If you are a bride to be or a new bride preparing to take your dress in to be cleaned and preserved, please beware. It is very frustrating for me in this year of 2010 to hear that cleaners such as wholesale, assembly line plants that clean gowns, are still selling a service that includes this method. Buyer beware! Think of your grocery store. Years ago, many items were shrink wrapped to keep in freshness. Since inside packaging has improved, I cannot think of a single box that is still wrapped in plastic at the market. The only items I can think of that are still shrink wrapped are items in which the manufacturer WANTS to keep YOU out. Those items are CD's and DVD's where they want to prevent theft or prevent you from a return upon opening. Bottom line is to keep you from whats inside.
That is the true reason why your gown may still be shrink wrapped depending on whom you take it to. Some dry cleaners will send it out to a third party to be cleaned. Some refuse to honor their warranty if you break the seal. What are they fearing? Some may have just refused to change to a modern approach. When I first started in this business in 1995, Leeza Gibbons had her own show and she was doing a segment on preserving gowns. She brought her own preserved gown to the studio and opened it in front of a live audience. When she tore off the shrink wrap, she discovered that her gown was not inside. The only things it contained were her veil and petticoat. Unfortunately, I have heard similar stories over the years. Wrong dress, dirty dress, missing veil etc. Not all of the places are out to scam you but why bother with shrink wrapping if it serves no purpose and hampers you from properly caring for your gown?
First and foremost, your gown needs to be properly cleaned. Second, the container used for your gown should be acid free or archival. I have not seen a large facility who shrink wraps use an archival type of box yet. Third, it is important where you store it at home. Attics and basements are bad because of vast temperature and humidity changes. In a closet or under a bed, away from your registers and light is the best. Check your gown approximately every 18 months to 2 years. Be sure to wear cotton gloves so that you do not transfer hand oils to the fabric. Check for any carmalizing spots and yellowing. Change the folds on the gown to prevent permanent creasing. It is a good idea to change the acid free tissue every 5 years as well. The paper in a Foster-Stephens' box has a life expectancy of 1000 years but the box and tissue are what is obsorbing chemicals and pollutants from the air to protect your gown. A muslin cover makes a nice addition for protection and will help the tissue last much longer. And remember, your gown needs to breathe. Do NOT wrap it in plastic. Do museums? Absolutely not. Why would you. Shrink wrapping is just an old gimmick to make a bride think her dress is being kept "fresh". It has nothing to do with "preservation" and may in fact hinder the application by trapping moisture on the inside of the plastic which will promote mildewing of your dress. It also creates an environment that has an electrostatic charge. It will also cause permanent wrinkles.
So if you are a bride seeking to clean and preserve your dress, make sure you can handle your dress when you choose so that it may be checked and cared for. Preservation is a long term process. The length of this process is for as long as you plan on keeping your precious memories.