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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wearing a Vintage Wedding Gown

Did you hear about the bride, Abby Curtis that was the 11th bride in her family to wear a lacy Victorian 120 year old couture wedding gown on her wedding day?  It was originally her great-great grandmother’s dress, dating back to 1895.  Talk about some fantastic preservation work.  But she did go on to say, that because of its fragility, she only wore it for the cocktail party and to sign her official marriage license.  I cannot imagine how cool it would be to wear something with so much family history on such a special day.  According to the 2012 American Wedding Study, 46% of brides preserve their wedding dress for their children or grandchildren, and I suspect that number will continue to rise.

So how is wearing a vintage gown different from wearing a new gown? 

  • First, you need to consider what sort of condition it’s in.  Was it stored in an acid-free, museum-quality, archival wedding chest lined with fabric or acid-free tissue or was it covered by a plastic bag and sitting in someone’s closet?  If gowns are not stored in ideal conditions, they are likely to yellow significantly and have discoloration spots.  If you are thinking of wearing a vintage gown, take it to a professional dry cleaner and allow them to inspect it carefully.  After the review, discuss the options with your cleaner before moving forward.
  • Second, proper fit could be an issue.  When selecting a brand new gown, you have the luxury of finding the best size for alterations.  With a vintage gown, there are no sizing options – you start with what you have.  Do some research and find a seamstress that specializes in wedding gown alterations.  Taking the dress in is no problem, but what about letting it out?  There are lots of options here: you can let out seams and darts, add side pieces in the bodice and sleeves from the train, find matching fabric, or remove zippers and add a corset back. 
  • Finally, as with any gown, have it cleaned and preserved by a qualified specialist as soon as possible after your big day; the longer you wait, the less likely it is that all stains and spills can be removed.  My guess is since you’re wearing a vintage gown, then you probably want to keep it.  Then be sure to inspect your gown before it is put into the preservation container, which should be a completely acid-free, museum-quality, archival wedding chest lined with fabric or acid-free tissue.  And once you have the gown home, never store it in an attic or basement where there are extreme temperature changes and humidity.
With the proper care, your gown will remain the well-preserved treasure it is and will be safe, secure, and waiting for the next family bride that wants to wear it on her special day. 

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