Picking up your wedding dress from your bridal salon or seamstress is exciting—it’s a sign that the wedding day is almost here! Still, it can be a nerve-wracking experience for many brides. After all, the idea of bringing home a garment bag that contains one of the most important pieces of clothing you’ll ever wear can feel daunting. What if something spills on it and ruins it before it even sees the light of day? What if a pet or small child stumbles upon it and ends up destroying it? Suddenly, you’re realizing that there are so many ways an item of clothing could be compromised, and you definitely don’t want any of them to happen on your watch.
Luckily, storing your wedding dress until the big day arrives isn’t all that complicated—if you know what you’re doing, that is. Yes, it’s often a little more involved than simply hanging it on a rack in a closet, but it’s nothing you can’t handle once armed with a little knowledge. To help you feel confident bringing that beautiful gown home, we spoke to three experts and asked them to share their top tips for keeping your big-day attire in perfect condition ahead of the wedding.
What’s the Best Way to Store a Wedding Dress?
Wedding dresses vary in terms of material and construction, which means they generally require different storage conditions. Before you do anything, Schoneveld recommends asking your wedding designer, bridal salon, or alterations specialist how they suggest storing the gown. You should also ask if there are any specific special instructions you need to follow.
Still need help? These three expert-approved tips will work for just about any wedding dress.
- Store your gown somewhere cool, dry, and dark: We’re going to let you in on an important secret: Sunlight is not your gown’s friend. “Universally, the best place to store your wedding dress is a dark, dry spot, like a closet,” Cartledge says. Keep it away from other clothes that might be musty or dirty to prevent odor transfer, Rigby recommends. Both of these tips ensure your dress will not fade or accumulate condensation that could ultimately cause mold.
- Hang your wedding dress safely: If you get the okay that you can hang your dress, Rigby recommends using a strong, well-padded hander that has been specifically designed for heavier and delicate items, like a wedding dress. “Always make sure to hang your dress by the hanging ribbons that should be inside, and never by the straps or shoulders themselves,” she says. Some dresses shouldn’t be hung up, though. “Some delicate, beaded, and/or stretchy fabrics might be best stored flat,” Schoneveld says. “Gently folding in half is probably okay.”
- Use a breathable cover: Keeping your wedding dress covered is also essential. Cartledge says to always store your dress in a cloth garment bag, and to never use one made of plastic bag. Schoneveld notes that this is the best way to keep your dress from coming into contact with anything with a rough surface, like prongs or velcro, that could damage the fabric.
And remember, if you plan to try on your wedding dress before the big day arrives, be extra careful with it. “Make sure you keep it as sweat and makeup-free as possible,” Schoneveld says. “These kinds of oils can be invisible at first but then cause discoloring on the gown after being stored for a period of time.” Don’t walk around too much, either: Any dust on the floor will be picked up.
Why Is It Important That a Wedding Dress Is Stored Properly?
Sure, it’s a piece of clothing, but a wedding dress isn’t exactly the same as your favorite summer dress. It’s generally heavier and made with more delicate materials than your everyday clothes, meaning it needs a little extra love in order to keep it in perfect condition. “You want to do your best not to crush, stretch, or snag this precious item,” Schoneveld says. “If your gown has already been altered, you want to avoid pulling on the straps as that will stretch them out and potentially cause the need for re-altering.”
Storing it correctly also means it will require little preparation on the big day. “You want wrinkle removal to be minimal on the big day,” Cartledge says. Hanging it or laying it out correctly keeps the fabric smooth.
Where Should You Store a Wedding Dress?
When you pick up your wedding dress after alterations, it will generally be in a garment bag, although it’s possible that your seamstress will place it in a box instead. You can—and should—leave your dress in this bag or box unless you have something else to store it in that was specifically made with your gown’s fabrics in mind. It should also be kept away from other clothing items. “Wardrobes, drawers, suitcase linings, and dyes from other fabrics will all affect the pure fabric of your wedding dress if they lie next to it,” Rigby says. “Separate your wedding dress from other items and encase it in an acid-free environment.”
You also want to be sure the garment bag you use is big enough to cover the entire dress—the bottom shouldn’t be left out, warns Cartledge. If you don’t have a garment bag long enough, she recommends an easy hack: “Cut a hole in a sheet or lightweight blanket,” she says. “The key here is to keep your gown covered and as wrinkle-free as possible.”
Make sure wherever you put it is very dark and dry so that humidity and light don’t get to the dress. Schoneveld recommends a dark closet with enough space to ensure the dress is not crushed. If you’re trying to hide it from your fiancé, she suggests storing it at a family member’s home and asking them to keep it in a low-traffic room.
Does the Material of the Dress Dictate the Storage Method?
The material of your wedding dress should absolutely be considered when you’re thinking about storage, particularly if you’re thinking about hanging the gown in a closet. “Most gowns are designed in ways where they can be hung up safely, from their inner hanger loops,” Schoneveld says. “However, if your gown is cut on the bias (such as a 1930s inspired-satin gown) or has very heavy beading on a delicate base (such as a tulle or chiffon), you may want to avoid hanging it for a long time before the wedding as these kinds of cuts and materials can stretch more than others.”
Rigby notes that wedding dresses some very delicate fabrics should never be hung, as time spent on a hanger can place stress on the seams, ultimately altering the shape of the dress over long periods of time. For these fabrics, laying the dress in a box may be best. Examples of these delicate fabrics include silk and organza. If your dress is beaded, you should also take extra care with how you store it. Any gown with prong-set stones should never brush up against fabrics like tulle or chiffon, Schoneveld warns. “These materials fight each other and can cause big snags,” she says. “If this is your situation, keep the stones covered in tissue.” Avoid rolling or folding the layers on top of each other to avoid knotting and pulling of the beads.
How Should You Hang a Wedding Dress?
If you’ve confirmed that your wedding dress can be safely hung in a closet, you should still take extra care when doing so: First and foremost, make sure you use a heavily padded and sturdy hanger. Next, be sure to hang the dress from the interior loops—not the straps. “Do not let the weight of the gown hang fully on the straps or the shoulders of the gown itself,” Schoneveld stresses. “These elements are usually very delicate, especially in proportion to the weight of the rest of the gown, and they can stretch out and sometimes even tear.” She notes that this is especially true if your gown has spaghetti straps, illusion tulle, or lace shoulders. The hanger loops provided were added for this very reason.
As for the train, don’t stress too much. As long as it’s in the garment bag, it should be fine, our experts say. “Brides often worry about what to do with the train of the gown, but don’t fret—it’s totally fine to tuck your train into the bottom of your garment bag. That can always be steamed out,” Schoneveld adds.