The summer before I got married, when I was in search of my wedding gown my mother brought out to Baltimore her own wedding gown, which her mother-in-law had preserved for her as a gift. It was more than thirty years old, and still in its preservation box. Inside lay a charmingly retro certificate of preservation and the gown folded neatly on top of crinkling tissue paper. Even with the preservation the fabric had stiffened a bit over time and the color was not quite as ivory when my mother wore it, but it was still pristine and beautiful. My own gown has not been preserved yet, but it sits in a cool dry closet away from the light in a breathable cloth bag. This is the next best thing to preservation.
In the more than two years that I have been at Betsy Robinson’s I have noticed a huge increase in the number of brides who choose to have their gown preserved. We can hardly keep up with the volume of wedding dresses that come back through our doors to be preserved; it’s just that popular. Buying a gown preservation is often something that mothers and mothers-in-law do as a gift just as my grandmother did for my mother.
But just because it is popular doesn’t mean people know what happens. How does it work? What do we do?
First of all, we don’t do it. We ship the gown out to a company that specializes in gown preservation and has years of experience dealing with the fine quality fabrics and delicate gowns. Because of the volume of dresses that are being preserved it can take 12 to 16 weeks for a preservation to be completed. You are welcome to include your veil or belt with the gown, but please remember that the adorable customized hangers cannot be preserved.
First they clean the gown. So if you had a great time at your wedding and got your dress good and dirty like you should, they can get the stains out. Grass, mud, and wine are no problem. Like I said, around here a dirty dress is the sign of a good time, so please don’t hesitate to bring it in.
They then treat the gown to help prevent the fabric from yellowing and deteriorating over time and box it up in an airtight window box with archival quality paper. The gown is then shipped back to you and ready to be stored in a closet or under a bed. And when you are feeling wistful about your wedding, which will probably be all the time, you can pull it out and look at your beautiful gown and think of all the wonderful memories.
Just don’t open the box! It may be tempting, but once you open the box and expose the gown to air, you ruin the preservation. And so, tempting as it may be, you may just have to wait until there is a bride to pass it along to. Then together you can peel back the plastic and life your gown out of the crinkling tissue paper and marvel at it.