How to Preserve a Wedding Gown
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Storing your gown in a cardboard box is quite common and has its merits. It offers protection from light and allows your gown to breathe. (See Garment Storage Basics.) It's certainly better than anything to do with plastic bags.
However, normal cardboard and paper contain acids that not only attack textiles, but also themselves! Many important manuscripts have crumbled after only a few decades due to printing on acidic papers. So it is essential to use an acid-free box if you intend to store a garment in it. Note though that being "acid-free" does not mean a box is safe for garments. Often a manufacture will make a box acid-free by "buffering" it so that it is biased towards alkalinity. (More details) This is fine for storing paper items such as photographs or books which would be protected by such an environment. However, it is not suitable for fabrics. They can be damaged by an alkaline environment as well as an acidic one. So for fabrics, you must use a pH-neutral box. Unfortunately, the special processes needed to manufacture acid-free or pH-neutral cardboard make it very expensive. Such a box, big enough to hold a wedding gown, can cost $60 or more. Bear in mind also that boxes tend to force you to fold your gown and offer little protection from bugs.
How about a cedarwood chest or closet? Again, they provide protection from light (assuming no holes or windows) and allow the garment to breathe. However, despite common held belief, there is little scientific evidence that cedarwood repels insects. Also, cellulosic fabrics such as cotton, linen or rayon, should not be stored in cedarwood. The acid given off by the wood can weaken the textile over time. One other point worth mentioning - your gown will smell of cedarwood!
There are several variations on these methods, but they are basically what you are likely to come across while looking at the most commonly-offered storage options for your own wedding gown. None of them fully address what's needed - i.e. provide safe, long-term garment storage in a practical, easy-to-use way. So we at Sentinel Archiving, Inc. decided to combine a truly scientific approach with a little commonsense to produce a long-term garment storage system that is more practical, effective and safer than any of these methods. For details, see "Building a Better Storage System."
For more details on long-term garment care, which is as relevant to wedding gown preservation as any other garment, go to "Garment Storage Basics."
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