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Give your wedding dress the royal treatment…

on April 28, 2011 – 11:22 am

By Miriam Langford, Treatment Conservation Manager at Historic Royal Palaces

The 10,000 items in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection are given the best possible care, to ensure that they survive for many more generations to come. In caring for your own precious textiles, such as a wedding gown, it is important to apply the same basic principles to make sure no damage occurs.

1. Make sure the dress is professionally and carefully cleaned before it goes into storage. Some contaminants and spills don’t show immediately but will eventually become more acidic and alter the appearance and strength of the fabric forever. When choosing a good dry-cleaner make sure they test their cleaning solutions first and ask them about the process involved in their cleaning technique. Avoid harsh chemicals if they are not necessary and always point out embellishments that might be more delicate such as beads and sequins. Bleaches on white fabrics can produce a wonderfully clean looking result but these results won’t last and re-bleaching rarely works when the stains re-appear. It is better to wash out the cause of a stain rather than just using chemical processes which will eventually weaken the fabric of the dress. Also ask your dry-cleaner to use as pure a form of their cleaning solution as is possible. Fragrances added for frequently worn business shirts may be more detrimental than helpful in the long run for a delicate precious item.

2. When putting your dress in storage, use the best and cleanest acid-free materials available to you. If your dress has sturdy shoulders, it may be appropriate to hang it on a well padded hanger in a clean un-dyed cotton or Tyvek dress bag – avoid plastic dust covers which won’t breathe and may be chemically unstable.

3. Most dresses are better off in a good acid-free storage box, padded out with scrunched acid-free tissue to ensure they don’t lie too flat allowing creases and eventually splits to form. Use as large a box as you have room to store, avoiding folding as much as possible, and if you have to fold, try to fold only in one direction as cross-folding can cause weak points at the creased corners you create.

4. Finally, don’t forget about your dress. Make sure you have a look at it every 6 months to ensure you don’t have any insects or damp causing damage. A cool, dark, dry place will be best for storage.

Information provided by the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection. Comprising 12,000 items worn by royalty and courtiers from the seventeenth century to the present day, the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is an unparalleled resource offering insight into the story of the British monarchy, life at court and the ceremonial tradition of the UK. Items of clothing worn by some of the country’s most charismatic royals – including George III, Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret, the Queen, and Diana, Princess of Wales – all form part of the collection, together with prints, sketches, historic photographs, letters, diaries and scrapbooks. The collection is cared for by Historic Royal Palaces’ highly skilled and dedicated team of conservators. www.hrp.org.uk