Gown Care


There are many things a gown needs other than alterations. How to remove wrinkles and the best way to travel with a gown are 2 questions I get a lot but there are others.

added May 2011

Hello Leanna,
I really appreciate you going out of your way to help us scared and confused brides!

I bought my dress at a boutique and the lady there told me it had been preowned but not worn. And she was right. However, having been tried on and handled by the seamstress that altered it for me, rendered the dress slightly dirty at the top where the strap is and around the bust area. I would like to have it dry cleaned and pressed before the wedding, but I am terrified that the cleaning process might alter the fabric and make it dull and too soft. The top fabric is thick and slightly rigid, and the layers underneath have tulle at the bottom to give the dress is beautiful open line. Here are some photos to help you get an idea of how it looks:

So will the dry cleaning leave my dress limp and lifeless or is it just in my mind?

Thank you very much in advance! Andrada

Hi Andrada, 
All dry cleaners are not alike. Some clean wonderfully while others I've used give me my items back looking the same as when I dropped them off, just neatly hung and covered with plastic. Call around to some bridal stores in your town and ask for dry cleaner references. They should know who the good ones are.

added February 2010

My wedding is in April and I borrowed a petticoat or slip from one of my had been in storage for a while and gotten kinda wrinkled...what is the best way to get the wrinkles out of it and my veil...Thank you so much for your response.. :)

Hi Brittany,
Both items can be ironed at low heat. You need to be very careful with the veil. It can melt very easily if the heat is too high. If you are not confident to do it yourself you can take it to a dry cleaners to have it done professionally.

added November 2009

I'm re-wearing a bridesmaids dress this saturday that I had put away about a year ago..Its an Alfred Angelo wine colored dress that's satin and says "do not steam. dry clean only".  I was wondering if there is anything I could do at home to get the wrinkles out (Its not too bad).. I thought the shower idea would be good but since it says "no steaming" I'm not sure if that means with a Steamer machine or hanging in the shower... confused.
 Thanks for any help or ideas you could offer.


Hi Carmen,
When a dress like this is brought to the dry cleaners to be cleaned they will use steam to get the wrinkles out. The label is there so that people who try to use home grade irons that might spit water as they steam, won't ruin the dress and try to sue the manufacturer. Look for the fabric content label. If it says polyester or rayon, you can iron and/or steam it. You just have to be careful to not let your iron spit water on it. The water in a home iron will often have bit of the inside of the iron (rust, and other crud) that will stain the dress. Pure water won't hurt it. Dry cleaners have professional grade steamers and they use distilled water to prevent spotting.
Most dressy garments can be ironed and steamed but you have to be careful. A too hot iron can scorch and melt fine fabrics. Testing the fabric someplace that won't show is a good idea. Using a pressing cloth is another must. I like to tie a man's large white handkerchief to the iron. It works great to protect the fabric just in case the iron is too hot for the type of fabric. You can try ironing without steam but that often doesn't work. Set the iron for the lowest setting that gives good steam and pat the fabric gently with the iron instead of pressing and dragging it on the fabric.
I hope this is helpful,

added June 2007

Hi I was wondering if you could give me any advice.

I have bought my daughter a prom dress which is white polyester material with a beaded design bodice. There are some make up marks on the inside where someone has tried it on and had fake tan on it and a few little marks on the skirt but they are hardly noticeable.

I have had a few bits of conflicting advice from family who say that even though it says dry clean only I should be okay soaking it in the bath in warmish water with a very soft detergent and then letting it drip dry - is this ok or would you not advise it? The label says dry clean.

Thanks, Christine

I am not a laundering expert so anything I say here is pure opinion.

Polyester fabric is often washable and labeled that way. Most of the reason why special occasion dresses have a dry clean label in them is for the professional steaming they will get after the cleaning. Though they may be able to be washed in water, they wrinkle so much that most folks wouldn't like to do the ironing necessary to give them a nice finish.

I can not advise you to go against the label's directives. But I can tell you I have washed many of my "Dry Clean Only" items with much success. I do sometimes ruin something, but for the most part I have been able to hand wash silks and polyester items. I do have the professional steaming equipment that allows me to finish them just like the dry cleaners do, but if you are patient and careful, you should be able to use a home iron to finish your dress.

Since you have never done this before and the marks are on the inside I would not advise you to try it. If you ruined it than you would have to buy your daughter a new dress for the prom and the money you were trying to save would turn into an extra expense. The marks don't show, so she can wear the dress to the prom and no one will know. If you want to try washing it yourself after the prom, it's up to you.

added June 2007

Hi I just found your web site I have a wedding dress with a few wrinkles in it. I have heard about letting the dress hang in the bathroom during a hot shower but my dress has color in it. It has a strip of color in it at the top and one at the bottom not sure if it will bleed or can I use an iron low heat with a tole between the dress and the iron? please let me know
Thanks Renee

It's best to ask this to the store you bought the dress at. There should also be a care label somewhere inside the dress to tell you what fabric the dress is made of and it's proper care.

As a general rule, most gowns can be steamed no matter what the color, but I can't tell you for sure about your dress. The shower trick works for some fabrics, but not others.

added April 2006

I came across your site and thought maybe you could help me. I am steaming a bridal gown and am having trouble getting soft
creases out of the skirt. The fabric is a polyester organza and I am using a jiffy professional steamer. There are no deep creases or wrinkles, but I can see faint ones. Would appreciate any advice you could offer.


Some fabrics will not respond to steaming, they have to be ironed. Ironing is harder than steaming only because it's nerve racking. Set the iron on the lowest steam setting and iron from the wrong side with a pressing cloth. If that doesn't get the wrinkles out, you may be stuck with them. Even when ironed some fabrics won't let you get the totally wrinkle free finish you want.

A nice looking gown doesn't mean it has to be totally wrinkle free. Besides, you are looking at it much closer than any one at the wedding will be. Hang the gown up and step back from it to give it a good look. You can even get a friend to look at it. If you can't notice the wrinkles from the distance than no one at the wedding will either.

Thanks so much for your prompt reply.
when I did experiment with the iron, I didn't see much difference. As you said, probably no one else looks at it so closely. I have noticed some fabrics are never wrinkle-free - I thought maybe I was missing something.

Thanks again

added April 2006

Hello! I just have to say first off that I love your website. Reading your advice makes me want to become an alterations specialist! J Onto my question… I have a beautiful wedding gown that is constructed of white satin and an outer shimmer organza overlay. I read your advice about using steam to remove wrinkles from wedding gowns, and I have a heavy duty steamer and would like to try this. However, some of the resources that I have checked say that steam can cause water spots on organza and satin. How can I avoid creating water spots on my wedding dress when I try to steam it?

Thanks so much in advance for all your help!

I think they are saying that the home steamers may get guck in them from the tap water and this might stain the dress if the steamer doesn't get hot enough for the water to turn into steam. Another problem is the steamer getting too hot and scorching the gown if the fabric is accidentally touched by a too hot steamer head.

You can still do it yourself, just be careful. Use distilled water and try out the steamer on a white fabric before you get near the gown. A man's hankie works well.

Hope this helps,

added June 2005

After bad luck and frustration with the bridal shop from which I purchased my dress, I opted not to have it pressed there. The dress is 100% polyester, and I was wondering what method you would recommend for pressing it (it is not badly wrinkled - just a bit in certain places). I thought about buying a steam cleaner/presser but thought this might harm the fabric. I also thought about turning the dress inside out and using a cool iron over a towel. Would you suggest that I ask a dry cleaning store if they can steam clean it instead of dry cleaning it? I have one month until the wedding. Any suggestions for getting out the wrinkles? Thanks!

You don't have to "press" it really. Most gowns I do don't get the iron touched to them. I have a special iron that shoots steam. It's really neat but expensive. You can buy a travel steamer and it would do a nice job at little cost. A dry cleaner will change you the same to steam a gown as they do for cleaning one, which is a lot.

One thing you can try if the wrinkles are few and not very set in, is to hang it in the bathroom while someone takes a hot shower, or just run the hot water, and let it get good a steamy. Small wrinkles will fall out.

Ironing anything from the underside is a pain and it really does not give you any added protection. Iron scaring can show through the other side. If you try to iron the whole dress from the underside, you'll just end up frustrating yourself by ironing in more wrinkles because you can't see what you are doing. So, if you have a well set-in wrinkle, iron it where you can see what you are doing, on the front. If you are worried about your iron, use a man's handkerchief as a cover or you can buy a cheesecloth one from any fabric store - they are only a couple dollars and you can see through then easily. Set the iron on the lowest setting that will give you steam and give it a try on the underside where a seam is so you can see if it effects the front of the fabric. Then turn to the front and just go slow. Don't drag the iron along the fabric - it's too easy to create more wrinkles this way. Use a patting motion. This will get the iron to make more steam.

It's really not hard to iron a wedding gown. It's the same as any dress. What makes it hard is its value to you because it's your special dress for your special day. Many bridal salons I've worked for and visited use regular irons when doing their gowns. It can be done well with a normal household iron if that's all you have.


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