Christening gowns are special mementos, often passed down from generation to generation. But maintaining such a rich tradition involves a great deal of time, effort, and knowledge – fabric preservation is a bit of a specialty skill. The fine silks and laces of designer christening gowns require an especially careful touch.
How to Care for a Christening Gown in 5 Simple Steps
Damage to fabrics is difficult and sometimes impossible to undo. Before you invest in a future heirloom, have a plan for proper storage and maintenance. This quick guide will provide five important tips to help keep your silk christening gown in tiptop condition for future generations to enjoy.
1. Invest in Professional Cleaning
A christening ceremony can get a little messy. The guests are eating and enjoying their food, the children are running around outdoors and in, the relatives pass the child around from person to person for pictures. Tiny traces of sugar and oil are invisible at first – but if you put a soiled gown into storage, those invisible spots will start to turn yellow and brittle. Prevent these issues by cleaning the gown as soon as possible after the ceremony.
Some types of silk are easy to clean at home. Others require dry cleaning or special silk-friendly solutions. If the gown is made of a blend of fabrics, it may be impossible to determine the appropriate cleaning technique just from looking at the garment. Contact the retailer or manufacturer for assistance. Antique gowns might require the assistance of a textile preservation specialist (ask your local museum).
2. Remove Metallic and Painted Ornamentation
Most christening gowns are made of simple materials with very little ornamentation – this is actually a very practical choice considering that certain types of ornamentation can bleed color or leach chemicals onto the fabric. Remove any dyed rosettes, metal buttons, large painted beads, etc. If it is easy to replace, remove it. If the decorated portion is just an accessory like a bonnet or bracelet, store it separately.
3. Eliminate Creases and Folds
Silk is especially sensitive to creases and folds. Improper storage can break the fibers one thread at a time. Stuff the gown and sleeves with tissue paper, thick enough to decrease the severity of creases without stretching them out. Measure the fully stuffed dress so you can see what size container you’ll need – too small a box will create creases, too large a box will allow the dress to move and slump.
Make sure that your packing materials are all carry an “archival quality” rating. Normal papers and fabrics often use dyes and chemicals that can eventually begin to discolor, potentially staining the garment they are supposed to protect. If your local bridal shop does not have the appropriate gear, contact your local museum or preservation specialist. You can also find preservation kits online at The Christian Baby Shop.
4. Choose a Smart Storage Space
Environmental factors like temperature and air quality can have a very notable effect on silk fabrics. It is extremely important to make sure the storage environment remains as stable as possible – any changes in temperature or humidity can cause the fibers to contract and expand over time. Light (both natural and artificial) is extremely damaging to fine silk. Mothballs, chemical pest repellents, and other airborne contaminates can weaken or discolor the fabric as well.
Does your home lack a suitable storage space for your new heirloom? Ask your local indoor storage facilities if they have any temperature-controlled spaces suitable for textile preservation. You may be able to get some leads from local museums and historical societies if you have trouble finding a traditional storage provider.
5. Undertake Careful Maintenance
Your storage spot needs to be readily accessible so you can take out the gown for inspection at least once a year. Regular inspections will give you a chance to check for pest infestations, eliminate any folds or creases from settling, and will allow you to catch any old stains or contaminates before the discoloration has a chance to take an even stronger hold.
Get excited! With care, your silk christening gown will age beautifully – and will only grow more beautiful with each passing generation that gets to wear it.