Every year thousands upon thousands of brides walk down the aisle, say “I do”, and then bring the dress they wore on their special day to professionals to be properly cleaned, preserved and stored in a wedding gown preservation chest. While this is a common post-wedding task today, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, even dresses that were properly cleaned decades ago have lacked the preservation techniques that keep dresses looking fabulous for decades to come. If you are thinking about wearing a vintage gown you may have noticed that the fabric may be yellowing, either completely, or in some parts. If this is an issue you are facing, don’t worry, we have you covered with a complete guide to wedding dress yellowing and what to do about it.
Why Does Fabric Yellow Over Time?
Wedding dress fabrics yellow over time for a myriad of different reasons, but they all generally boil down to the degradation of the fabric. What causes the fabric to degrade is different in each case, but yellowing material simply means there is a chemical reaction that causes oxidation.
What many people don’t know is that wedding gown preservation of yesteryear is not the same as it is today and often did not keep wedding dresses from yellowing. Way back when your mother or grandmother got married, wedding dresses were often ‘preserved’ by simply cleaning them, then stuffing the sleeves with tissue paper, enclosing the whole shebang in a bag and and/or then placing the entire bag in a box. Now, the problem with that is that acid-free paper was not always used, and the plastic bags that were used to wrap the dresses may have actually been the culprit behind the yellowing. The chemicals in these plastic bags (including the white or clear hanging garment bags you might be storing your gown in now) release a chemical that causes wedding dress yellowing The only thing these garment bags are good for is keeping out dirt. They are only intended for short-term storage and protection during transportation, but not for long-term preservation.
Can Discoloration Be Removed?
Well, that’s not a question with a simple answer. When it comes to wedding dress restoration, the answer is simple “it all depends”. The type of stain, the cause of the staining and discoloration (perspiration, perfume, cake frosting, wine, make up or dirt on the hem from dragging along the ground are most common), how long it has been stained, and the type of fabric and embellishments you are dealing with, will all determine whether or not a dress can be restored to its former glory.
For example, dresses with metallic embroidery can be difficult to restore because the chemicals used to whiten the material can turn the embroidery black. Silk fabrics are also notoriously difficult to clean, as the fabric doesn’t lend itself well to chemical intrusions and may turn spotty even if the actual yellowing is removed from the material.
Non-silk dresses, or those that utilize cotton fibers are easiest to clean and restore to their former glory, according to experts, but there is still no guarantee when it comes to wedding dress restoration. Most preservationists and restoration experts will tell you that ‘a good offense is the best defense’. That simply means that a dress should be properly treated and preserved soon after the wedding to ensure that yellowing and other chemical changes do not occur. Below is an example of the ‘Before” and “After” of a dress that was very discolored and then returned to it’s original lustrous white.
What Should I do if I Have a Yellowed Gown?
The best thing you can do is to contact an expert about your gown as soon as possible – why wait another day if you really care about preserving your wedding dress? An expert can examine your wedding dress and determine if the stains or yellowing are actually removable or at least improvable. Even experts who require that you mail in your gown will often offer a full refund, including shipping, if they are unable to clean or restore your dress for any reason, so its worth the risk to at least send it in for an evaluation. If they can restore it and remove the wedding dress yellowing, you can go ahead with the process, but know that not every stain can be completely removed, and some slight variation in the fabric may stay behind. If the dress is so damaged that it can’t be cleaned and restored, your best bet is to let it go, or ask a tailor if there is any way to incorporate a piece of the old dress into your new dress; some brides will have a patch of their mother or grandmothers dress sewn into the bust of their wedding gown for luck.
Don’t give up hope if you have a yellowed wedding dress. The good news is that most wedding gowns that have yellowed can be greatly improved to close to their original luster and beauty with expert cleaning and restoration. It can also be more affordable than you think. Affordable Preservation Company has 2 wedding dress restoration packages to choose from – The Traditional Line Restoration and The Celebrity Line Restoration. Order or contact us for more information at http://www.AffordablePreservation.com.