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Restoration, Storage, and Display of Vintage Christening Gowns

Christening Gown
A delicate white christening or baptismal gown is a symbol of purity during a ceremony that is meant to wash away sin. Many families once reused the gowns out of thriftiness or need, but the passing down of garments is now more of a matter of tradition. Even the British royal family follows this custom with a gown commissioned by Queen Victoria worn by every generation since 1841. 

The natural aging process of fabric makes caring for vintage items like these gowns daunting. Careful cleaning, restoration, and a few storage tips can help you to hold on to an important piece of your heritage. 

Yellowing and Stains 

The yellowing of the fabric is the most frequent problem with vintage christening gowns. Natural and synthetic fibers are at risk of yellowing due to exposure to light and to air. Stains on gowns that were not cleaned prior to storage are another common problem restorers experience. Many dresses look clean before storage, but dirt collects on any oils left on the dress. 

Stain removal and whitening are often done by soaking the gown in bleach or a deoxidizer. Not all fabrics can withstand this method and require a gentler cleanser. Material that is old or thin, gentle fabric like silk, or delicate embellishments like lace or embroidery need special attention and special products designed for use in these situations. 

Never machine wash vintage christening gowns, and only soak the garment if the material is known to be durable enough to withstand the detergent of cleanser. Remember that a cotton gown may be okay to soak, but the embroidery or lace may not survive the process.   

Holes and Tears

Vintage clothing that has rips, holes, or other damage needs an expert touch. Many clothing restoration experts keep pieces of unrepairable vintage gowns on-hand to replace damaged sections in other garments that have too much damage to repair. The restoration team can use these materials to replace lace or even entire panels of the vintage gown to make it durable enough to wear.    

Extensive repairs of this type help keep heirloom items in use, but they may not be advisable for collectibles. Many collectors of antique and vintage items prefer the signs of age and use. Repairs or replacement of damaged fabric could reduce the integrity, and the value, of an antique gown. Clean the gown to prevent more damage, but avoid replacing any fabric.

Store and Display

Make certain to have the gown professionally cleaned again after the christening. Even if it looks clean, there will still be some dust and body oils on the material. Store it for future use by wrapping the entire gown in acid-free tissue paper and placing it inside an acid-free box. Use the tissue paper as well to fill the folds and creases in the gown to prevent these spots from wearing out. 

A shadow box prevents air from reaching a gown that is out on display. Use an acid-free backing inside the frame and suspend the gown from a museum-quality padded hanger. Wear cotton gloves while arranging the gown to prevent any oil from the hands from transferring to the gown. Display the shadow box where there is no direct sunlight or bright overhead lights.

If you have a special christening gown that needs some work before its next use, see us. At Crystal Cleaning Center our experts use safe cleaning methods and products to ensure that every vintage piece returns as close to its original beauty as possible. We can offer advice on storage, future care, and more extensive restoration efforts too. Contact us today.