Real talk: when I was a bride, I was very much anti-wedding gown preservation. As a very sentimental person, my wedding dress wasn’t just “a dress” to me. It held memories and emotions and brought back nostalgic feelings of happiness and love. I felt that as I grew older, I would want to be able to touch the fabric, hold it up against my body (and joke about how it probably no longer fit), and look at it without a plastic window in the way. The idea of stuffing my dress in a box never to be opened again made me sad. Nope, preserving my wedding dress just wasn’t for me.
Or so I thought…fast forward five years later and we were preparing to celebrate a milestone anniversary in August. For the past 1,825 days, my wedding dress had hung in a plastic garment bag in a closet on the third floor of my (un-air conditioned) house. Had I ever once opened it up to touch the fabric or hold it up against my body? You guessed it. For as much as I felt like I wanted to do those things, it was sure taking me a long time to get around to doing them. Essentially, I was allowing my dress to deteriorate slowly for no good reason at all. I imagined myself opening this same closet in 50 years to find a yellow, tattered version of the dress I once knew and loved. Now, that thought really made me sad. Maybe I needed to reconsider this whole wedding gown preservation thing…
What a coincidence that I had recently become friends with Heather, the owner of Owl Cleaners and Pittsburgh Gown Preservation. I had always been impressed with Heather’s vast knowledge of textiles and how to care for each one of them, as well as her affinity for vintage and couture fashion. If there was ever anyone who would care for and appreciate my gown as much as I did, it was Heather.
At our consultation (which she has with every bride), I candidly expressed my concerns about preserving my wedding gown and not wanting it sealed in a tomb forever. It was clear that Heather understood my wishes and the value I put on those tangible memories. We also went over every inch of the dress, looking for stains and soiling together as I recounted the memories of how they got there…those “just married” photos in the gritty Strip District, an overzealous bridesmaid spilling a beer on me, a midnight trip to Primanti Brothers. She described in great detail the wedding dress cleaning and packaging process, thereby easing my fears and transforming my preconceived notions of wedding gown preservation. I confidently handed off the most valuable article of clothing I owned to Pittsburgh Gown Preservation and waited for Heather to get in touch.
A few weeks later, my preserved wedding dress was ready for pick up. Again, Heather was there waiting for me. After putting on white gloves (no…really!), she hung up my freshly cleaned gown and spread out the layered chiffon train so I could inspect it from top to bottom. She explained how the dress was meticulously wet and hand-cleaned by 76-year old Sandy Thompson, Pittsburgh Gown Preservation’s wedding dress specialist who has been there for over 45 years. It was so sweet to think of Sandy painstakingly poring over my gown as if it were her very own memories she was preserving. Post-wedding, my dress had the expected dirty hem and random staining from a night well lived; now it was in pristine condition thanks to Sandy! I gave the cleaning my stamp of approval and then the preservation began before my very eyes.
The unassuming large white box is actually quite special – it’s covered with microscopic holes that will let air in. It’s a misconception that your wedding dress should be vacuum sealed – fabrics are meant to BREATHE! Inside the box are layers and layers of acid-free paper that won’t stain or harm the gown. Heather neatly placed the train in first, and then situated the bodice of the dress so that it would show prettily through the box’s window.
The finishing touch was a muslin bow tied around the waist of the dress to keep it from sliding around in the box. I took a few final photos and said what I thought was goodbye to my dress before the lid was placed on top of the box.
As it turns out, I was wrong again. In the box, Heather included a pair of white gloves for me, should I ever want to open it up and touch my dress. However, what Heather recommends and encourages is for brides to bring their box back to the store. At no extra charge, they will personally unbox the dress, let you see how it has aged, and properly re-preserve it for you (or re-clean it is something has gone awry). As someone who is clearly obsessed with being able to relive my wedding day through my dress, I will definitely be taking advantage of this service! Until then, the box, which Heather then placed into a linen bag with a handle for easy carrying, conveniently sits in the closet of a spare bedroom in my new house (and this one’s air conditioned!).
Having the dress close to me but also protected from time means so much, and after going through this process with Heather and Pittsburgh Gown Preservation, there’s no doubt in my mind that I did the right thing. The highly boutique experience and completely individualized attention I received was so reassuring. You simply won’t find this with mail-in preservation services or even with other area cleaners.
Pittsburgh Gown Preservation is a member of a hand-selected elite group; they are the ONLY Certified Wedding Gown Specialist and member of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists in Pittsburgh (yes, those are real things). And while Owl Cleaners does dry clean everyday clothing, this isn’t just a dry-cleaner offering wedding dress cleaning. Heather and her team take great pride in working with brides, treating them like family, showing extreme gratitude for their business, and making their satisfaction their number one priority.
If you still aren’t convinced that preserving your wedding dress is the right thing for you, it’s totally fine. You don’t even have to decide right now! I’m proof that even five years after the wedding isn’t too late to say yes to this dress service!
Meanwhile, you can still take advantage of Owl Cleaners and Pittsburgh Gown Preservation’s other services like alterations, custom gown redesigns (for a fresh take on your mom’s wedding dress), and even dress steaming (for those out-of-town bridesmaids who had to travel with a gown)! Give them a call at 724-933-7120 (option 1) or visit their website to learn more.
Mention Burgh Brides to save on your gown preservation!
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