Gown Cleaning & Preservation

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Your bridal gown may not be the most expensive garment you’ll ever purchase, but it will surely be the most sentimental.

Once the Big Day is over, however, how will you take care of your cherished gown?

Many bridal gowns end up stored away and forgotton until they emerge, years later, stained, discolored, permanently creased, and possibly moth eaten – important reasons why you should have your gown cleaned, hand finished and archivally preserved by the bridal gown specialists at Museum Quality GownCare®.

Museum Quality GownCare is the restoration, cleaning, hand finishing and archival preservation division of RAVE FabriCARE, nationally recognized as one of the nation’s premier cleaners.

We serve clients throughout the USA and Canada who wish to ensure that their cherished bridal gown, ceremonial gown, and other sentimental garments and household textiles are safely cleaned and preserved for future generations.

Bridal Gown Care & Storage Tips

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Introduction

The restoration, hand cleaning, hand finishing and archival preservation of a bridal gown is a scientifically informed discipline, guided by a growing body of published scientific research on the chemical processes by which all textiles, including bridal gowns, deteriorate over time.

Our name – Museum Quality GownCare – derives from the fact that all the techniques, processes and packaging materials we use is a careful synthesis of:

  • this published scientific research,
  • the practical application of this scientific research by museum textile conservators throughout the world, and
  • the sensitivity, knowledge, skill and experience derived from cleaning and finishing tens of thousands of designer, high fashion, specialty and couture garments and gowns over the past 25 years.

Our reputation for technical excellence has been built on obsessive attention to every detail. It is this attention to detail that distinguishes our gowncare services from the “cleaning and boxing” or “heirlooming” services offered by other providers – ordinary cleaners; bridal and floral boutiques; wedding planners and consultants; home-based, independent sales representatives; and self-styled wedding gown specialists.

So much so that we were featured in a New York Times article on the subject (April 14, 2013).

And we can do this (in most cases) even if your bridal gown has been contaminated by fire, smoke, soot, water, mold, mildew and/or humidity as a result of a fire or flood.

Services overview

At Museum Quality GownCare, we offer a comprehensive range of bridal gown-related services and conveniences, including:

Pre-wedding hand finishing

We can perfectly hand finish your bridal gown, your brides maid dresses and your mother-of-the-bride ensembles into “walk down the aisle” condition. Many out-of-state brides who are getting married in the Phoenix metro area ship their bridal gowns directly to us or drop them off  at our fabricare facility for hand finishing prior to the ceremony.

For a nominal service fee, we’ll deliver your hand finished bridal gown to the ceremony venue (church, synagogue, hotel, residence, etc.) on the day before or on the day of the ceremony.

Museum Quality GownCare is recommended to brides by many of the top wedding event planners in the metro Phoenix area.    

Alterations

From minor to major alterations, our qualified, on premises tailors and alterationists deliver work of the highest quality with consistent precision and reliability – no matter where you acquired your gown and no matter the condition in which you acquired it. To ensure the very best fit, our alterations are normally scheduled in 3 separate fittings,typically 2 to 3 weeks apart.

Restoration 

If your gown is a family heirloom that has yellowed with time as a result of improper cleaning and/or storage, we have the skills, expertise and experience to clean and restore it to original or near original condition. 

This service might be of particular interest to brides who had their gowns improperly “cleaned  and boxed” many years ago, only to discover that their gown was improperly preserved and had turned yellow and/or brittle because the gown had been “boxed” in a traditional, story book wedding gown box (“storybook wedding gown box”) or in a conventional, alkaline buffered, acid-free, lignin free, sulfur-free and chlorine-free wedding gown box (“alkaline buffered wedding gown box”).

If you do not want to preserve your gown, consider storing your gown in one of our custom made, breathable, acid free bridal gown storage bags to protect against dust, soil and insects. 

Nationwide Clean By Mail

Do you live outside the Phoenix metro area? Can’t find a true quality bridal gown specialist in your local area to whom you can entrust your cherished bridal gown with complete confidence? 

Even if you’re beyond the reach of our facility or our local pickup and delivery service, we’re still within your reach.

That’s because our Nationwide Clean By Mail service ships throughout  the United States and Canada. 

For further information on our Nationwide Clean By Mail service, please click here.

Wedding ceremony delivery

For a nominal service fee, we’ll deliver your hand finished bridal gown to the ceremony venue (church, synagogue, hotel, residence, etc.) on the day before or on the day of the ceremony.

Cleaning and hand finishing

After the wedding, you may choose to have your cherished gown cleaned, hand finished and hung in one of our  custom made, breathable, acid free bridal gown storage bags to protect against dust, soil and insects.

Local pickup and delivery

We offer door to door service in any of the zip codes we currently service. 

After the wedding, we’ll pick up your bridal gown, clean and hand finish it or clean, hand finish and archivally preserve it to the highest museum quality standards. Then deliver it back to you at your convenience. 

Non-standard weekend pickup and delivery or pickup and delivery within a very specific time window can be arranged for a nominal service fee. 

For further information on our local pick up and delivery service, please click here.

Personal appointments

We welcome appointments. Please call us at 1-800-GOWNPRO to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.

Alternative packaging method

There is an alternative way to package your bridal gown for short or longer term storage. Although it’s less effective over the long term, it’s a much less costly alternative.

So, you might want to consider hanging your bridal gown in one of our breathable, bridal gown storage bags. These storage bags, measuring 72” high x 24” wide x 6” gusset at the top flaring to a 20” gusset at the bottom, are suitable for long bridal gowns with or without a full train and crinoline.

For more information on our breathable, bridal gown storage bags, please click here.

In-house performance

Because all this work is done in house, we invite you to view your bridal gown prior to packaging.

We’ve even got a dedicated bridal gown “clean room” where we complete our packaging process. You’re also invited to observe the entire preservation process if you so wish.

No stuffing in a chest that’s way too small

Unlike ordinary cleaners, we’ll never stuff your gown into a one-size-fits-all wedding gown box.

At Museum Quality GownCare, we offer four different sizes of bridal gown storage chests.

This way we can accommodate any size dress – from a classic, straight line, tight fitting gown to a princess gown with a voluminous skirt and cathedral train. And we can still gently and carefully package your gown with a minimum of creases or folds.

Why do we offer four different sizes of bridal gown storage chests?

Because stuffing a bridal gown into a wedding gown box will result in extensive creasing that’ll be almost impossible to remove in future years.

To mentally picture this issue, remember those late night, television Space Bag® commercials that compress an entire season’s wardrobe into a single plastic bag?

No sealing in any type of plastic of any color

More importantly, we’ll never hermetically or vacuum seal (actually shrink-wrap) our bridal gown storage chests in any type of plastic of any color.

Instead, your bridal gown is layered and supported with unbuffered, acid-free tissue and wrapped in a large sheet of unsized, unbleached cotton muslin inside the chest. After the lid is replaced, the entire chest is inserted in an unsized, unbleached cotton muslin outer cover.

This allows air to circulate throughout the chest and allows the gown to “breathe” as recommended by museum textile conservators.

It also allows you to open the archival chest to view your gown whenever you so wish. (Aside: Please don’t touch the gown without washing your hands and putting on a pair of white cotton gloves. The salts and acids on your hands can transform those fingerprints into unsightly stains over time).

The unbleached, unsized cotton muslin liner and outer cover acts as a dust filter and assists in regulating fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. In addition, the outer cover serves to keep the chest clean and free of dust, and can be periodically washed and replaced after washing. (Aside: Wash in cool water with no detergents and no fabric softeners).

One more thing about “sealing”: the notion that you can hermetically or vacuum seal a wedding gown box constructed of paperboard is pseudo-scientific nonsense.

A true vacuum requires the absence of air. So unless the “box” was constructed of steel, wood or heavy duty plastic, a complete absence of air would cause the box to implode, crushing the box and the gown in the process. Just like those demonstrations in the Space Bag® television commercials.

No purging of the oxygen inside the chest

Many ordinary cleaners claim, that in order to prevent oxidation or yellowing of your bridal gown, you should:

  • hermetically or vacuum seal the wedding gown box in plastic, and
  • remove all the oxygen from the box and replace it with an inert gas such as nitrogen.

We strongly disagree. For a number of reasons:

  • It’s scientifically impossible to “seal” a paperboard-based wedding gown box so it’s completely airtight.
  • The plastic typically used to “seal” these wedding gown boxes is not airtight over the long term. The inert gas will escape over time rendering the gas-for-oxygen-swap functionally useless.
  • The plastic typically used to “seal” these wedding gown boxes is not chemically inert. This means that as the plastic ages and deteriorates, it’ll degrade, “release” acids, and trap these acids inside the chest. This negates the very reason for preserving your bridal gown in the first place – protection against acids.
  • The plastic used to “seal” these wedding gown boxes traps moisture inside the box and promotes the formation of mold and mildew.
  • It’s important for air to circulate throughout your bridal gown storage chest. All textiles, even synthetics, must be allowed to “breathe”.

Sealing a wedding gown box in plastic and substituting the oxygen with an inert gas is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

Why do we say marketing gimmick?

Because museum textile conservators do not store any of their museum textiles that are not on display in this manner. 

While some museums display the rarest of their textiles in specially-constructed chambers that are filled with nitrogen (and where the nitrogen levels are constantly monitored by sophisticated  monitoring equipment), the notion that a wedding gown cleaner can create a similar environment in a cardboard box defies common sense.

In other words, there’s simply no substitute for using a bridal gown storage chest that incorporates the most advanced preservation technology available today to protect your cherished gown over the long-term.

But don’t take our word for it.

Visit the Smithsonian Institution or Textile Museum for their do’s and don’ts of textile preservation. These museum textile conservators are responsible for protecting tens of thousands textiles in their collections that are not currently on display. So you can rest assured that they’re on the cutting edge of preservation technology.

No kitchen sinks

Ordinary cleaners will often encourage you to include bouquets, bras, cake top ornaments, favors, garter belts, guest lists, hats, invitations, menus, money bags, napkins, photographs, ring bearer pillows, scrapbooks, shoes, slips and other mementos in your “box”.

Everything but the kitchen sink.

And the reason?

They charge for each extra item included in the box.

We strongly advocate that you resist the temptation to include such mementos.

Why?

Because you don’t know – and probably will never know – the chemical composition of each of these items. For example, the foam and elastic in bras and the glues in shoes will probably acidify as they deteriorate over time. And if any of these acidic materials come into physical contact with your bridal gown you’ve effectively negated the very reason for preserving your gown in the first place –  protection against acids.

No subcontracting to any wholesale wedding gown processor

There are thousands of local and online service providers in the USA offering “cleaning and boxing” (aka “heirlooming”) services.

These providers include ordinary dry cleaners, bridal boutiques, floral boutiques, wedding planners and consultants, home-based independent sales representatives, and self-styled wedding gown specialists.

As we previously indicated, we do all our work in-house and follow a cleaning, finishing and preservation regimen that’s grounded in textile science. Not “cleaning and boxing” myth.

Given that there are so many  “cleaning and boxing” service providers available, it’s important to understand what these service providers do and how they price their services.

You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of dry cleaners, bridal boutiques and other service providers in the USA don’t clean, hand finish and archivally preserve the bridal gowns entrusted to their care.

Instead, they ship their gowns to a wholesale wedding gown processor for “cleaning and boxing.” There are about 10 such wholesale processors scattered around the country.

The following is an extract from the jargon-laden literature of a typical wholesale processor:

Our unique heirlooming process is carried out with the kind of care your priceless garment should have. So much time and professional care goes into the heirlooming process, we’d like you to know about it. When your gown is received it is carefully examined for spots, stains and any necessary mending. Next, we spot clean all stains by hand with a special cleaning solution. The entire gown is now ready for cleaning in a multi-step process. The gown is then hung to air dry for 24 hours and examined again. Minor repairs are done to replace snaps, hooks, mend rips and seams, whatever is needed. Finishing work includes hand pressing and sizing. After a final, thorough inspection by specially trained personnel, the gown is placed on an adjustable body form stuffed with tissue and carefully folded. It is then sealed air-tight with clear film in a beautifully designed chest a viewing panel. You Deserve The Very Best.”

Now comes the clincher: The total cost to your dry cleaner, bridal boutique or other service provider for this “unique heirlooming process” that involves “so much time and professional care”, “spot cleaning all stains by hand” and “hand pressing” is around $65 per gown!

Think about that for a second…

That $65 is an all inclusive cost.

It includes the above mentioned tasks – spot cleaning, multi-step dry cleaning, repairs, hand pressing, inspection and packaging. It includes the cost of the “beautifully designed chest.” It includes return shipping back to the service provider. And it includes the wholesale processor’s profit.

All of which begs the question: Is it possible to deliver all that for $65?

When a dry cleaner, bridal boutique or other service provider pays around $65 to have a bridal gown “cleaned and boxed”, they must know that the wholesale wedding gown processor cannot possibly deliver a clean gown – let alone deliver all those alleged tasks – for $65 and still make a profit.

They must also realize that the traditional storybook wedding gown box that’s being used by the wholesale wedding gown cleaner is about as functionally worthless as any white cardboard box that can be found in the dumpster behind your local supermarket.

So why do ordinary dry cleaners, bridal boutiques and other service providers continue to use wholesale wedding gown processors who use traditional storybook wedding gown boxes?

  • First, these service providers have little or no understanding of textile cleaning, finishing and preservation science.

    Sad, but true.

    You see, historically, textile preservation science has been, and, to a large degree, still remains, the domain of a few specialists: museum textile conservators and private-practice textile conservators. Dry cleaners, bridal boutiques and other service providers remain relatively uninformed about the preservation of textiles in general and bridal gowns in particular.

  • Second, these service providers don’t have the in-house skills, expertise and experience to clean and finish bridal gowns themselves. Besides, bridal gowns are a “hassle” for the vast majority of dry cleaners and merely interfere with their in by 9:00 am and out by 5:00 pm production focus.
  • Third, these service providers can generate a profit with practically zero risk by merely acting as a middleman: They can charge $150 to $250 for a service that cost them about $65 (there’s zero risk to the service provider if you can never examine the condition of the gown because the box has been sealed). 
  • Fourth, the wholesale wedding gown processors used by these service providers are caught in a classic technology trap: they cannot introduce advanced preservation technologies without inviting close scrutiny of their current and past practices.

    How so?

    Because they would be tacitly admitting that hundreds of thousands of traditional storybook wedding gown boxes closeted in homes all across the USA are based on preservation technologies that were considered “state of the art” in the 1960s!

    Could it be that the potential for disappointing hundreds of thousands of past clients who have received “guaranteed stain removal” and “guaranteed preservation” (see below) is reason enough to continue promoting traditional storybook wedding gown boxes as the “finest in long-term protection” for your treasured bridal gown?

Pricing – individual gowns

Our minimum price for cleaning, hand finishing and archivally preserving a bridal gown is $450.

More typically, our prices range from $450 to $750. The final price depends on a number of factors, including the

  • type of fabric(s) used
  • quality of the construction
  • physical size of the gown, including the train, if any
  • number of fabric layers
  • nature and extent of the soiling
  • nature and extent of the trim, such as beads, pearls and sequins.

We do request a $300 deposit on the cleaning and hand finishing or cleaning, hand finishing and archival preservation of a bridal gown.

Why require a deposit? Unfortunately, too many bridal gowns that are brought in for cleaning and hand finishing or cleaning, hand finishing and preservation are abandoned and never claimed. The result is that the cost of the labor and materials invested by us in the cleaning, finishing and/or preservation process is never recouped.

We regret but we cannot apply gift certificates towards the $300 deposit. You’re welcome to use any gift certificate to wholly or partially offset the remaining balance. If the amount of the gift certificate exceeds the remaining balance, the excess can be applied to any of our other services.

Our Nationwide Clean By Mail service prices are identical to the prices you would pay if you were a local in-store client or a local pickup and delivery client. However, we do charge for shipping (at the exact price charged to us by UPS or USPO) and for the  shipping container.

Furthermore, we do not add a 3% to 6% environmental surcharge to each service order.

There is no sales tax on dry cleaning and related services in Arizona.

Pricing — gowns that are going to be resold

If you desire to resell your gown after the wedding or if you are in the business of purchasing and reselling gowns, we might not be able to help. 

And the reason?

We have only one level of quality associated with the hand cleaning and hand finishing of a gown (or any garment, household textile or accessory for that matter). And we price our work accordingly.

This means that we do not offer a just-clean-it-enough-so-that-it-doesn’t-look-that-bad-cleaning-and-pressing-service.

The issue generally comes down to the difference between the resale price and the cost of purchase plus the cost of hand cleaning and hand finishing.

We thank you for your understanding.

Pricing – full suites

We’re often asked to clean, hand finish and/or archivally preserve full bridal suites, comprising the bridal gown, brides maid dresses and mother-of-the-bride ensembles.

Please contact us for special pricing on full bridal suites.

Gift certificates

Gift certificates covering any of our bridal gown services are available in increments of $50. The minimum for a gift certificate is $100.

We regret but we cannot apply gift certificates towards the $300 deposit. You’re welcome to use any gift certificate to wholly or partially offset the remaining balance. If the amount of the gift certificate exceeds the remaining balance, the excess can be applied to any of our other services.

To purchase a bridal gown services gift certificate, please call us at 1-800-GOWNPRO (1.800.469.6776).

Turnaround time

Our turnaround time for cleaning, finishing and preserving a bridal gown is typically 12 to 16 weeks.

Guarantees and warranties

Many service providers offer “guaranteed stain removal” and “guaranteed preservation”.

At Museum Quality GownCare, we always advise brides to consider these stain removal guarantees and preservation guarantees with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Here’s why……

As regards stain removal guarantees, only those cleaners who are uninformed and unskilled about the art and science of stain removal, would guarantee the removal of all spots and stains – in advance of completing the cleaning process. There are just too many variables involved to permit making such a blanket statement.

While perfection is always the goal, perfection may not always be fully achievable.

As a skilled cleaner of bridal gowns, we always strive to achieve the “very best possible result”, given the gown’s fabric, the trim and embellishments, the construction, and the nature and extent of the soiling.

The same healthy skepticism should be applied to preservation guarantees.

In this regard, this section of our website has attempted to provide you with answers to two important questions:

  • Why preserve?
  • What alternative preservation technologies are available?

Now you know that preservation is all about controlling the micro-environment in which your bridal gown is stored over the long term. And the “very best possible result” can only be achieved by simulating a climate-controlled environment in a technologically advanced bridal gown storage chest.

So, with this in mind, what’s the value of a 30 or 50 year “guarantee”?

Not much when you consider this simple fact: none of these “cleaning and boxing” or “heirlooming” service providers have been using their current cleaning processes and packaging methods for the full 30 or 50 year guaranteed period. So none of these service providers are in a position to have seen the results of their cleaning processes and packaging methods on gowns that have been stored for the full guaranteed period.

And what’s the value of a lifetime “guarantee”?

Not much when you ask yourself this question: What’s the meaning of the term “lifetime” and whose lifetime are they referring to?  Yours? The lifetime of your local dry cleaner? The lifetime of your local dry cleaner’s out-of-state subcontractor? And if it’s the lifetime of the gown, what the meaning of the term “lifetime of the gown”?

At Museum Quality GownCare, we take a different approach to these so-called “guarantees”: we prefer to offer scientifically informed advice and to guarantee that we’ll clean, hand finish and archivally preserve your cherished bridal gown with extraordinary care.

Other ceremonial garments, including christening gowns

In addition to bridal gowns, Museum Quality GownCare offers museum quality restoration, hand cleaning, hand finishing and archival preservation of all types of ceremonial garments, including flower girl dresses, brides maid dresses, communion dresses, confirmation dresses, christening gowns, baptismal gowns, pageant gowns, debutante gowns, cotillion gowns, and ball gowns.

Other sentimental garments and household textiles

Museum Quality GownCare can also restore, clean, finish and preserve sentimental garments and textiles such as your daughter’s first dress, your son’s first baseball uniform, your mother’s needlepoint cushion covers, your father’s military uniform or your grandmother’s hand-crocheted table cloth, etc.

 

Consult us!

Museum Quality GownCare has a bridal/couture consultant on staff to advise you on the alteration, restoration, hand cleaning, hand finishing and archival preservation of your bridal and formal gowns.

Visit our Museum Quality GownCare Information Center.

See. Examine. Ask questions. Get answers.

Before you entrust your cherished gown to an ordinary cleaner.

Come in for a free consultation. There’s no obligation. To set up an appointment, call us 1.800.GOWNPRO (1.800.469.6776).

Summary

Our restoration, cleaning, and finishing processes are consistent with the very best conservation practices. Our preservation materials are the same ones used by the finest museums to protect and preserve their costume and textile collections.

Packaging a properly cleaned textile in archival materials is the most effective method to protect any textile from the deteriorating effects of light, soil and dust, mold and mildew, insects, airborne atmospheric (outdoor) and environmental (indoor) pollutant gases, and physical handling as well as from sharp fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity.

At Museum Quality GownCare, our approach to the conservation and preservation of garments and textiles is pure textile science.

Not ordinary cleaner myth.

 

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