... What to do about them on wedding gowns.
We often receive questions from our brides about stains on wedding gowns. Particularly the ones on mother's or grandmother's dress, in anticipation of wearing it in an upcoming wedding. We just today received a call about restoration of a 1920 vintage gown planned for a wedding in southern California. And yes, yellow stains. Well here is our take on them.
Onset of yellowing. Some yellow stains can begin to occur within days and weeks of conditions which cause them, spills or slops. Namely something left on the fabric with which oxygen interacts and begins to change the color of the substance left on the gown. We at Iowa Bridal Preservation use various light spectrums ie UV or black light in identifying some of these staining sources which aid in their identification and location for treatment.
And as you might guess, as time goes on and these stains are left unattended, they not only are more difficult to remove but the fibre which hosts the stain begin to take on different property, ie. fabric breakdown and deterioration. When some of these stains turn brown and even dark to black brown, the affected fibre is often so far deteriorated that the slightest mechanical action to tough or in a cleaning solution will wash away the fibre leaving holes in the garment.
Oxidized stains are usually yellow / brown stains on a wedding gown that were originally clear or very light but over the years that have turned brown. Generally these stains are often from clear sugary liquids, like alcohol or sodas, which dried clear and were not initially noticed after the wedding. As they are exposed the oxygenating process begins. Body oils and perspiration can also oxidize into brown stains. It's even possible that they will be found on wedding gowns that were dry-cleaned because dry cleaning solvents do not always remove water based substances. Those substances left behind can oxidize over the years and eventually turn brown. Iowa Bridal Preservation uses several aqueous processes, water based processes, to insure against this yellowing. Why, because the causative substances are removed.
The Restoration Process.
Often vintage gowns presented to us for cleaning and restoration have not had the best storage conditions. Sometimes they are stored in cedar chests which is beneficial for many reasons, but moreover they are left hanging in a closet, or attic, with little or no attention over the years.
Depending on the gown, its condition, and fabric, we may begin with an specialty soak which very gently loosens attached soil, no mechanical action and a process which tends to neutralize staining. Depending on the results, proprietary chemicals namely from the perbortate family can be used to further remove stains and return the fabric to its previous "once up on a time" condition. Those of us at Iowa Bridal Preservation take great pride in our work in this restoration process. It is time consuming, requires vigilance, temperature control, proper ph of the solutions, and very very gentle handling. At times some of the ornamentation and certain buttons must be removed to avoid damage to them. When our restoration process is completed causative elements in yellow have been removed and often original or near original color is restored. We recommend this process be completed prior to any alteration, tailoring, or sculpturing of the gown.