Preservation Tips for Heirloom Christening Gowns

Christening gowns are part of an important time in a child’s life, an important landmark occasion for the family. These garments are often valued for their quality and sentimental value – some families even pass them down from generation to generation as an heirloom.

img-thingDo you have an antique christening gown that you want to preserve? Are you thinking about purchasing a christening gown to start a new tradition in your family? This quick guide will help you protect your heirloom so your descendants can enjoy it too.

How to Prepare and Pack a Christening Gown

First, prepare the gown for storage by gently vacuuming any dirt or dust. Do not clean with liquid! If anything more than a quick vacuum is necessary, refer to the last section of this guide for professional cleaning suggestions. Next, carefully remove any accents that can corrode and tarnish, such as metal buttons. You can sew them back on later.

Next, you will fill the gown with wadded up archival-quality tissue paper. Archival-quality paper is acid-free and does not contain any dyes or other chemicals prone to discoloration. The tissue paper will help to prevent harsh creases that could otherwise weaken the gown over time.

Place the stuffed gown into an archival-quality muslin bag. Make sure the bag does not have any zippers or metal buttons – a cotton drawstring is the safest option. Now you are ready to store the stuffed and bagged gown in a breathable paper box. The box, just like the other items, needs to be archival/preservation-quality. Stuff the box with more tissue paper to make sure that the gown won’t jostle around inside.

Are you worried about securing real archival grade materials? Most bridal shops should have what you’re looking for. Or, you could opt for a simple bag if you are comfortable with hanging the gown in a closet – click over to and look under the accessories category for high-quality preservation bags.

Safe Storage Instructions and Advice

Environment is the biggest threat to any heirloom textile. Light, humidity, temperature, and moisture can contribute to the deterioration and discoloration of most materials. Try to store the gown in a place that maintains a constant climate, like a room on the main floor of your home, instead of an attic or basement. Make sure to choose a room with good airflow to prevent the growth of mildew (airflow is why families use paper or cardboard boxes instead of plastic).

Secondary threats include airborne chemicals, pollutants, and creepy crawly pests. Mothballs and other chemical pest control items are not preferable. Instead, check up on your gown every occasionally to protect against pests and if any are found, treat the environment instead of the box. This is another reason to store the gown on the main living level of your home –  easily accessible.

If you cannot find a suitable place for storage within your home, consider contacting a professional preservation agency. Most bridal stores should be able to recommend a preservation service that will lock your gown in a safe and temperature-controlled environment for a small monthly fee.

Repairing Damage before Long-Term Storage

We recommend cleaning the christening gown before you place it in storage. Some of the most damaging stains start invisible; you won’t see sugar or oil stains until it is far too late, when they start to discolor with age.

Attempting to clean a christening gown at home takes research. You’ll need to know the composition of the gown, the threads, and the accents – this information is often long gone by the time a gown becomes an actual heirloom. Trying to use the wrong cleaners or techniques can often make the problem worse. Similarly, we do not suggest taking the item to a dry cleaner unless that cleaner can guarantee the safety of your gown.

Instead, take the gown to a museum or antique fabric specialist for suggestions and referrals. Garment preservation specialists will be able to identify and treat the fabric without harming it. Even if your heirloom-to-be is brand new, you should still take every precaution to have the gown cleaned by preservation specialists only.

Are you ready to start a new tradition in your own family? A christening gown is a great place to start. The future generations are sure to cherish and appreciate your preservation efforts.

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