We interviewed our featured bride Katrina's mother, Laura, whose own mother's wedding gown the two of them took to Iris City Cleaners in Mount Pleasant, IA for restoration, cleaning, and preservation. Pictured are Laura and Katrina, together holding up a photo of Katrina's grandmother in her self-designed wedding gown. Katrina is wearing the same gown — some sixty years after her grandmother! Continue reading for Laura's moving Real Bride Spotlght of her daughter below, complete with more stunning photos of the heirloom dress, all taken by Amanda Dee Photography.
Nervous about selecting a wedding dress cleaner for your beloved gown? Don’t be. The Association of Wedding Dress Specialists will give your gown the care it needs to achieve its highest resale value, or to be cleaned and preserved for a future daughter to love.
Want to know why we recommend them so highly? Here are our 5 top reasons:
They are true experts
An Association member will clean your gown to standard museum-quality practices. They’ll also give you a free consultation on your gown and advice on cleaning both visible and invisible stains.
They’re industry recognized
More than 70 different designers sew Association of Wedding Gown Specialists care instructions into their wedding gowns. See the full list of designer who recommend the Association here.
They’ve been awarded in blind testing
Brides at Iowa Bridal Preservation often ask us about the selection of flowers and colors. Since we also rent linens, chair covers, and napery as a part of our hospitality and event planning services we thought it would be helpful for us to put together some ideas on color and flowers for weddings. Many of our brides bring samples of color ideas on cell phone images, in swatches or, magazine pictures and hope to find matching or close to matching colors to complement their wedding event. Many of our brides develop a fondness of color from early childhood and bring that fondness to their wedding planning. Some brides in reality haven’t given it much thought until very late in their planning.
A careful selection of color and colors both in wearing apparel, for reception event, table covering, can add great appeal, and make a very strong personal statement both for the bride, groom, and their union. Since most bridal gowns are, at least in the Midwest, white, off white, or ivory, and sometimes with bright trim of red, blue, and even violet, the focus then goes to the reception event.
When coordinating the wedding event with the seasons, and looking at what flowers are in season a bride and her planning party can save considerably by complementing her event with in season wedding flora. Table setting, chair cover sashes, guest favors, sometimes lighting, and flowers, can, if coordinated and carefully planned, make this event one truly to remember.
An extensive gallery of wedding flower pictures can provide couples with botanical inspiration for all their floral wedding needs. From bouquets to decorations, flowers are an integral part of any wedding celebration and there are hundreds of ways flowers can be used to add color, romance, and flair to the event.
Flowers, herbs and spices have been used in weddings for centuries.
Today the selection of flowers is more to adorn our gowns and ceremonies and perhaps to make personal statements. However, in ancient times their use was more spiritually oriented. The bride carried aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs and spices to keep evil spirits away. Strong smells were related to protection from evil forces and mysticism. In ancient Greece and Rome, both the bride and groom wore a garland made out of strong-smelling herbs and spices around their necks. The garland was a symbol of love and happiness. Ancient Greeks also used flowers and plants to make a crown for the bride to wear and were considered a gift from nature. Although some cultures and religions still use herbs to celebrate marriages, they have lost their place in modern weddings and flowers are becoming increasingly important.
In some countries, the history and role of wedding flowers have remained through to today and many traditional practices continue to be performed. Here are some of traditions that are still important elements of every wedding, and not only in the countries where they originally appeared. Some of them are also the base of traditions we currently follow worldwide.
• Germany: both the bride and groom hold candles with flowers and ribbons tied to them during the ceremony.
• Sweden: the bridesmaids carry little bouquets of aromatic herbs.
• Austria: the brides crown their veils with the flowers of life.
• England: the bride and her bridesmaids walk to the church together. A little girl would lead them to the church while sprinkling flowers along the path. This tradition prevails in modern weddings with the “flower girls”.
• India: the groom’s brother sprinkles flower rose petals over the bride and groom at the end of the wedding ceremony to help ward off any evil spirits.
Starting in the form of herbs and spices, flowers have always been an important element to weddings. Not only for their undeniable beauty but also for the historical significance they have and their symbolic meanings. No matter how “non-traditionalistic” we consider ourselves we would love to have a wedding full of roses, orchids, tulips, peonies, hydrangeas, ranunculus, freesias, dahlias or any other type of flower we like.
As time passed, flowers and their meaning have largely stayed the same. Although the herbs have lost their place in modern North American weddings, some cultures and religions still intertwine herbs with flowers in order to celebrate the marriage with a gift from nature.
Modern uses for wedding flowers
Wedding flowers have increased in popularity to the point where you will be hard-pressed to find a wedding that doesn’t involve them in some way. Some of the new traditions include:
• The bouquet – This is perhaps, next to the bride herself, the centerpiece of the entire ceremony. A great deal of science has gone into developing a system of matching the blooms present in the bouquet with the season, with physical attributes of the bride, and with the location of the ceremony itself.
• The corsage – Another popular component of most modern dresses is the corsage. Worn about the wrist, it is usually designed to match the dress and bouquet.
• The boutonniere – This is a male tradition. Originally, flowers would be pushed through the buttonhole of a jacket, but it’s proper for the groom to have the boutonniere pinned to his left lapel. It’s also appropriate for it to match the bride’s corsage and bouquet.
• Table centerpiece – Perfect for the reception ceremony, an extravagant centerpiece on each table leaves guests with nothing but fond memories. It’s now standard practice to include these in every reception.
Wedding flowers – a lesser known reason
Wedding flowers and fragrant herbs played another important role in weddings during Europe’s middle ages. During that time, it was traditional to bathe only twice a year. This was due to the labor involved in preparing enough hot water for the process, as well as the rarity and expense of soap.
These bath times usually fell before Christmas, an important time of year for everyone, and during the summertime. The problem was that weddings usually took place in the spring. The result of this was that the wedding party wasn’t usually its freshest.
A solution was devised using floral and herbal arrangements. Herbs would be sewn or placed into the dress, and the bride would carry a large bouquet of flowers (often wearing them in her hair as well). This masked any bodily odors and made the wedding more enjoyable for both bride and groom.
Historical Meaning of flowers
Wedding flowers are steeped in history and will likely remain in tradition for many years to come. If you’re looking for an appropriate gift for a couple, a gift of wedding flowers will always be appreciated. Delivery right to ceremony or the home of the newlyweds is one way to ensure they are able to enjoy your thoughtful contribution. One of our brides recently received a wonderful at ceremony flora delivery with a small card, truly a keepsake, describing the historical meaning and symbolism of the 5 different flowers in the gifted arrangement. Each having personal meaning to both the bride and groom.
Agapanthus: Secret Love
Magnolia: Love of Nature
Dahlia: Dignity and Elegance
Pink Rose: Perfect Happiness
White Rose: Charm and Innocence
Red Rose: Love and Desire
white and red Rose: Unity
Orange Rose: Passion
Yellow Rose: Joy and Gladness
Rosebud: Beauty and youth
Tulip: Love and Passion
Orange Lily: Wealth
White Lily: Sweetness
Yellow Lily: Gaiety, walking on air
Lily of the Valley: Humility, Sweetness, Return of Happiness
We at Iowa Bridal Preservation can be of some help in matching ceremony colors with our extensive linen collection. We hope that this little treatise on flora is of value in helping our brides make flower selection most befitting.
Shawna planned her wedding in just five short months and celebrated her spring nuptials last year in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Read more about her wedding below!
When and where was your wedding?
We got married on April 20th, 2013 at A Touch of Class Banquet Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
When did you know that your wedding dress was “the one”?
I didn’t really have a moment where I knew my wedding dress was “the one”. My mother graciously offered to pay for my wedding dress, so we basically went to almost every wedding dress shop in Iowa looking for a dress within the budget. It was getting closer and closer to the big day and we were running out of time, so I ended up with a dress that fit perfectly and didn’t need any altering.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding day?
So you know the typical cake smashing that brides and grooms do when they cut the cake? Well, I wasn’t about to let my husband smear cake on my face! So when I refused to let my husband do it, my cousin took a cupcake and shoved it in my aunt’s face. My husband then chased his mother around the reception room and got cake in her face as well!
Why did you choose to get your wedding gown cleaned and preserved?
My mother took the time to get my dress taken care of when I was on my honeymoon. I plan on keeping my wedding dress for my daughter, niece or even sister-in-law if they are interested in wearing it in the future.
Why did you decide to get your wedding gown cleaned by a member of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists?
Once again, my mother had a hand in this (she really wanted to make sure my dress got the best care!). She did her research and found Iowa Bridal Preservation. She was impressed by their level of service when they told her they did all the cleaning by hand and would preserve the dress in a specialty chest. She loved the fact that Iowa Bridal Preservation also included gloves so that I could handle the dress without soiling it, whenever I wanted to.
Photographer Credit: Rick Njos – All Image Photography
Bride Hannah trusted the expert wedding gown specialists at Iowa Bridal Preservation in Mount Pleasant, Iowa to clean and preserve her beloved wedding gown after they had personally cleaned and preserved her grandmother’s wedding gown. Read more about her dress and wedding in our Q&A below!
Q. When was your wedding and where did it take place?
A. We got married on May 30th, 2015 at the Newman Catholic Center in Iowa City, Iowa. Our reception was held at The Sheraton in downtown Iowa City.
Q. When did you know that your gown was “the one”?
A. I had actually found my dream wedding gown online! I saw photos of it and fell in love. Before I was able to track down bridal shops that carried the gown, I did go to several bridal salons to try on other dresses, but not a single other gown compared to the one I saw online. Finally I was able to track down the Stephanie Allin gown at Mestads and once I tried it on, I knew it was perfect!
Q. What is your absolute favorite memory from your wedding day?
A. My favorite memory was finally arriving at the back of the church. I could see my future husband at the altar and my extreme nervousness completely vanished. It was a huge wave of relief and excitement, and I was able to focus on exactly why I wanted to marry him in the first place.
Q. Why did you want to get your wedding gown cleaned and preserved?
A. I am absolutely in love with my dress, so there was no doubt that I’d want to keep that dress forever! I’d also love to re-use the lace in the gown one day–perhaps as a baptismal gown or a future daughter’s wedding gown.
Q. Why did you decide to bring your gown to a member of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists?
A. My mother had brought my grandmother’s wedding gown to the expert team at Iowa Bridal Preservation some time ago, and it looked absolutely FANTASTIC when it came back. The gown was initially a complete mess and had been for years, so when the team restored it, it almost looked like a totally different dress when it came back! After that amazing experience, I knew I could trust them to care for my gown.
Photographer Credit: Macy Marie Photography
… 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 alwaays 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.
Several of our brides to be at Iowa Bridal Presevation have asked us about gifts and what should they do to manage their gifting plans and ponder the question gift planning what to do. So we responded by putting the idea of gifting into some perspective, by adding a little history, examining gifting historically and created a simple framework to enable gift planning and selection.
Historically, a dowry, or marriage portion, is a process whereby parental property is distributed to a daughter at her marriage rather than at the holder’s (parents) death. A dowry establishes some variety of conjugal fund, the nature of which may vary widely. This fund ensures a brides support (or endowment) in widowhood and eventually goes to provide for her sons and/ or daughters.
Dowry contrasts with the related concepts called bride price and dower. While bride price is a payment by the groom or his family to the bride’s parents, direct dowry is wealth transferred from bride’s family to groom and groom’s family, ostensibly for the bride. Indirect dowry (or dower) is the property given to the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage and which remains under her ownership and control. The concept of dowry and related versions is found worldwide. Many countries use different methods and call them by different names. In some parts of the western world the downer is largely a thing of the past but there are still various aspects of it that remain.
From Victorian times till today, the trousseau consists of a brand-new outfit (s) to see a woman through her wedding, honeymoon, and newlywed days. Generally the trousseau did/does not include the wedding gown and often represents a collection or addition of handmade items presented to the bride to be for here special occasion. These outfits were generally not worn before, but saved for her special day.
The hope chest, a custom worldwide, perhaps by different names, but often a chest, box, or cupboard containing a collection of either gifts, hand me downs for the bride intended to be used as she and her husband begin to set up house. The hope chest can be given to young girls many years before her marriage but in preparation for it. They are often the practical things like:, included linens, china, silverware, glassware, kitchen items, furniture, bedding, pillows, tools, and things needed to make a house functional. These items tend to be more feminine than masculine in nature. The chest (containment item) can be very elaborate, as seen in some historical images, or relatively simple like a homemade chest for blankets and keepsakes, and in some cases specially made cupboards which can be dismantled so as to easily transport should the family move to a different location. In the Midwest at least it was common to line the chest with insect repellent wood like cedar to protect the content. When researching the subject one will find some use of the terms dowry and hope chest and their various versions used interchangeably.
Today it is common practice for the bride to select a shop or store, post her theme, and while sending invitations to her wedding, mention the location of the shop she selected and expect her guests to purchase gifts from same, ie. a slightly different version of the hope chest idea.
Gift selection is not always an easy undertaking. In pondering the question; “What make the best wedding gift?” There are many considerations and in reality the answer rests in the eyes of the beholder, but here is a framework to help put some of it into perspective. When brides at Iowa Bridal Preservation are presented with this framework they find it helpful in shaping their gifting plans.
The things which influence “best” in the eyes of the receiver may be different than those of the giver.
But age, previously married or not, level of education of bride and groom, special interests, children present are some variables to consider.
Something hand made
Something of price
Something previously admired in the possession of the giver
Something of presence
Something of short term use
Something of long term use
Something for consumption
Something of permance
Something non consumable
Something for now
Something for the future
Something not practical
Something to keep
Something of serious humor
Our focus in this article is Gown Preservation and Insects as Pests. When properly stored, a wedding gown placed in an acid free Heirloom Preservation Chest will minimize the likelihood of insects having access to the gown inside. Normally, though not sealed, chest joints should be taped so as to disallow insects from crawling inside the chest. Placing the chest in an outer cover such as a muslin cover will reduce the likelihood of invasion. It is wise to insure that the environment in which your gown is stored is monitored for insects of any type. Some common enemies, among others, are silver fish, moth, and carpet beetles. While you as a new bride may have enough be concerned about, please tuck this little environmental monitoring suggestion away for safe keeping.
We at Iowa Bridal Preservation are licensed as a non commercial pest management professional in Iowa. We are able to identify potential risks to your gown regarding pests in its kept environment. We are able to suggest monitoring techniques to improve your vigilance in the environment of storage.
Consulting a Conservator
Textile conservators are skilled in cleaning, repairing and stabilizing costumes and uniforms as well as vintage gowns. Our approach is to “minimize intervention”, preserving and respecting as much of the original object as possible and retaining any related historical information when warranted.
You can expect a conservator to document their work carefully and give you full estimates and a list of options before carrying out treatment.
An not often mentioned aspect of gown storage is the issue of pests. Some pests may not harm your gown and other may. This topic is not often found in gown preservation work while emphasis is more over placed on cleaning and selecting the properly materials, correct placement, breathability of the chest, reduction of light and humidity, etc. But pests, particularly the ones we focus on here, and including mildew, are worthy of vigilance.
Direct Insect Damage
Direct damage is caused by insects that feed directly on the fabric of your garment. They are especially attracted by leftover smells of food stains and body oils. Common examples are webbing clothes moths, casemaking clothes moths, carpet beetles, and sometimes termites. Damage done by silverfish is actually in the “indirect damage” classification. Even if damage appears to be limited to a closet, don’t assume the culprit is clothes moths. If you don’t see moths flying, pupa casings, cocoons, or larvae, carpet beetles could easily be the problem. Once they feed they often migrate, leaving behind only the damage.While feeding on the fabric the insect cuts or weakens the surface fibers. Often the damage is not found until fibers are flushed away, leaving damage visible on the garment. In addition, discoloration to the fabric may be caused by the insect’s droppings.
A different type of damage, “indirect damaged,” occurs when insects feed on spilled food or perspiration on the fabric. The “trails” of indirect damage follow the direction of food or beverage spills. Common examples of insects that do indirect damage are: silverfish, crickets, beetles, and roaches. Most of them feed on natural starches and glues, leaving visible damage (but not holes) on finer fabrics such as silk, cotton, linen and rayon.
Clothes Moth and Larvae
The Clothes moth spins webbing and lays eggs which hatch into larvae (small worms). The larvae spin a cocoon in which it transforms into an adult moth. Moth infestation can multiply rapidly and cause severe damage. Approximate size: Adult 9mm., larva 9mm.
Silky webbing is always associated with a moth infestation. It is important to inspect a textile on all sides when looking for infestation. Moth larvae leave holes or thin areas in a textile. If infestation is advanced, granular excrement can also be found on or around the textile. Moths prefer darkness and will shun light.
If infestation is localized it is possible to carefully vacuum the object, providing it is strong enough to withstand the suction. Vacuuming should be thorough on both sides of the object with special attention to seams and creases. Dry cleaning is advisable for contemporary garments as it will kill all stages of infestation. This treatment however is not always safe for historic textiles. Freezing is an effective and safe method of eradicating an infestation.
Casemaking or case-bearing clothes moths are slightly smaller than the webbing clothes moths. The adult is light brown with 3 barely visible dark spots on each wing. The adults live for only 4 to 6 days. The females lay 37 to 48 creamy-white oval-shaped eggs(photo on left), which soon turn red, and hatch in 4 to 7 days into larvae which look like cream-colored caterpillars less than 1/2” long. During the larval stage, which lasts 68 to 87 days, they spin protective cases (using bits and pieces of items they’re consuming!) and drag the cases along as they move. Eventually the cases become the tough cocoons in which the pupae develop into adult moths in 9 to 19 days. Evidence of their presence is similar to the webbing clothes moths. Other less common moths include the Brown House Moth, and the Tapestry Moth, both of which require at least 80% humidity to thrive.
Carpet Beetle and Larvae
The hard shelled carpet beetle, black or mottled black and white, lays eggs which hatch into larvae. The larva is yellow to brown in color, and is very fast moving. A carpet beetle larva will molt several times during its life leaving a skin casting.
The larvae of the carpet beetle can do extensive damage as it feeds without preference on wool, fur, and silk. The larvae also feed on dead insects. If you have an infestation of carpet beetles you will be able to find bodies of adult beetles and larval skin castings in light fixtures, on window sills and in the cracks of floor boards. Carpet beetle larvae leave clean neat holes in textiles with a fine powder of the same color as the object left behind. By placing white paper in the bottom of boxes or on shelves, the powder left underneath the infested object will be clearly visible.
Carpet beetles, unlike moths, are attracted to light. Insect sticky traps set on window sills are effective in trapping carpet beetles. Carpet beetle eggs are very fragile and are easily destroyed when brushed off. An infested textile can be carefully vacuumed and/or dry-cleaned if appropriate. Freezing is also an effective treatment.
Silverfish are small, wingless insects that do not have larvae in their life cycle. They lay eggs that hatch into nymphs and resemble miniature adult silverfish. Nymphs molt several times before they mature into adults. Approximate size: 12.5 mm.
Both adult and nymph silverfish cause damage. They hide in cool, dark places and feed on sizing that consist of starch, sugar and/or protein. Silverfish have rasping mouth parts and cannot successfully chew textile fibers but can cause damage to fine fabrics such as silk, cotton, linen, and rayon.
Silverfish can leave irregular holes by eating the surface material of objects. Rarely do they cause a hole in the textile but rather a shaving off of the surface fibers. Generally, silverfish are more of a problem for books than for textiles.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are microorganisms that are ever present in the air and soil. Under certain conditions such as high humidity a fungal growth develops from spores. This can damage textiles. If fabrics are the least bit moist when stored, a mold and mildew problem may occur.
Mold and mildew appear as irregular shapes of gray, black, or green spots on fabrics. Growth can occur when textiles are framed and glass is placed directly against the piece. Mold and mildew will discolor fabrics and emit a musty odor.
Textiles that have evidence of mold and mildew should be aired out and then carefully vacuumed. It may be advisable to have the textile cleaned; check first with a conservator.
In general it is wise to store only clean garments. All food and beverage stains should be thoroughly removed. The invisible remnants of body oils, perspiration and food stains could be enough to attract insects. Dry Cleaning is normally an effective method to kill all stages of insects.
Store your clothes in cool dry places. Avoid air tight containers such as air tight plastic containers for long term storage. Breathability is a desirable feature to effective storage and preservation.
Those of us at Iowa Bridal Preservation can help you select the proper material for storage. Our Heirloom Gown Preservation work provides the necessary material for effective storage of your gown and special keepsake textiles. We also can advise you on managing pests which you find in your gown storage environment.
…..but it is old and fragile and not the same color as my dress is there any help? The bridal veil symbolizes the chastity and purity of the bride, and maybe that is why, at least in Western Culture it appears to be so important. By history, great attention and meaning has been attributed to the wearing of the veil during weddings in almost all cultures around the world. If your mother’s or your grandmother’s wedding gown is just not for you, you can still honor a family member by wearing her vintage bridal veil. Even if the lace-trimmed veil worn by your mother or the Brussels lace veil worn by your grandmother is yellowed and stained, a vintage bridal veil can look like new after bridal veil restoration. First, it’s important to talk to an expert to find out what the fabrication of the veil is – different materials require different procedures for cleaning and restoration. Worried that the veil is too old? Members of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists have completed bridal veil restorations on veils made as long ago as 1835. Many vintage veils are made from variations of Brussels lace such as Point de Gaze, Duchesse, and Princesse as well as combinations of the designs that give these laces their names. All are cotton and can be restored. However, the silk in Blonde lace makes it fragile, and Blonde lace veils may need to be lined with tulle. Brussels lace is a type of pillow lace that originated in and around Brussels. The term “Brussels lace” has been broadly used for any lace from Brussels; however, the term strictly interpreted refers to bobbin lace, in which the pattern is made first, then the ground, or réseau, added, also using bobbin lace. Brussels lace is not to be confused with Brussels point, which is a type of needle lace, though is sometimes also called “Brussels lace.” If you have an interest in lace, its history and uses, one can become deeply involved in a simple internet search. The history of lace worldwide is a fantastic venture, and if you are lucky enough to have in your possession vintage lace of any type, your new understanding of how it was made may add another wonderful dimension to your wearing it. Occasionally the tulle or net center panel of bridal veils from the 1920s and 1930s is too damaged to use, but the lace border can be restored and appliquéd onto a new center panel made from a sturdy nylon or polyester net. Silk illusion, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, is simply too fragile to restore, and it is probably best to copy the original bridal veil in a modern tulle or net. Luckily as early as the 1960s, designers began making bridal veils from synthetics such as nylon or polyester, and such veils, often trimmed with cotton lace, restore beautifully. Oddly, the cotton lace used to trim a vintage veil will often be more discolored than both silk and synthetic tulle and net, but when restored, the entire veil returns to a uniform color.
To keep your antique veil in the best possible condition and to ensure that it will be in good order to hand down through the generations there are some very important points to remember. In particular, a wedding veil should always be stored in as clean a condition as possible. Put in simple terms, it is invisible dirt and contaminants, (white wine, greasy fingers etc.) acting together with the ultra-violet part of sunlight and oxygen that causes oxidization of the cellulose fibres which promotes deterioration. This leads to the “antique” color of much old lace, but worse, can result in un-repairable damage to the veil. If you like the antique color it is better to have a clean veil that is sympathetically and safely dyed to the color of your choice. Veils should never be stored in plastic bags as these will trap in moisture leading to damage. Cardboard will allow breathing and prevent moisture build up, but as importantly will not allow the fibers to dry out either which will cause brittleness in the threads. Storage in light will cause yellowing and deterioration with time so we suggest storing your veil in the dark. Wrapping the veil in acid free tissue will buffer the veil against harmful acids present in the air and other storage mediums. Never use colored tissue as this could bleed dye if it became damp. Annually remove your veil from its wrapping and inspect for any staining or other signs of damage. If any should be found have it treated professionally as soon as possible. If your veil gets stained in any way, especially champagne and white wine which will not show at the time, you must ensure that the veil is properly cleaned as soon as is possible. Any dirt stains or other contaminants will cause discoloration and damage over long time spans such as found between family weddings. Your veil should be attached and removed from any hair attachments such as combs or Alice bands as near to your wedding day and as soon afterwards as possible. Any tension on the threads of the net ground due to attaching stitches may cause distortion of the mesh over time.
Vintage Bridal Veil Restoration
When restored, vintage Brussels lace veils and vintage veils trimmed with Chantilly, Alençon, and other types of lace are lovely with today’s bridal gowns. Most vintage lace is made from sturdy cotton that can be safely returned to the true color. Point de Gaze (also called Rosepoint) and Duchesse, for example, nearly always restore beautifully. Heirloom restoration and preservation of vintage bridal veils is a service at Iowa Bridal Presrvation. If you would like to honor a family member by including a treasured wedding accessory in your wedding, let us remove the ugly brown stains and yellowing from your vintage veil, ring pillow, or wedding pouch. Although not every vintage bridal veil, ring pillow, or wedding pouch can be restored, we can usually predict whether the project will be successful, and there is never a charge for evaluation. Bring your vintage wedding accessories to Iowa Bridal Preservation and allow us to discuss your interest in veil restoration and cleaning.
For most of western history there hasn’t been any such thing as a wedding gown. People usually just got married in their “church clothes.”
Until recently, people didn’t own that many clothes. And for the most part clothing was simple and often home made. Weddings also weren’t terribly important, unless you were of nobility or your family was very wealthy. Marriage was considered important, but weddings were simple and quick.
Historically, though, weddings were often more than just a union between two people. They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries. Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes. Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light and befitted their social status, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony. Brides from wealthy families often wore rich colors and exclusive fabrics. It was common to see brides wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk. For the affordable, brides dressed in the height of current fashion; with the richest materials money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount and the price of material a wedding dress contained was a reflection of the bride’s social standing and indicated the extent of the family’s wealth to wedding guests.
Prior to Queen Victoria’s debut of her white (actually off white) wedding dress in 1840, gowns were rarely white and often of bright and lavish colors for the affordable. Wealthy, fashionable brides followed this royal trend-setter, though many still opted for other colors.
Often wedding dresses were adapted to the styles of the day. For example, in the 1920s, they were typically short in the front with a longer train in the back and were worn with cloche-style wedding veils. This tendency to follow current fashions continued until the late 1960s, when it became popular to revert to long, full-skirted designs reminiscent of the Victorian era.
Today, Western wedding dresses are usually white though “wedding white” includes shades such as eggshell, ecru and ivory.
In the 1890s, the industrial revolution ushered in inexpensive, factory-made clothes. White wedding dresses were suddenly in the department stores, in advertising, and pretty soon in weddings everywhere.
The Great Depression and WWII brought a near halt for wedding dresses for almost a generation. They were still made, and desired, but often shared between sisters, friends, and neighbors. It remains an interesting practice to use mothers, grandmothers, and often great grandmothers wedding dress for weddings today.
The brand new, single-use dress didn’t truly become standard in the United States until after the war. The huge number of weddings that took place as soldiers came home and the huge growth of the middle class gave birth to the wedding industry as we know it today.
Many people assumed that the color white was intended to symbolize virginity, though this was not the original intention,
it was the color blue that was connected to purity, piety, faithfulness, and the Virgin Mary.
We at Iowa Bridal Preservation, just last week received three gown for restoration. One will be worn in an upcoming November wedding. the three gowns were warn by the brides great grandmother, and both of her grandmothers. Once restoration is complete she will choose which one to wear and the other two will be displayed as a symbol of marriage within her family. What a wonderful way to evidence the importance of marriage.
When considering textile preservation particularly Wedding Gown Preservation, It may be helpful to understand the difference between Preservation and Conservation. Several of the members of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialist belong to Conservatory Groups which research, publish, and maintain a culture of Conservation for their members. The term Conservation is the term used in the sense of ‘preservation for the future. Preservation on the other hand is the act of keeping safe or free from harm or decay. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably but often incorrectly. Museum Care Preservation (Conservation) includes a strong emphasis on the environment in which the item is kept as well as how it is prepared for keeping. You try to maintain the quality or the condition of an object in the act of preservation. Preservation of artifacts and archives are quite commonly seen in museums such as the Louvre or Smithsonian both very well controlled environments for the items housed there. Conservation of wedding gowns includes not only the characteristics of careful preservation, ie the type of materials, the actual preservation container/chest, but includes the important environmental aspects, both within the preservation chamber, as well as the environment and its controllable characteristics in which the preserved chested gown is kept. It is often deteriorated environmental conditions which cause the gown and its chest to be negatively affected by the those conditions. This is why we at Iowa Bridal Preservation stress the great importance of proper storage, planned inspection, re-chesting for valuable archival quality preservation of wedding gowns.
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We frequently receive questions about the best method of keeping a wedding gown looking its best and lasting its longest. The answer depends on several factors. Preservation and conservation of wedding gowns, or any textile for that matter begins by creating conditions which barrier factors that escalate deterioration, these factors are: moisture, light, acid, alkalinity, insects, degrading chemicals, fatty acids, oil, high temperature and combinations of the same. To help with this answer we look to the professional conservators in our finest museums which house antique textile items hundreds of years old and literally keep them in their best shape and condition. Those museums being the Louvre in Paris and the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
We find that there are several methods of preservation and they are: laying flat, rolling the item on an acid free tube, then placing in a conservatory environment, place on a body mannequin, carefully placing the gown in a specially designed chest, and hanging. By the way, laundered muslin seems to play an important part in these preservations as well. Either as an external wrap of the item, an underneath blanked in which to lay the item, used in the construction of specialty hangers on which to hang the gown, and as a base fabric of mannequin dummies.
Laying Flat The issue in this method is to keep the item from having gravity or the pulling force of the weight of the item stress the textile, seams, etc. It also minimizes folding providing the storage area is of adequate size. Large storage areas designed for housing textile items are found in many conservatory museums, these items are often inspected and exist in environments of the best conditions. Nothing is ever weighted on top these items. It may be impractical for a bride to consider this method but to know of it might be important.
Rolling on an acid free tube. This method, given the size of most gowns, while not entirely practical, provides a uniform distribution of weight and minimizes, if not eliminates stress points. This method allows some air flow since the items are not tightly wound on the tube. It is often a preservation method of choice for small specialty textiles like rugs, suits, fancy items, and some clothing.
Place on a Body Mannequin While the idea might be appealing to some brides and in actuality is used for special occasions, finding permanent storage on a body mannequin might create a space issue and certainly would present some environmental challenges. In looking at the “First Lady’s” display at the Smithsonian, gowns from many of the first Lady’s (Presidents wife’s) are on display and one of the most popular visitors displays. These gowns and dresses are on specially made muslin body forms, which actually conform the body size and shape of the persons for whom they were made, and in specially lighted and tightly controlled environments. The display is loaded with monitoring devices that provide instant alarm if any single environmental condition is breached. Some brides have borrowed our mannequins at Iowa Bridal Preservation to use in display for special events of either their own gown or an historical family gown at weddings, anniversaries, and receptions.
Using A Specially Designed Chest Many professional conservators, The Association of Wedding Gown Specialist, and Iowa Bridal Preservation believe that using a specially manufactured wedding preservation chest is the method of choice. This method emulates most of the factors of Museum Quality and Museum Method of preservation. If the proper chest size is selected which provides adequate room for the gown, all constructed on linguine and acid free material, muslin blanket upon which to rest the gown, acid free archival tissue placed in sleeves, at folds to buffer stress points all seem to emulate the earlier method of laying flat, described above. This method allows for optimizing environmental conditions, keeps out undesirable elements, is portable, and enables periodic inspection and re-positioning.
The Hanging Method Several factors emerge here. Gravity again is of concern. The weight of a gown is a factor. Gowns weighing as little as 5- 15 pounds can, if not properly addressed, over time cause serious distortion largely of the upper portions of the gown. Two straps are sewn in the front, and two in the back, making six points of weight distribution. It is often recommended that specially sewn hanging straps be sewn in at the waist and other points of weight distribution and have these straps attached to the hanger at the top. We never recommend that any metal, including metal hangers be used in this method. Wooden hangers specially created with padded muslin cover which providing the proper cushion for the weight of the gown are recommended. Hanging wedding gowns should never be placed in plastic, but should have specially made breathable bags, or cache made with adequate gussets to contain the gown. This is an acceptable method of gown storage, but is not considered preservation and should be viewed as temporary. In using this method it is recommend that a minimum of 3-4 inches on all sides of the gown be allowed so as not to create pressure from surrounding items in the storage area. This condition might be difficult to maintain.
If there are concerns regarding the effects of hanging weight, straps should be sewn to the waist at weight points and be looped around the top or lapels of the hangers as to distribute more evenly the supporting weight of the lower portion of the gown. Some very large and heavy gowns will become distorted in spite of using these techniques. Gowns cut on bias should not be subjected to this method of storage.
Those of us at Iowa Bridal Preservation actually have worked with all of these methods of storage and preservation. In our experience, the chesting of your precious gown, for all of the correct reasons, represents the best method for your gown preservation. In the past year we have processed several gowns which were subjected to house fires. The gowns which survived in the best condition were the ones, actually three of them, that had been properly chested. Two other gowns which were not and were hanging in closets were damaged to the point of no return.
Last week we cleaned and preserved a vintage silk wedding dress from the late 1940’s. The story accompanying this dress is worth telling. A similar story is recorded in the Iowa Historical Society Archives. In 1947 when a then young Iowa soldier stationed in France returned home he brought with him a parachute which he had captured during the war. (Actually part of it) The parachute was given to the mother of the young woman he had known in school and planned to marry. This woman would eventually become the great grandmother of our bride today. The great grandmother and her sister later made a wedding dress for her daughter (our bride’s grandmother) since there was little money and after the war fine textiles were hard to find, particularity silk. The bride’s mother knew of the dress made from the captured parachute through letters she had read over the years and suspected that it was “neatly tucked away” in an old trunk in the attic but had never seen the dress. After some un-trunking of old family things, with her mother’s help, they found this dress in the family home attic.
The material was originally a part of a German parachute captured by this bride’s great grandfather, an infantryman in Europe during World War 2. Apparently silk was used for parachutes, yet very expensive, as a fabric which produced ease in handling, light weight, durable, snag resistant, easily confinable, and in parachutes allowed for a gentle landing and air management. This gown represented only a part of the parachute. The rest of it was shared by the great grandfather with some village women where the soldier was captured. Yet some local women wanted nothing to do with the parachute since it was German and the Germans had invaded their country. The German soldier was captured after his plane was downed and he spent his remaining war time in a prisoners of war camp in France.
The remaining portion of the parachute was divided among some of the village women who helped in this adventure. As the story goes, their intention was to make some knickerbockers (personal undergarments) for themselves since silk was not readily available to them.
Our bride wore her grandmother’s dress in a recent wedding in Western Iowa. The dress was a plain off white dress with simple design yet well preserved and kept.
A local seamstress was able to make some simple modifications for fitting and the wedding was beautiful. Iowa Bridal Preservation was asked to restore the gown and press it ready for the upcoming wedding.
This bride had her wedding reception her home town in Iowa and her great grandmother then 95 was able to attend the wedding and reception and was “so proud of her great grand daughter wearing this wonderful dress from so many years ago.”
Having been previously restored by Iowa Bridal Preservation after the wedding the gown cleaned beautifully and a full Museum Care Process tm was applied and the gown was then enveloped in our wonderful muslin and placed in one of our treasured Archival Museum Care tm wedding chests.
This simple story is not too rare an event following the war, as many surviving solders were returning would bring with them war related artifacts. There seemed to b e weddings everywhere, and thus the beginning of the baby boom as we know it today. Bellow is the gown we finished at Iowa Bridal Preservation, and the one to the right is on display at the Smithsonian which carries a similar story.
Of interest to some of our young brides are the sources for buying used gowns. Some times the cost is prohibitive for young couples who want to save their money. We have many brides shopping eBay and Craig’s list for bargains in pre-owned gowns. This includes quinceanera , prom dresses as well. Let’s face it, there are a lot more available gowns in the market that are in excellent shape, worn once, maybe cleaned and ready for the next user. We found a couple sites that are well organized, offer some exceptional savings and purport to offer extraordinary customer service. You can select from an extensive array of gowns, many offer money back guarantee if there is something you don’t like about the dress or find it unalterable to fit your size. If you are in the market and are able to shop and plan well enough ahead, finding a pre-owned gown that suits you may be the best deal. We at Iowa Bridal Preservation, work closely with our brides in insuring the gown is clean, properly pressed and finished, and modified to insure a great looking fit. Our seamstresses are ready to make necessary modifications should the size you choose need some adjustment. You need to be sure that the seller, even on eBay, allows you a no cost return window should you changed your mind or found something different than what you ordered. Iowa Bridal Preservation can assist you along your way to finding your perfect dress.