How to preserve a wedding dress

If you want to preserve your wedding dress, it's best to have it cleaned immediately and professionally preserved. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Margery S.)

If you want to preserve your wedding dress, it's best to have it cleaned immediately and professionally preserved. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Margery S.)

You agonized over picking the perfect wedding dress and felt like a princess when you walked down the aisle in it. You had a blast at your reception and danced the night away. Now, what are you going to do with that amazing dress? Many brides decide to save it to preserve the possibility that their daughter, granddaughter or another special woman can someday wear an heirloom wedding dress.

What's the best way to preserve a wedding dress? There are three main options:

  • You can do it yourself,
  • You can have a local dry cleaner do it for you or
  • You can send it to a company that specializes in wedding dress preservation.

Whichever option you choose, the steps involved are essentially the same:

Clean it

For best results, clean the dress as soon as possible so stains don't become set. Because most wedding dresses are made of delicate fabrics, often with lace or beading, it's best to have a professional dry cleaner do the job. If the dress has a bustle, sure to release it before cleaning. When you bring the dress to the cleaner, point out any soiled areas. If you choose to send the dress to a cleaner and preserver, the company will probably provide a kit and instructions, which may include stickers for marking stains.

For recommendations of where to take your dress for cleaning and preservation, talk to family, friends or vendors involved in your wedding planning.

Wrap it

Wrap it in a material that will protect it without damaging the fabric. Many fabrics have a tendency to yellow over time, especially if they have contact with plastic. That's why dress preservation experts typically wrap dresses in acid-free tissue or unbleached cotton muslin.

Bag or box it

After wrapping, the dress may be folded and stored in an acid-free box or bagged and hung. Experts recommend that if your dress is boxed, you should remove and refold it every few years to prevent permanent creases. Wear cotton gloves to avoid transferring oils from your hands. Dresses that are bagged and hung are less likely to become permanently creased.

Store it

Once your dress has been preserved in a box or a bag, store it in a dry location with a steady temperature that doesn't get too hot. Avoid hot attics and damp basements. A boxed dress may fit well under a bed. A bagged dress may be hung in the back of a closet. Just be sure the bottom of the dress stays off the floor and that it's not crushed by other clothes.

Be careful who you hire

Because you never know how well a dress has been preserved until you unwrap it, it's important to use a reputable dry cleaner or dress preserving service. Besides asking friends, family and wedding-related vendors, check Angie's List for local consumer reviews. Dry cleaners and bridal shops are among more than 550 categories of service providers on the List.

For more information about preparing for your big day, visit the Angie's List Guide to Wedding Planning.

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