Restoring my mother's wedding dress

How i restored my mother's wedding dress

Last week I had the exciting experience of opening a box with my mother's wedding dress (thirty four years old) and my own wedding dress (nine and a half years old). As a little girl I opened this beautiful package multiple times and played dress ups and pretend weddings in these fineries. To my disappointment, I mustn't have packaged them up properly and the whites were not so white anymore. My mother's wedding dress was stained with an ageing yellow tone (rust, oxidisation in the air, mildew?) and the sequins on her dress had turned an off-white, yellow colour. 

The ring cushion was also really stained and discoloured.

Mothers wedding dress

Wedding heirlooms for my daughter

I know how much I enjoyed this special box of wedding heirlooms when I was a little girl, and having a five year old daughter of my own I feel I want to be able to hand down this special box for her to enjoy too. You never know what may be in fashion in the wedding industry by the time she gets married! Regardless, I think she will thank me one day, maybe with a glass of champagne in her hand, celebrating and exploring the old worldly treasures her mother and grandmother collected for her on her wedding day. I hope I am around to do this with her! I wanted her to be able to open a beautiful wedding chest with the heirloom gowns, our headpieces, bouquet laces and our jewellery wrapped beautifully for an incredible reveal. I know my mum's shoes haven't survived all this time, but I will wrap up and include a pair of my bridal shoes for her. Not sure what shoe size she will be in twenty years, but it will still be a nice moment for her. 

Restoring mother's wedding dressMy mother's wedding dress

Mother's wedding dress

The restoration begins...

I think you need to find a reputable cleaner. I decided this was a great opportunity to call around professional Dry Cleaners and see if the dresses could be restored. I posted a story on my instagram @foreversoles and had an amazing recommendation for a Brisbane Drycleaner called Leon's Fine Dry cleaning. I spoke to the owner, Brendon who has been in the business since 1982. We discussed all the many services he could provide. He even gave me advice on my best friends wedding dress that had 10 year old fake tan stains on it. He gave me hope and advised her to bring it to him to make a decision on it. He advised me that every gown has a variety of different issues so it is best to work on a case by case basis. He also told me A GOLD NUGGET of information. He works on restoring many bridal shoes every day! This was such a great find for me because I would love to tell my customers that their wedding shoes don't need to be thrown away if they get a bit dirty on the wedding day.

So after calling Brendon at Leon's dry cleaning, I decided that for my wedding dress issue, I might take a little risk and give cleaning my mother's wedding gown myself. I filled a bath with hot water and stirred in two cups of Napisan Vanish soak. I soaked the gowns for two days. I felt a little happier when I pulled her bridal dress out of the soak and it appeared pretty fresh and white. The sequins were still a little yellow, but I could replace these if I needed to when the time comes. Brendon at Leon's Dry-cleaning did advise me that he also had a seamstress on hand if I needed to get these replaced. 

For the other white lace fineries that were used on my mother's wedding day, I could not remove the little red/brown age spots. I left them soaking and changed the water and soaking powder four times. They were soaking for four days in total. 

Restoring mother's wedding gownMy bridal shoes


Keepsake boxes and bags for your wedding gown

All this may sound like a fair bit of effort, so I really wanted to tell you all that finding the right packaging for your wedding dress post wedding is important! If you want to keep your dress, make sure you get it cleaned after your wedding day and stored in a mould proof, air tight bag or box.

Wedding dresses passed down through generations may seem a bit too traditional for a modern bride’s taste, but you never know how your future daughter, niece or friend may like to make use of it.

Heirloom wedding piecesBridal shoes heirloom pieces

Our Summer Espadrilles in nude are the perfect wedding shoe for the beach bride.

Using parts of your mothers wedding dress

If you want to re-wear your mother’s dress but the dress hasn't survived the cupboard for all the years and you can’t wear the entire piece for some reason, don’t fret – there are more than enough ways that you can incorporate that beautiful, sentimental dress into your very own wedding. 

The veil or wedding headpiece 

You and your mother may not share the same size and body type, so wearing her dress isn’t even a choice. Wearing her wedding veil, however, is a different matter altogether. With a few, minor alterations, you get to wear a piece of your mother’s ensemble. We kept my wedding flower crown and my mother's wedding headpiece. It would be easy if my daughter wanted to use these again and add fresh flowers to it. 

Maid of honour

Make a wedding garter out of it

Okay, I spoke to my mother about this and we agreed you would want your dress to be in a poor condition and only do this if the dress was completely not worth saving. You could sneak off a tiny edge of the lace on the dress. It’s so easy to make a garter that you can literally make it out of any adequate amount of fabric. I am not a huge person for sentimental items usually, but I think a wedding dress is the most beautiful thing to pass down as a memory of you to your loved ones.

Use as a bouquet wrap

Wrap the wedding and bridesmaids’ bouquet with the amazing lace and fabric from the dress. If there is enough left, you can also incorporate the fabric into the flower arrangement for the pews or aisle. 

Add into accessories

Surprise your mother by putting some of the fabric into a beautiful, vintage locket or making an elegantly classic bracelet out of the beads and lace.  

Storing your wedding items for safe keeping 

I searched for large wedding boxes and mould free garment bags to store the wedding dresses and items. I ended up picking up a sturdy chest from one of the local discount stores. I felt this would be a nice item to sit at the bottom of my wardrobe for many years! I purchased three garment cover bags from Ebay to cover the dresses to prevent any further damage. 

Heirloom wedding pieces

Heirloom wedding pieces

So to package it up the requirements were an unbleached, mould proof bag, acid free tissue wrap and a seal box to stop moisture. 

Store your dress in an even temperate place all year round. This is a treasured piece. 

By wearing your mother’s wedding dress, or even just making something out of it, you get to honour your mother on your special day… and you can tick that 'something old' traditional as well! 

The summary:

Get your dress cleaned as soon as possible after the wedding! Don't leave it too long. Apparently sugar stains can NEVER be removed. 

There are many different ways of cleaning your gown. Makeup/body makeup needs to be treated by a dry cleaner where as the wet stains can be removed by water/soap. 

For more sustainable wedding ideas, check out this blog I created here.

Watch my video journey here: 

How I restored my mother's wedding dress

This blog is not affiliated with any brands, I just wanted to create a story of my restoration journey because it was a lot of fun! 

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