How proper care and preservation can make your dress last forever

How proper care and preservation can make your dress last forever

Many people would say the bride is the star of a wedding. Others might say it's the couple. But if you ask Margaret Butler, co-owner of certified wedding gown specialist Dublin Cleaners, the center of attention is clear.

"[The gown] is really the centerpiece of the wedding," says Butler. "The dress is very important."

It's so important that there are a plethora of rules about how to properly care for a wedding gown at all stages in a wedding. And it's what Butler and her husband, Greg, have been doing for more than 40 years. We asked Butler to share her expertise on all things cleaning, caring and conserving.

How does one properly care for a gown before, during and after a wedding?

If you buy [the dress] really far in advance, you would want to have it laying out on a bed in a spare bedroom and cover it, put a sheet below and a sheet above. No plastic ever, ever. And if the gown is heavy, it should be hung from the ribbons inside the bodice. You mainly want to keep it out of light, in a dark room.

During the wedding, there are two things that I say all the time when I have a chance to talk to the bride: She needs to be very careful going across any asphalt surface. These can be very abrasive. And then the other outside thing that can affect a dress, and it doesn't happen often, but if you're getting outdoor photographs done by trees or bushes, you don't want to come in contact with black mulch. What they use to make it black could transfer to clothing.

And of course after the wedding, it is best to have your gown cleaned as soon as possible if there are major issues with it. It's just like with everything, it's better to clean earlier than later, before the stains set.

If a bride gets a stain on her dress at the ceremony or reception, what should she do?

Just take your napkin and blot it and resist the urge to try club soda or water or any other liquid on it.

If you don't have any stains or major issues, should you get it cleaned anyway?

There's not as much an urgency, but understand that on the day you got married, you perspired, you had on deodorant, you had on lotion, perfumes … If [the gown is] silk, it can yellow under the arms and things like that.

What is the process of gown preservation?

After the wedding, you bring [the dress] to us and we clean it. With the gowns that are going to be preserved, typically Greg cleans them within a week or so. And then it takes a while for me to get around to preserving them because my work takes a little longer. So the gowns are cleaned and in preservation for a month before going into the preservation chest. There are no chemicals used at all in the preservation, we simply put the clean gown into a 100 percent acid-free environment.

What keeps the preservation preserved is people storing it in the proper place. … Actual storage of [the preserved dress] is so key. It has to be in a temperature-controlled area of your home. I prefer closets or under a bed. You just cannot put it in an attic, garage or basement.