Garment Preservation 101

When our first child was baptized, I was thrilled to receive the heirloom gown that my husband and his siblings wore for their baptisms. It was a beautiful ivory fabric with delicate lace trim. I soaked white cotton booties in tea for just the right color match to the gown.

After our ceremony (and a diaper fail, fortunately afterwards) I carefully hand washed the gown (Woolite plus a tiny bit of OXI Clean to avoid a stain) to store it until a sibling came along. I was surprised to see that the gown was originally white but had turned an ivory color after not being preserved properly! When that sibling came along, new white booties were purchased to wear with the now white again gown. I printed their baptism photos in black and white so the gown looked the same when framed. Now that we were done taking turns with the gown, I again hand washed it, laid it in tissue paper, and packed it in a box for safe keeping at grandma’s house.

All of our designs are made with heirloom-quality fabrics and details, with the idea that you can pass the dress or Christening gown along to another sibling, family member, or even to the next generation. If the garment will be worn within a few months, hanging it on a padded hanger in a cloth garment bag will keep it clean and safe…make sure you wash or clean it first.  If it will be longer, it’s best to store it off the hanger. It doesn’t take much time and effort to preserve these garments properly for the next wearer - but it does make a huge difference if you do.

The first step is also the most important. Following the garment care instructions, wash or have the garment cleaned. Any oils from skin or stains from snacks will eventually discolor the fabric if not taken care of before storing.

Find a box or storage container (not a plastic bag) that the garment fits in with a little room to stretch out. Folding the dress will leave creases over time so you want to either lay it out in the box or layer the folds with tissue paper. You want the garment floating in tissue paper as much as possible, even stuffing tissue into puffy sleeves and the bonnet if you have room. The less stress the fabric has, the better it will hold up over time. Acid-free tissue paper is ideal, but regular white tissue paper works as well.

Make sure the box or container is securely closed and find a dry, dark, not-damp storage place for it to stay. An area that has moisture at times will ruin your efforts. A high shelf in a closet or under a bed works nicely, especially if you’re using a long box.

If the dress won’t be worn for several years, occasionally check on it to see that it’s aging well. Any metal accessories or jewelry should be in fabric pouches not touching the fabric. Metal-backed buttons should be removed and re-attached later.

This might seem a bit fussy, but you’ll appreciate your effort when you see that lovely First Communion or Christening gown being worn by another member of your family, perhaps even the next generation.

January 31, 2018 — Diane Janowak

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