4 Things to Know Before You Buy or Restore a Vintage Gown, from the Gown Experts at Oakwood Cleaners
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Perhaps you’re set on wearing your mother’s gown or have fallen in love with a vintage gown. While yes, they can be beautiful and sentimental, restoring a vintage gown can be quite an undertaking without help from qualified professionals.
Before you take one step in any direction – from removing the gown from your mother’s memory box or placing a bid on eBay, Rhonda Wernick, owner of Nashville's Oakwood Cleaners, highly recommends that get a true assessment of your gown.
Know your goal:
Oakwood starts with your goals. Oakwood’s recommendation for you will depend heavily on what you want to do with your gown. Some brides want a full restoration. Others want to creatively use pieces of their mom’s dress and add it, perhaps the lace, to their own modern dress. The sky is the limit but it all starts with your goals.
Before they assess the state of your dress, the pros at Oakwood want to know: What are you going to do with it? What’s your end goal? Do you want it restored or cleaned? Do you plan to wear it or display it? Do you want to wear it as your gown or do you want to use parts of the fabric to add to your gown?
After 33 years, Rhonda's own bridal gown was starting to turn pink and yellow; the hem was unraveling. Their gown-cleaning expert was able to restore the color and it’s now in great shape.
Get your gown fully assessed:
Once Oakwood knows what you want to do, they will take a look at your gown to see how they can meet your goal. That begins with an honest assessment of the condition of the vintage gown In this assessment, they will be determining: When was dress last worn? How old is the gown? Was it preserved? Is there hidden damage? How has the gown been altered - taken in or let out? What’s the fabric? What’s the condition of the fabric?
“The entire dress had brown, coffee-like spots (sort of like the close up on the lace). We spent a year restoring it and fixing areas in the lace that had torn due to age and such. I think it turned out beautiful.“ ~ Rhonda
Give yourself time and hire an expert:
As you consider a gown restoration, give yourself plenty of time for the following reasons:
- Depending on type of fabric and condition, it may take months to restore. Plan ahead - if it's your grandmother’s gown, it’s even older than your mom’s so it could take up to a year. Decide early so you can weigh your options.
- If it needs to be let out, it’s nearly impossible to match fabric. It’s easier to make smaller than larger because you can’t predict how fabric will react.
- It will not be easy to alter a gown more than 2 sizes - whether it's vintage or new - because you are essentially making the gown over and sometimes it just doesn’t work.
- Stones, pearls, and bead work can sometimes lose their luster.
- If you don’t like your mother’s gown or it can’t be restored, Oakwood can sometimes pull lace and add it to a newer gown to incorporate old and new. Or, they can even take top from one gown and add to bottom to another gown. You have many options so take it to a pro, like Oakwood, and see what they can do to help you.
- Have a pro like Oakwood fully inspect the gown to give you a full assessment and get an idea of what it will take to clean, restore, or alter.
“She bought the gown here in Nashville in 1967 and it was originally a size 2 and was altered for her oldest daughter to a size 12. That was accomplished with extra lace and added gussets. When her youngest daughter wore it, it was taken back down to a size 4. You can imagine the difficulty all of that took!” ~ Rhonda
Notice the color difference between a garment that has been restored versus one that has not.
Photos: Oakwood Cleaners