 30 characters each.
If you wish to have a color that is not listed, multiple colors, a logo or other art-work, multiple items with the same embroidery or silk-screening, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also note it in the comments box on the order form, and we will contact you.
Personalization will take approximately 10 business days before shipping.
Care labels only need to show one acceptable method of cleaning. Sometimes another method may work just as well. A reputable cleaner will know what method to use on your gown based on the materials, trim and any beads or sequins.
One thing to note: the entire gown should be cleanable by the same method. If it says "exclusive of trim" and the gown is covered in beads and sequins, it may NOT be able to be successfully cleaned.
Click here for the US Government site on care labels for wedding gowns.
You need to search for a professional cleaner that has experience cleaning wedding gowns or other delicate fabrics. Check our links page for recommendations by various dry cleaning associations.
The cleaner should ask you to point out every spot and stain that you know of, along with what caused the stain. If minor repairs are needed, they should repair them.Ask the cleaner:
That depends; your gown could end up in a gown mill where your gown will not get the one on one attention that it deserves. There have been past reports of these gowns not being cleaned, missing veils, and even the wrong gown in the box.
These plants often seal your gown in plastic and advise you not to open the plastic. The plastic they seal your gown in will prevent proper airflow, which is crucial for long-term preservation. Museums do not store their precious textile in plastic! The plastic can cause mold and mildew to grow inside and is especially bad in high humidity areas.
If you cannot find a professional in your area to clean and preserve your gown, check our links page for dry cleaning associations that can give recommendations. We highly recommend Wedding Gown Specialists. They not only provide personal one on one care for your gown but they also only use archival acid free boxes made by Foster-Stephens, Inc. In 1987, they went through dozens of packed gowns that had been in storage for 40 years and found the ones in Foster-Stephens’ boxes to be the best preserved.
If your chosen dry cleaner cleans in-house, ask what kind of box or bag the cleaner provides. Does he give you a choice? If not, can you get it returned in a normal dry cleaning bag and pack it yourself?
Many cleaners use cheap boxes to keep their costs down and these boxes are often acidic and will break down and cause irreparable damage to your gown. If they are using a Foster-Stephens' archival, acid free box you will be properly protecting your gown.
Conservators recommend repacking your gown every 2 years. Changing the folds around will alleviate permanent creasing and you can check and make sure that no stains have developed and that there is no deterioration. You will need new acid free tissue and be sure to wear cotton gloves when handling your textiles. Keep children and pets away from the gown and your work area. Avoid transferring dirt and oils from your hands to your gown by wearing cotton gloves. Rings and bracelets can snag your gown so remove them. Lay the gown down on a flat, clean surface when inspecting and repacking it.
Foster-Stephens, inc. has been producing storage solutions to preserve and protect wedding gowns and other family treasures since 1936. Our product line includes many styles and sizes of archival protection boxes and bags. We pride ourselves in providing the finest quality archival storage solutions; our products provide the quality and durability that museums demand while being easy to use and store.