Preserving Your Wedding Dress

August 31, 2016
Medium Acid-Free Museum Style Preservation Kit

Medium Acid-Free Museum Style Preservation Kit

The Wedding Season is in full bloom here at Foster-Stephens’. While we are busy shipping products to carefully store and preserve one of the most special dresses a woman will ever wear, the fact is, one of the last things a bride normally thinks of is who will clean her dress.

The time to look for a preservation specialist is before the wedding takes place. For success in removing most dirt and stains, the dress should be cleaned within 3 weeks after the wedding. This is very important if you are planning to sell the dress for a good price and it must look "brand new" or if you plan to keep it as a family heirloom. 

It is indeed a specialty service to be able to clean and properly package a wedding dress.  A professional preservationist will not only examine your dress for the kind of material but also locate and examine each bead and embellishment for stability as well as identify each and every stain.  Then the professional will create a plan to properly clean your dress based on all of these elements.  “Cleaning your gown is the single most important part of the preservation process and all the stains, including the hidden ones containing sugar that turn brown over time, must be removed," says Sally Lorensen Conant, the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.  “The longer you delay, the less likely all stains can be removed, and if you wait years, your gown will need restoration rather than just cleaning," warns Conant. After cleaning, your gown is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed in a Foster-Stephens’ archival box.  The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists uses boxes made by Foster-Stephens’ for their acid-free quality.  Our boxes are also lignin free, and sulfur-free..

The first question to ask the preservationist is if they will be doing the work in-house. Some dry cleaners will mail off the dress to a company that does an assembly line style of cleaning and packaging. Your precious gown will receive no special care. This type of business will not care if you know that you spilled champagne on your sleeve or that you are missing a bead on the left hand side of the bodice. These types of assembly line plants will use non-archival materials to package your dress because the wholesale work makes it necessary to cut costs.

If you buy the service through your bridal shop, ask to whom they are sending the gown as well. If they are using a local gown specialist then most likely they are not using these types of plants. 

These plants will also shrink wrap your dress and send you literature that claims it is the best way to preserve it. If that were true, then why do museums like the Smithsonian not do this? Air is important for preservation and sealing it in plastic can cause all kinds of problems like mildew. Most importantly, ARE THEY JUST TRYING TO KEEP YOU AWAY FROM YOUR DRESS. Is it actually clean? Is it repaired? Has the hem been properly whitened and freed from the dirt caused by dragging on the ground?

Use a preservation specialist who will pack the gown in front of you after cleaning. Make sure they use archival materials only. Check the gown periodically by wearing cotton gloves. Listen to your preservationist's instructions on where to keep the gown in the house. All of this will add up to a beautiful family heirloom and a wonderful memory of your wedding day. If you plan on selling, make sure they hang it in a proper archival style bag that will still protect it from ultra-violet rays and contaminants in the air.  If the packaging is not what you desire, have them hang it and pack it yourself at home.  Follow our instructional video on how to fold and pack in most of our kits at


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