Wedding Dress After the wedding

Guide: Cleaning, Preserving, & Preparing a Wedding Dress for Sale

You have already poured quite a bit of time into your dress. The consultations, the fittings, and of course, the entirety of your wedding day. But once the day is done, you still have one major decision to make: what happens to your gown now?

Wedding dress from Oscar de la Renta's first bridal collection in 2006

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Depending on what you plan to do with it, you really have two options: cleaning your dress or preserving your dress.

If you plan to sell your dress, you’ll need to clean it. If you want to keep your dress as an heirloom or a memento, you’ll need to preserve it.

Wedding dress cleaning guide

Cleaning Your Dress

One of the biggest mistakes brides make with their wedding gowns is putting off having them cleaned. 

With most of our clothes, we may wait a week or even longer before we do a load of laundry, so it feels relatively normal to wait a while before having your dress cleaned.

But it's important to remember that your wedding dress is not an everyday garment. It is made of very delicate materials, and the longer stains sit on your gown, the more they can damage the fabric. There may even be spots that you can't see yet, but they may become apparent over time if the dress oxidizes. 

If at all possible, it's best to have your dress cleaned the day after your wedding. This may require a little bit of forethought and preparation, but it will be worth it as your dress will be easier to sell if it's clean and free of damage.

Can You Clean Your Dress at Home?

Can you clean your dress at home? Yes. Should you clean your dress at home? No. 

Crafty brides have found success cleaning their gowns at home with spot treatments, gentle detergents, bathtubs, and toothbrushes. Unfortunately, dresses vary so much in terms of materials and construction methods, it is nearly impossible to recommend a technique that will be safe and effective for every gown.

It is far safer to have your wedding dress cleaned by a professional.

Having Your Dress Cleaned Professionally

Although professionals are more accustomed to working with finicky fabrics, not all dry cleaners are created equal. Certain chemicals and treatments can melt beads, sequins, and other embellishments, so it’s absolutely crucial that you do some research.

Start by looking for drycleaners who specialize in wedding dresses. Then, be sure to read their reviews on Google or Yelp. If their reviews are overwhelmingly positive (especially related to wedding dresses) they are most likely a safe bet.

Wedding dress preservation guide

Preserving Your Dress

Nothing lasts forever, and wedding dresses are no exception. If you’ve ever seen an old wedding dress at a thrift store, you’ve probably noticed the sequins are dull and the fabric is yellowish. This occurs due to a natural process called oxidization.

Preserving your wedding dress means preparing it for long-term storage. If you plan on selling it or wearing it again soon, it’s best to hold off on preservation for the time being. But if you’re planning to put your gown away, you’ll need to preserve it so it stays bright and beautiful.

How Preservation Works

A dress must be clean before preservation. You can go to a dry cleaner who specializes in cleaning wedding gowns for this. Alternatively, if you want to be extra careful, you may want to find a preservationist to clean your gown. They will carefully assess every part of your dress for obvious or hidden stains, giving extra attention wherever necessary. 

Once your gown is clean, the person preserving your gown will carefully fold it, wearing white cotton gloves to prevent transferring dirt or oils onto the fabric. Next, the gown will be wrapped in acid-free tissue paper. Finally, your dress is placed into a museum-quality archival box for storage.

Can You Preserve Your Own Wedding Gown?

As long as your gown is well-cleaned, yes! You can absolutely preserve your dress yourself. Many retailers sell at-home preservation kits that allow you to save some money on the preservation process. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preserving your gown.

  1. Always handle your dress with cotton gloves. Dirt, oil, or other substances could damage the dress over time.
  2. Re-fold the gown every 3-4 years. This will help prevent your dress from forming deep and permanent creases.
  3. Keep your gown in a dry room out of direct sunlight. This will save your gown from discoloration, mildew, and melting embellishments.
Wedding dress Selling guide

Preparing Your Wedding Dress for Sale

Now that you’ve decided to sell your dress, there are a few more steps you should take. We’ve already discussed cleaning it. If you’ve had it cleaned and left it hanging, your gown is probably somewhat wrinkle-free.

Treating Wrinkles 

If your dress has been in storage and has some creases in it, you can use a hand-held steamer to get the wrinkles out. A word of warning: applying steam directly to your dress could leave water spots. It’s best to put a layer of clean white cloth between your gown and your dress.

Repairing Damage

Next, you’ll need to evaluate your dress for any damage. Torn seams or missing beads can probably be fixed by a seamstress. 

You don’t necessarily have to get the repairs done yourself, although you’ll have to get a quote on the repairs and deduct that from your asking price. If you opt to leave the repairs to the buyer, be sure to include clear photos of the damage and the quote for the repairs in the description.

With the cleaning and repairs done, all you need is some high quality photographs and an engaging description. Then your dress is ready to be listed!

Your Gown Deserves Your Attention, Even After the Wedding

Your wedding dress is an investment, and you can control how much it depreciates in value. Whether you plan to sell your gown or save it as a memento, taking the appropriate steps to maintain its beauty is paramount.