It’s been sitting in a box in your closet or garage for years now. In the back of your mind, you know you’re mistreating it, or at best, hurting it through benign neglect.

What do you do with a wedding dress when you can’t bear to let go of it?

Many women opt to resell their wedding dress through online sites such as eBay or OnceWed. But for other women, their attachment to that shimmering white wedding gown borders on the love of a child for his favorite stuffed toy, and they’re reluctant to let someone else wear the wedding dress from their special day.

The biggest enemies to preserving wedding dress: light, acid, moisture and organisms

If you’re looking to preserve a wedding dress, it’s important to remember some of the biggest enemies to preserving cloth: light, acid, moisture and organisms.

Sunlight — specifically ultraviolet light — can cause most colors to bleach over time. Don’t think that your white dress is safe, either; there are many shades of white, and sunlight can permanently alter the color of your wedding dress as much as it can bleach a piece of newspaper on your dashboard. If you’re going to be displaying your dress publicly in a case or on a mannequin, make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight.

Ever tried to pick up a very old piece of paper, only to have it crumble in your hands? That’s what acid does to textiles, including the silk and satin in your wedding gown. In order to prevent adding acidic content to your dress, make sure to store the dress in acid-free cardboard boxes and use only acid-free tissue paper in those boxes. If you’re displaying your wedding gown in a case, you can cover the mannequin inside with acid-free tissue paper to help prevent degradation.

Moisture can wreak havoc on your garment, both by degrading it and by accelerating other processes that damage it, such as acid decay and organism growth. However, it’s not necessary to store your wedding dress in an airtight container. In fact, you might be doing it harm if you seal moisture in the container with the dress. Instead, make sure to keep your dress elevated from any moisture collecting surfaces. Make sure not to keep the room in which the dress is stored too cool, as lower temperatures encourage condensation and mold growth.

To you, it’s a memento of your special wedding day. But to mold, mildew and moths — the 3 ‘M’s — your wedding gown is dinner. Protecting your wedding dress from moisture will do wonders to prevent mold and mildew growth, and keeping your dress in a well lighted room (make sure to avoid direct sunlight) will discourage moths from feasting on your memories. Though many people swear by cedar chests, many chests simply don’t have a high enough concentration of moth-repelling chemicals to preserve your dresses. You should at least supplement any cedar chest with naphthaline or PDB moth balls, and possibly additional cedar chips. Make sure to clean the inside of any cedar chest thoroughly before sealing anything inside.

By observing these simple tips, you can keep that old wedding gown looking as radiant and beautiful as you yourself did on your wedding day.

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