True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

The cleaning and restoration of a 70 year old wedding gown

About a month ago, I received a call from a potentially new client.

Carol informed me that her daughter, Chase, was getting married. And that her daughter had set her heart on wearing the gown that had been worn by her mother, Eleanor, when she got married in 1942, and that had been worn by her when she got married in 1975.


1973 color pix
1942 black-white photo


The upshot of the conversation was that they were exploring the possibility of "updating" the wedding gown. Provided, of course, that the gown could be restored to near original condition.

As I'm always looking for new restoration challenges, I arranged for Carol and Chase to come see me so that I could examine the gown and provide them with a no-obligation assessment as to the possible results they could expect.

It turned out that the gown

  • had never been cleaned before,
  • had been stored in a white plastic bag that had been placed inside a brown kraft box (a caldron of acidic gases) since 1975, and
  • had yellowed (the fabric) and browned (the lace trim) over that period of time.

I explained to Carol and Chase that, in all probability, the gown had yellowed and browned over time because the gown had been stored in materials that were highly acidic (plastic and cardboard) and, as those materials degraded over time, the acids from those materials had off-gassed and migrated (or transferred) onto the fabric.

I further explained to Carol and Chase that the yellowing and browning of the fabric was not the only problem caused by those off-gassing acids. The bigger problem is that off-gassing acids cause fabrics to become brittle and weak and that the extent of the brittleness or weakness cannot be predicted, with any degree of certainty, in advance of the restoration process.

In other words, the ultimate success of the restoration is always dependent on the skill and experience of the restorer, the careful handling of the garment during the restoration process, and the range of processes used during the restoration process.

The before and after photos shown below reflect the transformation from a musty, heavily-creased, yellow and brown colored gown to an odorless, smooth-as-silk, egg shell colored gown that's ready to be restyled by their dressmaker.

Chase, all the folks at RAVE FabriCARE wish you the very best. And don't worry about dirtying or soiling your gown on the big day. Have a blast. We know how to restore it back to 1942 condition!



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1 comment(s) for “The cleaning and restoration of a 70 year old wedding gown”
  1. Gravatar of Jovan Gauthier
    Jovan Gauthier Says:
    Stored in a cardboard box?! Jeez, that's no way to treat a wedding gown. Just goes to show that a good garment bag made of NATURAL fibres is indispensable.

    Really though, I couldn't believe it was the same dress. You guys do some impressive work.
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