Can A Yellowed Vintage Wedding Gown Be Restored?
Is There Any Hope In Restoring This 40 Year Old Wedding Gown That Has Yellowed?
I received an e-mail from a Mother of a "Bride To Be" from Oxford, Mississippi recently about her wedding dress that she had preserved in 1968. She would like to get her wedding dress in shape for her daughter to wear. The wedding dress had yellowed over the years in spite of the fact that it had been preserved and she needs it to be restored. Here, in part, is her question:
"I opened my wedding dress which had been dry cleaned and "heirloomed" in 1968. Probably because of the materials used in that era, the gown has yellowed. There are no food stains, etc., on the gown, only overall yellowing. My daughter is considering wearing the dress for her wedding in the spring of 2012. Since the wedding is over a year away, I have time to explore options regarding the dress.
A wedding dress that has yellowed over time but has no brown spots (typically caused by food spills) or mold, mildew or insect-damaged fabric, is a basic wedding gown restoration. Such a wedding gown should be able to be restored close to its original color. Sometimes there are ways to deal with mold, mildew and the other enemies of vintage wedding gowns. But one that has "just" yellowed, is more likely to be sucessful.
The Likely Cause Of The Yellowing
Mom was right in this case. The yellowing was probably caused by the materials of that time. Mom told me that the gown was cleaned and preserved, wrapped in plastic and placed in a preservation chest. After further exchanges on the wedding gown, Mom mentioned what I believe to be the cause of the yellowing when she said:
The sleeves and bodice had been stuffed with white tissue paper, with the body and train of the dress folded underneath, and all was enclosed in a plastic bag, and placed in a large cardboard box. The dress has been kept on a shelf in a closet since 1968.
It is possible that the tissue paper and the preservation chest were not totally acid free. The concept of using totally acid-free materials when preserving vintage garments was developed in the 1980's. So acid in the materials could also be the culprit.
Mom also mentioned that the dress was enclosed in plastic and then placed in the preservation box. This can also contribute to yellowing of the gown. The fumes from plastic can also cause the wedding dress to yellow...as can the lack of fresh air getting to the fabric.
Today, knowledgeable wedding gown specialists place the wedding gown in a totally acid-free preservation box with tissue that is also totally acid free. There are preservation materials that are not completely acid free so insist on the right preservation materials.
This story is not all bad news. Mom had the wedding dress cleaned right after her wedding and the wedding dress has been stored properly over the years. It was protected from mold, mildew, insects, heat, moisture, pets and kids...the enemies to successful wedding gown preservation over generations. Successful restoration is a very likely result.
There Is One Other Lesson Learned Here
Take an occasional peak at your preserved wedding gown and check it for problems that may be developing. Get them corrected sooner rather than later. Wear cotton gloves or at least wash your hands thoroughly before handling the gown. Here is a link to another article on handling your wedding gown after cleaning and preservation.
Stay tuned right here for the final chapter on this wedding gown restoration. I'll have some before and after photos in the next month or two.
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