You’ve spent hours combing through catalogs and websites. You carefully examined everything from the pattern of the sequins to the length to the fit. Finally, you put on a gown and know it’s “the one.” This is the gown you will win your dream title in.
However, that perfect gown is not going to take care of itself.
In order for your gown to look the way it did in store or online, there are essential care tips you need to know. Not only is it important to take care of your gown before the pageant but after as well! Your evening gown is an investment in your pageant brand and you want to take care of that investment! (Read: 5 Expert Tips on Caring for Your Pageant Dress)
How to Care for Your Evening Gown Before and After the Pageant
1. Use the right hanger
If you purchase your gown from a full-service store, it should come with the proper hanger. Unlike regular clothes, plastic hangers used for tshirts should be avoided. The notches can catch on the delicate fabric of the gown. Plus, if there is any beading or sequins on the shoulders, it can get caught in the notches, resulting in damage. (Read: Benefits to Shopping at a Full Service Pageant Store)
If you buy your gown online, it will more than likely not come with a proper hanger. However, you can and should purchase one. For an evening gown, the hanger should be free of any notches. This prevents the gown from getting caught and damaging any detailing. Hangers like this one (see below) are perfect for hanging an evening gown or any other special occasion dress. (Read: Miss Idaho Teen USA 2017 Evening Gown: HIT or MISS?)
2. Hang it properly
In addition to the right hanger, the gown has to be hung properly. The white ribbons sewn on the inner part of almost any evening gown serves a purpose! They are supposed to be on the hanger. They alleviate the weight of the gown so the shoulders and bustline do not become damaged or stretched out over time. (Read: How to Find Your Dream Gown Within Your Budget)
3. Proper storage
Storing your gown properly is essential to ensure it remains in perfect condition. Gowns should be stored in a dark, cool closet at a high enough level that the gown does not touch the floor. This will prevent it from getting dirty or wrinkling.
Never store a gown in direct or even partial sunlight. This will cause the color of the dress to fade over time. (Read: Top 3 Prom/Pageant Shopping Myths)
4. Buy a garment bag
As a stylist, I cannot stress this enough. A garment bag can save you from a total disaster. Unlike a cheap plastic bag that will rip, a garment bag is made of cloth and zips close. This barrier protects the gown and prevents damage.
Most full service gown stores give you a garment bag with your purchase. However, if you purchase your gown at a chain store, they will probably give you a plastic bag. If you order online, your gown will probably not have one. You can purchase a custom one online at places like Etsy. (Read: Top 10 Pageant Stores of 2016)
After the pageant is done, you should still do everything you did before the pageant to properly store your gown. While care before the pageant is mainly about storage, care after the pageant has to do with proper cleaning. In order to ensure the gown stays in perfect condition, you have to properly clean it after each use. (Read: Miss Salt Lake City Teen USA 2017 Evening Gown: HIT or MISS?)
This will do wonders for keeping your gown in perfect condition. Steaming your gown keeps it wrinkle-free and “refreshes” it after wear. You can take it to any dry cleaners where they will professionally steam it for a small fee.
You can also invest in a personal steamer. While quality steamers can be pricey, you will save a lot of money in the long run. If you do not know how to use a steamer, there are hundreds of tutorials online. In addition, you can also use the steamer for the rest of your wardrobe to ensure you always look your best! (Read: How to Plan Your Wardrobe for a National Pageant)
2. Dry clean
Dry cleaning is the only way you can thoroughly clean a gown. This is for after multiple wears or outdoor appearances where the bottom of the dress can get dirty. Prices for dry cleaning vary depending on where you go and material of the gown.
You should do research before choosing where to take your gown to be dry cleaned. Gowns are much more complicated to steam than, say, a pair of pants. You have to be careful with sequins, beading and delicate layers of tulle, all of which can be ruined if the gown is mishandled. You should go to someone who has experience in dry cleaning gowns to ensure your gown is not damaged. (Read: 5 Signs Your Pageant Seamstress is an Expert)
3. Spot clean
This is for in between dry cleanings when stains, like small spray tan marks or a touch of lipstick, appear.
Place a soft cloth under the stained area. Spray it with a gentle laundry cleaner. I use Shout personally and professionally. With another soft cloth, gently rub. Use a hair dryer on the lowest setting to dry the area. (Read: 5 Bridal Gowns to Wear in Evening Gown)
Proper care for your gown is essential for every pageant contestant. If you have any tips or questions about caring for your gown, share them with us in the comments!