Storing smart:Keeping your gown for the next generation

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

With the careful planning that goes into selecting the perfect bridal gown and the special memories that go along with it, many brides choose to preserve their dress as a keepsake or with the intention of passing it down to a family member. The Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science has advice for brides to ensure their wedding gowns are beautiful for years to come.

Cleaning - for better or for worse

  • Have your gown cleaned within a few weeks of the nuptials. The longer stains and soil are left on your dress, the greater the probability of them becoming permanent.
  • Seek professional help. Take the gown to a preservation specialist trained in the art of textile conservation or a dry cleaner trained in cleaning and preparing gowns for storage. They can identify all the stains and spills, even those you can't see. Storing - A lifetime commitment
  • Do not store your gown in a plastic bag! Plastic can break down over time releasing chemicals and fumes that can discolor and destroy fabrics.
  • If you are boxing your gown for storage, wrap fabrics in acid-free white tissue. Bodices or other curved areas of a garment should be stuffed with tissue to prevent creasing.
  • If you use an "acid-free" cardboard box, you'll need to change the box every three to five years. Cardboard is absorbent, and even "acid-free" boxes can re-acidify over time.
  • Store your gown in a cool, dry place. A damp basement or a hot, humid attic can cause mildew and yellowing of fabric.
  • Keep your gown packed away from sunlight and artificial light. Most light sources can cause degradation and fading of heirloom textiles.

    Caring - To honor and cherish

  • If you are hanging your gown, wrap it in a white sheet or muslin, and hang with the inside loops that are connected to sturdy side seams. Never hang it by the fragile shoulder seams that can stretch or sag.
  • Check your gown occasionally for damage while it is in storage. Stains that weren't initially apparent can appear at a later date and should be treated immediately.