If You're a Destination Bride, Your Gown is a Destination Gown
by Sally Lorensen Conant, Ph.D.
Exectutive Director, Association of Wedding Gown Specialists
Whether you are headed half way around the world or just to another town in your state, you need to think about how you will get your gown from your home to your destination without turning it into one big wrinkle.
Bridal salons usually present the gown to you on a hanger with a bust form and a zippered bag. That makes it fairly easy if you are traveling by car. If you are traveling by air there was a time when the stewardess would hang the bag for you in a cabin near the door. No such luck these days. In fact most airlines insist you check your gown with your other luggage so unless your gown is very informal you will need a large box or an extra suitcase to protect it. And you will need tissue - and lots and lots of tissue!
Of course, the easiest solution to the wrinkle problem is professional pressing once you have arrived at your destination. If you do not have family or friends in the destination city and need help choosing someone to press for you, try visiting the Wedding Gown Specialists® Locator to see if you can find someone in that location who specializes in gown cleaning and pressing. Many members of this Association offer free pressing if you use their services to clean and preserve the gown after the wedding. If there is no member at your particular destination, you might call the Association office and ask for a recommendation.
When professional pressing is not an option, you can pack the gown very carefully so that there are few if any wrinkles that will not shake out when you hang the gown. Many hotels provide rooms with an iron and a board that you can use for touching up the gown.
You could also invest in a portable steamer that will be handy whenever you travel. Steamers are very effective, and they cannot scorch your dress. However, they do sometimes "spit" and can spot on water-sensitive fabrics such as silk. Guard against such spots by wrapping the head of the steamer in a towel.
Even more basic--hang the dress in the bathroom, turn the shower to hot water, close the door, and let the shower run until the room is filled with steam. The steam should relax any creases.
Some suggestions for keeping wrinkles to a minimum when you travel:
Traveling by car or on a cruise: If the gown fits comfortably in the bag, you may not have to do anything more than hang the bag. If not, add more tissue and stuff the bodice as tightly as possible. Then buffer the folds of the gown's train with tissue and pin two large fitted sheets over all. If you hang the gown so the bodice is facing the door, the bust form will protect the bodice from wrinkling, and the rest of the gown can be laid across the back seat.
Traveling by plane: You could ask the bridal salon to pack the gown for you, but the salon may not have a box that is large enough. Gowns are often shipped to them in very small boxes that cause lots of creases, and pressing is one of the amenities offered by full-service shops. Or you could also ask a cleaner who specializes in gown cleaning and preservation to prepare a gown for shipping. Such a cleaner is experienced in packing gowns and would have boxes with shipping cartons on hand.
If you would rather pack the gown yourself, line the box with tissue and lay the gown face down in the box so that the top of the gown extends beyond the box, the middle of the gown is in the box, and the train also extends beyond the box. Make sure you have the gown centered in the box and that the part that is face down is spread flat so there are no creases or folds.
Beginning at the side seams, fold the skirt lengthwise over bunched tissue until the skirt is no wider than the box. Then add more tissue and fold the bottom of skirt over into the box. Add still more tissue and fold the top of gown over so that it, too, fits into the box. Think of the gown as your body and that you are doing the impossible: laying on your stomach with your legs folded up over your back at the same time your head and shoulders are bent back over your legs and facing up.
Now use still more tissue to stuff the bodice and sleeves, if there are any. When you are finished, the dress should not be able to move around in the box. "No baile," as the Spanish say; that is, no dancing. Save the dancing for the wedding day!
Sally Lorensen Conant, Ph.D.
Association of Wedding Gown Specialists
P.S. You won't need to be so careful with your gown after the wedding, but if you are having a beach wedding, do let it dry out before you pack it!