Jennifer Szlosek Chow wearing her grandmother’s 1941 wedding gown.
What you should know about wearing an heirloom dress.
by Cindy Papish Gerber
s far back as I can remember, I knew I would wear my grandmother’s dress,” recalls Jennifer Szlosek Chow. Her countless hours poring over old photos of her grandmother and mother wearing the dress led to a teenage fascination with classic movies and a love of vintage clothing. So when it came time for her to choose a dress for her May 2010 wedding, Jennifer’s decision to wear her grandmother’s 1941 floor-length, satin, V-necked, lace-trimmed gown just “felt right.” Wearing an heirloom gown is a romantic gesture; a nod to your past and a lovely way to honor your traditions. But, “unless the gown is in very good condition and is a perfect fit—which is rare— color restoration and alterations will probably cost as much as a new gown,” says Sally Lorensen Conant, Ph.D., President of Orange Res-
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toration Labs. The sum total for cleaning and alteration ($350 and $250, respectively) of Jennifer’s gown were below average. “Costs can vary greatly,” Conant continues, “depending upon the age of the gown, condition of the fabric, and alterations.” No matter what state your dress is in, “Bridal shops can suggest cleaning specialists and seamstresses,” Conant adds. A Web search will invariably lead to the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, where you can read reviews and request references. These certified professionals provide free written estimates, do fabric testing, and determine whether your garment can withstand restoration. In most cases, stains and discolorations can be removed and pressed; seams and gussets inserted; and holes, delicate lace, and intricate beadwork skillfully repaired.