There is no item of clothing that carries quite as much emotional gravitas or indeed a heftier price tag than a wedding dress.
For many brides, the search for “the one” can be a long and drawn-out process that involves months of planning, multiple visits to bridal boutiques, and hours of small talk with a stranger while sat awkwardly in your unmentionables. But, it is worth it. After all, this is the dress in which you are supposed to feel like a million dollars and spend what will hopefully be one of the most enjoyable days of your life wearing.
For brides who were scheduled to tie the knot this year though, the coronavirus pandemic has pressed pause on almost every aspect of wedding planning, with thousands of couples forced to reconsider their upcoming nuptials.
From selecting a new date to securing refunds and shifting suppliers, there are many challenges a bride faces when it comes to postponing her wedding. But, knowing that she will not be able to wear the gown she spent the best part of a year searching for, whether it be a in a few months or a years’ time, is perhaps one of the most logistically and emotionally testing.
Aside from worrying whether or not your gown will stand the test of sartorial time – it is likely that the location, venue, time of year and decor were all considered when you chose it – knowing what to do with your dress in the meantime will only add to the stress and anxiety you are feeling.
If your dress was picked up prior to the pandemic outbreak, you are going to need to make sure your gown stays in the best condition possible until your much-awaited wedding day eventually happens. But, what exactly does this involve?
According to a number of industry experts, the correct way to care for a wedding dress all depends on the style of the gown and how long you intend to store it for.
For anything up to six months, Sameera Azeem, creative director at British fashion label Ghost London, says a fabric garment bag is sufficient, but anything longer, up to a year or more, will require a special hard board bridal box. This, she says, will prevent creasing and protect the dress from harsh light, dust and insects.
Brides will also need to consider the style of their dress before settling on a bag or box. If a gown is heavily beaded or made using luxurious heavy fabrics, Gemma Green, company director of Wild Flora bridal boutique, recommends storing it flat as the weight may cause the fabric to drop over time meaning the hem will have to be re-levelled before your wedding.
Similarly, it is worth noting that over time, straps and shoulders can stretch if the dress is heavy. If you are concerned about this happening, most dresses will have hanging loops that you can place around the hanger to help take the weight of the dress.
Whether you opt for a bag or a box, the key point here is to avoid any packaging made from plastic it is not a breathable material and has the potential to cause discolouration as the fibres break down.
To help prevent any damage to your dress while it is in storage, Karen Whybro, founder and director of alternative bridal boutique Rock The Frock, recommends lining it with acid-free tissue paper as this will protect the fabric from further discolouration, dust or damp.
“Acid-free tissue paper will help with preventing creases as well as any damage occurring from beading, crystals or zips,” she says. “Use tissue paper between layers of your dress and make sure it is uncoloured, acid-free tissue paper from a reputable provider.”
Once your dress is perfectly packaged away, the next thing to consider is where you are going to keep it.
If your dress is lightweight, your wardrobe will suffice as long as there is plenty of space, but if this is not an option, it is important to note that there are some areas of the home you should absolutely avoid.
According to Charlie Brear, a wedding dress designer and founder of her eponymous luxury bridalwear line, attics and basements can bread clothes moths or damp and small inhabitants like mice, so it is probably unwise to store your dress there.
Instead, she recommends keeping your dress in any cool, dry area with a consistent temperature and no direct sunlight.
The same rules should also be applied to your bridal accessories. Each of the experts we spoke to recommended storing your veil separately from your dress if it features any buttons or embellishments, as well as any jewellery hair pieces, to avoid catching.
The veil should also be folded or wrapped in acid-free tissue and placed in a 100 per cent cotton bag for extra protection.
Once your bridal outfit is securely packed away, it is important to try and resist the temptation of getting it back out before the big day as the chances of staining and potential marks increase each time your dress is handled, with makeup and deodorant some of the biggest culprits when trying on your dress beforehand.
However, Green adds that while you should avoid handling your dress as much as possible, if you are storing it for a longer period, over eight months, it can be worth taking it out every so often to "puff the layers, allowing it to move and breathe again".
If you absolutely must try on your gown for friends or family, remove your makeup and deodorant first, and ensure you have clean, dry hands or even where white gloves.
When the time comes to unpack your gorgeous dress for your wedding day, Kate Halfpenny founder of British luxury bridalwear brand Halfpenny London, recommends making sure the floor is clean and dry and to beware of any dirt which may have been picked up on the exterior of the garment bag.
She adds that if your gown has any creases, the best way to remove them is with gentle steaming. “A hand steamer can be bought online from John Lewis or Amazon and I would suggest putting a clean light tea towel over the head of the steamer to be sure it doesn’t drip water,” Halfpenny says.
Brear agrees, adding that it is a good idea to test the steamer on another item first and to not get too close to the dress to avoid water stains. “Steam the dress at least half an hour before wearing and hang somewhere airy to dry,” she explains.
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