Does the Container Matter When You Preserve Your Bridal Gown?
Yes, it does! Brides call every two or three weeks because they are worried their bridal gowns seem to be yellowing. Almost always the problem is the container. When the container is not completely acid-free, the acidic content will yellow your wedding gown. Of course, you should ask
the service that cleans and preserves your bridal gown whether they are using an acid-free container before you trust them with your bridal gown. However, you can also see with your own eyes if it is not acid-free because if any parts of the box or the bust form put into your wedding gown to give it shape are brown, it is not acid-free.
Unless your container is one of the grey-colored boxes especially made for fabric conservation by a company such as University Products or Archivart, all parts of the wedding chest or bust form touching your wedding gown should be white. If they are not, it is not an archival-quality box. Some services use containers that are white on the outside and on the inside of the box, but the interior structure between the layers of paper is brown. This interior structure give the box its strength, and it is made up of little ridges which are called “flutes.” If the flutes are brown, the box is not completely acid-free. Eventually the acid will migrate through the white paper coating the inside of the box and discolor your wedding gown.
Some services offer pH-neutral containers. Such containers are not good either because they can re-acidify. Trees contain lignin, an acid naturally found in trees. Then manufacturers add still more acidic substances during the paper-making process. When making pH-neutral paper, they add a neutralizer, but the neutralizer is soluble in water. If the container gets wet or is stored in a damp area, the neutralizer dissolves, and the paper re-acidifies.
When manufacturers make acid-free paper, all acid is completely removed, and the paper cannot re-acidify because it ever contained acid in the first place.
Windows, too, can cause problems. If there is a window in the container and it is not made from a neutral plastic such as polypropylene orientated polyester, it will give off gases that also can yellow your wedding gown.
Be sure the service you trust with your bridal gown uses archival-quality materials that are completely acid-free. Then avoid storing the container where there are extremes of heat such as the attic or humidity such as the basement. Basements are also dangerous because it is a law: if a pipe breaks, the water will find your wedding dress.
There is hope for wedding gowns that yellow, but you will need to find a Specialist who can remove it safely because ordinary drycleaning very rarely removes the discoloration caused by oxidation or the acidic content of a container.