How to store your most valuable fashion pieces for the long term (including your wedding dress!)

Picking my wedding gown was a long process and one that went thousands of dollars over budget. If you had told me last year that after my wedding my 5-figure Vera Wang gown would end up looking like a gigantic ball of fabric covered in foot prints and shoved into a closet I would have never believed you. In looking at “picking up the pieces” and preserving this beautiful gown (that required its own plane ticket to get to my destination wedding since it didn’t fit into the airplane closet!) I came across Happily Ever After Gown Preservation. Turns out when it comes to your most expensive fashion pieces, it’s not just about dry cleaning, it’s about properly “preserving” if you want to store them away without harming their integrity. In fact, if you just have your piece dry cleaned and hang it in your closet, it won’t be long before its integrity is seriously compromised.
I spoke with Jeffrey Schwegmann, the founder of Happily Ever After Gown Preservation to find out more. While his company specializes in wedding dresses, this applies to any precious gown or fashion piece that you’re thinking about storing.

What exactly is preservation?

Preservation is process for packaging textiles for long-term storage using materials specifically designed to have no effect on the long-term storage of the piece. We use acid-free packaging materials, we use folding techniques that help prevent wrinkling. We seal the inner storage box to help keep out environmental factors like humidity and bugs. When you combine professional cleaning techniques with long-term storage packaging materials and packaging techniques you can clean and preserve a gown and it should look same in X amount of years as the day that we packaged it. As long as customer is mindful of where the store the gown box. In a damp basement or hot attic, it doesn’t matter what you do, those locations will have an effect on the long term storage of any textile. Our packaging will help reduce that, but the exposure to drastic changes in the elements will have an effect. Under the bed or in an air conditioned closet are good places for storage.
What can you tell us about prices since there is such a big spectrum? 
Our company charges a flat rate for our packages. Some companies charge more for designer items. Some companies charge more for premium packaging materials that might be fancier. Some companies charge for beaded items or for shipping. We try to keep things simple and charge a flat rate.

When it comes to wedding dresses/expensive items it can be stressful to pick where to get the items cleaned. What are important things to look for when deciding where to have the item dry cleaned?

Research does matter. Dry cleaning companies are normally family owned and are not very web savy. So online reviews are difficult to find in this category. But what you should look for is pretty easy. Do they process gowns in-house or do they send it out? If they send it out, that’s ok, they likely send it to a specialist like our company, ask who that company is and call or email them. If they do clean gowns in house, ask to see one. Ask what the pricing covers. Ask them if the do an initial inspection at the customer service counter. Ask to the see the owner. Ask how long it may take, be specific, if you need the gown cleaned and pressed for something like a wedding, they need to know the date. Most major cities have someone that specializes in gowns. They likely advertise on their website or on wedding gown planning sites. We provide service nationwide with our mail order service. Some customers do not want to mail their gown, and we will try to direct them to a specialist in their area if there is one. We advise free of charge, we want gowns to be cleaned and cared for safely.

What is the best way to store a precious piece if it’s not being preserved? Does it depend on the material?

Gowns should never be stored in plastic. Cotton breathable bags. Try to use the manufacture hanger or a wide sturdy hanger that supports gown. Avoid sunlight. Avoid moisture. Remove stains or spots as quickly as possible before storage. Store your gown in an air conditioned room or closet. Avoid storage areas with changes in temperature or humidity.

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