Reader Allie submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’ve been enjoying (and learning from) Unclutterer for quite some time, and am now downsizing from 1800 sq ft in a big city to 1000 sq ft on a lake in the country. Of the few things that I am not ready to unclutter, my wedding dress is one of them. After our wedding, I had my dress professionally cleaned and boxed, but the box is HUGE and much too large for our new wee cottage. Do you have any suggestions for how I could store my wedding dress properly with a smaller footprint? Perhaps a very good quality garment bag? Any advice you have for me would be so gratefully received.
What to do with a wedding dress is often a polarizing topic. It charges up emotions in people who are married, people who have been married but aren’t currently, and even people who aren’t married but have inherited their mothers’ gowns and/or their grandmothers’ gowns. I’ve joked with other professional organizers that the first rule of professional organizing is not discussing wedding gowns with clients. It’s a topic I like to avoid without exception.
But … I’m making the exception to my normal rule of not writing about wedding dresses because you have already decided to keep your dress and you are secure in this decision. I’m still crossing my fingers as I type, however, in hopes of not offending you.
Let me tell you about my dress and the path it has taken, which will hopefully be beneficial to you as you make your decision. The first thing you need to know is that I had a lot of fun at my wedding reception. By the time the celebration was over, I had chocolate icing smeared on the front of my dress (not sure how this happened), wine and other drinks spilled on the back of it (accidentally, by guests), and a good rip in the bottom hem (a mishap I had on the dance floor). The dry cleaner did what he could to save the gown, but there was no way he could have made it pristine. I didn’t even pay him to fix the hem. He cleaned it and put it into a moth-resistant garment bag and I was okay with this.
I had wanted to be a part of the Trash the Dress project so the dress didn’t need to be perfect, but the timing never worked out for the photo shoot to happen. As a result, my dress continued to hang in the closet in its special bag for years, also taking up a good amount of space.
When we moved out of our previous house in March, I found that my dress was covered in moth larvae. In its special moth-resistant bag, in my closet that was very clean and full of lavender sachets and cedar chips, it was no match for hungry hungry moths. I had my dress dry cleaned again and boxed — stains, rips, moth holes and all. Now, my intention is to have the good pieces cut up and recycled into about two dozen handkerchiefs that I plan to give as wedding gifts to nieces, close friends, future daughter-in-law, etc.
If you get a professional garment bag for your dress, be sure to open the bag and check on your dress every month. Also, constantly stock it with fresh cedar and lavender sachets. The professional moth-resistant garment bag is key because if you leave it in a regular dry cleaning bag the bag will disintegrate and stain the dress.
Personally, I think you should keep it in the large box. Since you enjoy keeping it, choose to get rid of something else in your home that matters less to you. Every six months or so put new cedar chips and lavender sachets in the box and check it out to make sure it’s okay. The box is not fully critter proof, but so far the box has been much better than the moth-resistant garment bag I paid big bucks for that didn’t work. If you’re a millionaire, consider encasing the wedding dress box in concrete and steel and unobtanium and submerge it in the ocean like a submarine … although I wouldn’t even guarantee pesky moths couldn’t find it there …
If at some point you change your mind and choose to get rid of it, consider:
- recycling it like Andie Walsh does in Pretty in Pink or like I plan to do with the handkerchiefs
- donating it to Making Memories breast cancer research foundation
- donating it to the Glass Slipper Project, which accepts all types of formal gowns to give to students who are unable to purchase prom attire
- or if it’s couture and icing free, I think you can donate it to The Bridal Garden, a non-profit bridal shop that accepts dresses to sell to benefit educational programs for children in New York City
Thank you, Allie, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Be sure to check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers, and good luck with your dress storage.
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