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Expert Advice: How to Store a Wedding Gown (aka the Most Expensive Item in Your Closet)

We are not immune to the royal wedding madness that has taken over the UK and made its way stateside. Not at all. In fact, a recent editorial meeting was waylaid by talk of when Harry met Meghan, why her father isn’t attending, where the newlyweds would make their home, how to watch the ceremony, and what she will be wearing.

This last question became a legitimate story idea—see? we were doing real work!—when the discussion veered into wedding gown storage. What is the proper way to store an ensemble that is likely the most expensive piece of clothing you will ever own? We called our go-to wardrobe care expert, Barbara Harman of New York-based Butler’s Closet, for answers.

Photography by Pascal Shirley, from The DIY Wedding: An LA Designer’s Boathouse Nuptials.

1. Do the research.

Educate yourself on the cleaning and preservation process. “Interview local dry cleaner to make sure they have experience cleaning fine textiles,” says Barbara. Not all dry cleaners have the expertise, even if they advertise that they do. If you live near a big city, you may be able to locate a professional conservator, such as Jonathan Scheer, whose textiles preservation business is popular with brides as well as designers including Carolina Herrera and Mark Ingram. (Barbara took her daughter’s bridal gown as well as her own mother-of-the-bride dress to Jonathan Scheer.) And if you don’t live within driving distance of a top-notch conservator, consider mailing your gown to someone reputable; once they’re done with their preservation work, they will mail it back. Do this research well before your wedding, as you’ll need to know what to do with your gown as soon as your big day is over, which leads us to tip number two…

Wedding gowns are often composed of many materials, each of which requires different care. Pictured is interior designer Faye McAuliffe’s lace gown by Ivy & Aster and dramatic veil, borrowed from the mother of the groom. For more on her wedding, see The DIY Wedding: An LA Designer’s Boathouse Nuptials.
Above: Wedding gowns are often composed of many materials, each of which requires different care. Pictured is interior designer Faye McAuliffe’s lace gown by Ivy & Aster and dramatic veil, borrowed from the mother of the groom. For more on her wedding, see The DIY Wedding: An LA Designer’s Boathouse Nuptials.

2. Have it cleaned right away.

Assign someone to take your dress to the cleaner post-wedding if you’re skipping off to your honeymoon immediately afterward. You don’t want stains to set in, so it’s important to have it cleaned as soon as possible. And, again, it’s critical that your cleaner understands the ins and outs of fine bridal gowns. “There may be all different kinds of materials on one gown, and each may require different care. Elaborate trimming sometimes has to be protected or removed and later put back on the dress,” explains Barbara of the potential complexities of cleaning a wedding gown.

3. Keep your gown away from plastic.

If you’re going the DIY route with the storage, the most important thing you can do is not to store it in a plastic bag. “Those plastic bags that dry cleaners use are petroleum-based products, which mean they off-gas, which can lead to yellowing of fabric,” says Barbara. Gowns, she said, should be stored folded in archival tissue and placed in an archival box. If it’s a simple, light dress, it’s OK to hang and store in a chemical-free cotton garment bag like the Wedding Dress Preservation Cover ($150) sold on the Butler’s Closet.

4. Revisit your dress once a year.

It’s not just for sentimental reasons. “Every once in a while, open up the box and just air it out a little bit. Textiles need to breathe,” says Barbara.

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