The Art of Preserving the Party Dress

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of donning your favorite “special occasion” gown and twirling around in front of a mirror. That’s true whether you’re a forty-something woman attending a formal reception, a teenager preparing for her prom, or a tiny flower girl getting ready to walk down the aisle. But whatever the age of the wearer, these dresses demand special respect. After all, there’s a reason why velvet, chiffon, organza and taffeta aren’t “everyday” fabrics!

Garment expert Steve Boorstein — widely known in the industry as “The Clothing Doctor” — has lots of advice on keeping these luxury fabrics, well … luxurious. Here are a few tips from his new book, The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing: Everything You Need to Know … From Blue Jeans to Ball Gowns, which you can buy from this website, with autograph and Emergency Survival Card™.
www.akris.chVa-Va-Va Velvet. The most glaring problem with velvet is that it is very water sensitive. It is manufactured in rayon, silk,acetate and cotton velvet, the last being the least water-sensitive (but also the lowest grade). Consider moisture of any kind — rain, perspiration, drink spills — to be an enemy. Moisture can “crush” the pile fabric, and more often than not, the nap cannot be lifted evenly and restored to the same sheen.

  • Sometimes a dry cleaner can lift the velvet pile by steaming and brushing; silk velvet is the most responsive. It is imperative that you do not try to save it yourself.
  • It is almost inevitable that a child will spill food and drink over a large enough area that only hand washing can help. Only cotton velvet can be washed without changing the direction of the pile.
  • Approach velvet philosophically and recognize its limitations. Accept the crushed areas as character, and try not to be too self-conscious about them.

www.akris.chCaring for Chiffon. Silk chiffon is the most common type, followed by poly-chiffon and fine rayon crepe. It projects a soft,ethereal look. Spills and food stains are reasonably manageable, but silk chiffon snags and tears easily. Because the fabric flows, it tends to catch on edges, handbag hardware, and often, high heels.

  • If the hem is torn, and depending on the location and size of the tear, it is often best to consider shortening the hem to hide it rather than repairing it.
  • Snags can cause individual threads to “stand up” and they cannot be easily disguised. A single snag can “run” the material for inches, and there is no easy remedy. Because chiffon is routinely cut on the bias, simple repairs and redesigns are a challenge.
  • As with any silk, chiffon tends to become distorted more easily when wet. Do not wipe stains with a towel or napkin when chiffon is wet. The yarns can separate, and there is no remedy for yarn slippage. All About Organza. This is a very brittle fabric with a sheen as perfect as glass. It’s commonly used for wedding gowns, evening gowns and children’s formals. Because the fiber has no stretch or give, it is imperative that it fit properly. If it’s too tight, the seams may pull and separate. Be aware also, that when organza is altered, especially if it is “let out,” the stitch holes will show quite clearly.

  • Never rub the material or attempt stain removal yourself. The surface sheen can change with the slightest abrasion, and yarn separation is always possible.
  • If you’re wearing a gown that restricts movement, it’s easy to break the fibers if you stretch or bend. This causes yarn separation, which is most evident under the arms, at the waist, and along the hip area.
  • When organza becomes “bent” or creased, often a white line appears where the crease is. Ironing the fabric will not remove such a white line. Try to think of these “breaks” as character traits.

www.akris.chTaffeta Tips. Whether you have a formal gown, a dressy blouse, a crisp two-piece suit, or an updated version of Mary Tyler Moore’s Capri slacks, taffeta must have “body” and should never be limp or tired looking. A few tips about taffeta:

  • Remind your dry cleaner to add extra sizing to give taffeta the proper drape when it is being finished. Also, make the cleaner aware of the seams and double-thick areas. If these areas are not “steamed out” during pressing, there will be deep impressions and pock marks on the surface of the fabric.
  • Creases and hard wrinkles that occur from wear, especially at the waist, can usually be improved in pressing. The “white lines” so prominent with organza are not as severe as with taffeta.
  • When you perspire, the acid turns alkaline and can cause a color change after the fabric dries. If you perspire, take your dress to the dry cleaners the next day, tell them the what and where, and ask them to spot with steam in these areas.

“These special occasion fabrics can be a wonderful investment if you take care of them,” asserts Boorstein. “Treat your ball gowns and party dresses with the delicacy and respect they deserve, and they’ll look as fabulous the fourth or fifth time you wear them as they did during their debut.”