Tips for Safely Restoring an Aged or Stained Wedding Dress or Gown
by Wedding Consultant
Importance of the Wedding Dress
My younger brother recently asked me, “Did your wife ever get kinda crazy while planning the wedding?”. Apparently his fiancee is taking her job very seriously and his attitude is that he will “show up” to the wedding and all the other wedding details “don’t really matter”.
I explained to him that wedding details are very important to women and most women spend quite a bit of time and energy thinking about what they’d like for their big day. It’s safe to say that my wife thought of our wedding details well before she even met me!
Now, before I drive the bus over my brother, I should say that he really does care that his wedding looks good and goes smoothly. His attitude isn’t as much “I don’t care” as it is “I don’t care to go through every detail”.
Naturally, his fiancee takes the wedding details more seriously.
And there’s probably no more important detail to the bride than her wedding dress. But what do you do with a wedding dress that was an heirloom inherited from a relative? There are a few things you can do to restore an old wedding dress to make it clean and restored back to normal.
Common Vintage Wedding Dress Issues
Some issues commonly seen in old wedding dresses are:
- Discoloration (often from white/cream to yellow)
- Compromised fabric integrity
- Missing button/sequins/etc.
- Size of previous owner might differ from size needed with new bride
- Difficult wrinkles or odor
Tips for Dress Restoration
Here are several things to keep in mind when attempting to restore your old wedding gown (should you choose to not have a professional do it for you):
- Metal rusts easily (especially old metal)
- Old fabric should be handled delicately
- Silk and satin are the most difficult material to restore, whereas satin and polyester are easier
- If restoration simply isn’t possible, consider other options before scrapping the dress all together
- Sugar stains are virtually impossible to clean up if they have “settled” in a gown
Vintage Wedding Dress Restoration
First and foremost, do not bleach your wedding dress in an attempt to clean or restore it. Bleach will further weaken the strength of the original fabric (no matter what type of fabric it is), will often dissolve plastic buttons or other decorative items on the dress and simply doesn’t do the job.
Now that that’s out of the way, here is a step-by-step guide on how to restore a wedding dress:
Step 1, Prepare your wedding dress-
Remove everything metal that is a part of the dress. Buttons,clips, hooks and pins might all be metal and should be carefully removed.
Step 2, Prepare bathtub for wedding dress-
Fill an empty, clean bathtub with either lukewarm or cold water (not hot) and a gentle liquid detergent such as Woolite. Also, line the bathtub with a white sheet. Place the dress on the sheet in the water. (This is done so that the wedding dress isn’t forcefully pulled in and out of the water, thus stressing the fabric).
Step 3 Carefully clean wedding dress-
Gently lift and lower the sheet that has the wedding dress on it. This is done so that the existing stains are loosed and the entire dress is adequately soaked. If necessary, you can soak your dress up to 24 hours or more.
If there are persistent stains still on the wedding dress, see below for spot removal tips and suggestions.
Step 4, Dry the dress-
Find a way to dry your dress flat. Drying it flat will reduce wrinkles that will need to be ironed out later. Also, some experts suggest using a vinyl rack to minimize the stress done to the fabric.
Step 5, Press/Iron the dress-
Using a clean iron on it’s lowest heating setting, begin ironing your wedding gown. Iron the gown one layer at a time. Slowly increase the heat settings of the iron to determine what the dress can handle, but lower the heat immediately if the following occur:
- Iron begins sticking to the fabric of the dress
- Dress becomes discolored during ironing
- You smell or see any evidence of burning
Step 6, Complete finishing touches on dress-
Repair or replace all the metal pieces removed from step 1.
Spot Removal Tips and Suggestions for a Wedding Gown
If there are still stubborn stains left after the above method of cleaning your wedding dress, you still have some options. Here are some spot removal tips and tricks to clean your wedding dress:
First, do not use club soda or something equivalent. Club soda is really just carbonated sugar water and will not adequately spot clean your dress. See the video below for more details on this and other great tips from an expert who was on the Martha Stewart Show.
Some experts suggest using a sudsy spray solution on the affected area and gently brushing it with a toothbrush. Others have had success with using OxyClean on the difficult stain.
You might also have success using a paste of lemon juice and salt. Just be careful to closely monitor your dress using this method. Check every couple minutes and once the stain is gone (or if you notice any compromise in the fabric), rinse the area with lukewarm or cold water immediately.
How to Incorporate a Vintage Wedding Dress in the Wedding Ceremony
If your vintage wedding dress is unusable for whatever reason, don’t just toss it out! You can still incorporate it in your wedding ceremony and use it as “something old.”
Here are some things you can create with an old, unusable wedding dress:
- Ring Pillow
- Bridal cap
Or, you could even display the heirloom dress somewhere at the wedding where everyone will see it, possibly near the guest book.
Before you decide to “recycle” that old gown because you can’t clean it yourself, carefully consider an experienced professional who specializes in wedding dress restoration. They are your best bet to have your wedding gown properly cleaned and restored.
In fact, a professional should be your first choice in restoring a wedding dress that has been handed down. So if you choose to use the advice stated here, be sure to use your own discretionary caution!
Thank you for the great tips Wedding Consultant!! Share your before and after pictures of your vintage wedding dress here!!