How to Store Your Wedding Dress If Your Big Day Was Postponed Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic
You have a couple of different options.
Were you forced to postpone your wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic? Then you already know there's a lot to think about in the aftermath. In addition to reviewing your contracts, working with your vendors to mutually agree on a new date, and update your entire guest list, you also have to think about what you'll do with your wedding dress. If you postponed by more than a month or two—which is the reality for nearly every 2020 couple—then hanging your dress in the closet just won't cut it. "Hanging storage is problematic for more than a month or two," says Jonathan Scheer, President and CEO of J. Scheer and Co., a New York City, Los Angeles, and Dallas-based business that specializes in wedding dress preservation. "These are heavy, delicate three-dimensional textiles and hanging can lead to irreversible problems."
So, what are your options? Scheer most highly recommends flat storage, and while his company offers this service, he stresses that you don't have to be a professional to do it. "With a little bit of time and ingenuity, it's possible for a bride to do this at home," he says. To that end, his team created a step-by-step video outlining the process, a clip of which is above and can be viewed in full on the company's IGTV page, that women can use as a guide when storing their wedding dress. Ahead, he offers more helpful tips that will ensure your gown looks just as beautiful on your wedding day—whenever that may be—as it did on the day you picked it up from the bridal salon.
First, consider your timeline and the gown's materials.
While Scheer doesn't love the idea of hanging a dress for more than a couple of months, he says there are ways to stretch that timeline. "Let's say your wedding is four or five months out, and you really don't want to go through the trouble of proper flat storage, [then you could hang the dress for longer]. Every month, take the dress off the hanger and lay it on a flat surface, like an extra bed, in a cool, dark, dry environment with the shades drawn and the air conditioning on," he says. "Let it lay overnight for a day or two, just to relieve that stress. Then put it back in your garment bag." But be sure to check on it every week or so—if you see pulling on the yarns or any distortion to the gown's details, it's essential that it's packed for flat storage.
But before you even think about doing this, consider the gown's fabrication. If it's a light, airy sheath, this hanging method shouldn't be a problem; if you've selected a layered ball gown with lots of beading and texture, hanging for this amount of time is a bad idea.
Understand why flat storage works.
Flat storage, or a very specific style of folding, works so well for wedding dresses because it ensures the weight is evenly distributed, provides a greater area of stability, and results in fewer stress points. "Think of a rug," Scheer says. "Rugs are stored rolled. Why? Because the weight is distributed evenly." By hanging a dress, you're putting a great deal of stress on the shoulders or shoulder straps, which is what's avoided when you choose flat storage.
Prepare for storage, either flat or hanging, by ordering the right materials.
According to Scheer, the materials you use to pack your wedding dress are critical. First, toss the wire or wooden hanger that was given to you by your wedding dress salon, especially if you plan to hang the dress. Instead, purchase a padded hanger that's as wide as the shoulders of your wedding dress—this ensures even weight distribution. Scheer suggests purchasing one from Hollinger Metal Edge. You'll also need the right garment bag. Plastic, Scheer says, is the worst material you can use. "They're very acidic and air doesn't flow through them. Oxygen in the air absorbs the acids, which then yellow the dress." Instead, purchase one made of undyed, unbleached cotton muslin (which Scheer says are also available from Hollinger Metal Edge). Once the dress is inside the garment bag, leave a small opening so air can flow through. "Air flowing through organic textiles is a good thing, not a bad thing," Scheer stresses.
If you plan to fold your dress, you'll need a large, white cotton sheet, four large white cotton towels, and at least four white cotton washcloths. The sheet will serve as the outer protection for a dress; when a gown is stored by Scheer's team, it will be returned to you in an acid-free box, and while you could purchase one yourself, the sheet will suffice in the shorter term. The towels will be used to support the folds of the dress.
The last item you need, regardless of storage method? A pair of white cotton gloves, which you should use anytime you touch the dress. "Skin oils can easily transfer to the fabrics and discolor them," Scheer explains.
Be sure to support the folds.
Follow the video produced by Scheer's team as you fold your wedding dress at home. The biggest takeaway? Support every fold. "Anytime you fold a three-dimensional textile, there will be stress on the yarns at the fold points. These need to be supported. The weight of gravity is such that a fold can become a crease," Scheer explains. And creases are the last thing you want. "Creased fabric is permanently damaged fabric."
Choose the right environment, and remember to inspect your dress.
Regardless of method, it's essential that you store your dress in the correct environment. Two places to avoid at all costs? Basements and attics. "You want to choose somewhere temperate," Scheer says. "You also want to avoid anywhere exposed to direct sunlight." And don't forget to check on it. While Scheer recommends weekly inspections for hanging dresses, monthly should suffice for anything folded. "You want to make sure nothing untoward has happened to the dress," he says.
Don't forget about your accessories.
Overskirts and trains should be folded or hung separately from the dress. Preserve each piece as if it's entirely its own. "Keep it simple and don't pile on," Scheer says. You can follow the same folding procedure with these pieces as you will with your dress.
As for a veil, Scheer suggests rolling these. "To do that, take a dowel or a cardboard tube, line it with a cotton sheet and make sure it's pulled taut," he says. Then, roll the veil onto it, placing acid-free tissue or more white cotton between the layers, ensuring there are no directly overlapping layers. Wrap the entire rolled veil in an outer layer of cotton and store it on a shelf until your wedding. However, if you're wearing an heirloom veil with antique lace or beading, it would be best to leave storage up to a professional.
Know when you're in over your head.
If you don't feel confident that you'll be able to properly pack the dress for storage yourself, or you've started the process but feel like your dress is too complicated, Scheer says there's no reason not to call in a professional. "If it's complicated in construction or it's very full and very heavy with lots of layers, you'll likely want a professional," he says. "Don't be impulsive about it and don't just hang it. Have it done professionally."