Preserving a wedding gown can be a tricky task — particularly when said wedding gown is as delicate as Meghan Markle’s.
Jeeves, a ‘formal dry cleaning service’ that holds a Royal Warrant and has worked for Prince Charles and his family for three decades, told FEMAIL how to clean a wedding dress such as the duchess’, which is set to go on display for the public in October at Windsor Castle.
While it isn’t officially known who cleaned Meghan’s custom Givenchy gown, the luxury dry cleaning service, which has stores in London and New York, had plenty of tips to share on how to care for a dress like hers, from the moment the bride slips it off at the end of her wedding day to when it returns to her wardrobe for years to come.
Secrets: Experts from Prince Charles’ preferred dry cleaners told FEMAIL exactly how to clean a wedding gown such as Meghan Markle’s to ensure it remains in pristine condition
Meghan’s A-line gown, which was designed by British stylist Clare Waight Keller, took five months to put together.
The simple, modern design featured a sculpted waist, three-quarter sleeves, and a short train — and was paired with an intricate, cathedral-length, 16-foot veil embroidered with flowers paying tribute to all 53 countries of the British Commonwealth, as well as her new home in London and her home state of California.
An expert at Jeeves, which has held a Royal Warrant for more than 35 years — meaning the company is allowed to display the royal arms to indicate that it serves a member of the royal family — detailed the six-step cleaning process a wedding gown such as Meghan is put through before being returned to the bride.
It can take four to six weeks to return an elaborate gown to its original, pristine condition and safely send it back to its owner.
First, experts will thoroughly inspect the gown to familiarize themselves with its design and figure out how best to clean it.
‘Some gowns include instructions for cleaning (though we wouldn’t always follow these) but generally bespoke or couture gowns do not include instructions,’ the Jeeves expert told Femail.
‘We start by analyzing the fabric, trims, embellishments and the materials that provide structure and support to the gown.
‘This inspection process allows us to ascertain which elements of the dress need to be removed before we can start to clean the actual fabric. If the gown has any damage — rips or tears that could potentially be worsened in the cleaning process — we will repair them at this point.’
Intricate: The duchess, who married Prince Harry in May, wore a custom Givenchy gown and a 16-foot veil embroidered with flowers paying tribute to the countries of the Commonwealth
Experts then take photos of the dress in order to keep images of what it looked like before it was cleaning.
Next, they remove any elements of the dress that could be easily damaged.
‘In most cases, this step will require us to remove beading and jewels,’ the expert said.
‘Often, the next step will be to deconstruct the dress into sections — for example the bodice and the skirt. We do this because we use different cleaning techniques to clean different sections of the gown.’
Once the gown has been taken apart, experts will begin by spot-cleaning the dress to remove any obvious stains.
‘This process is used for localized marks or stains such as champagne spillages or make-up marks,’ the expert explained.
‘Once we have spot-cleaned the dress, we will “soap down” the hemline, which is often soiled where it has trailed along the floor. This spot-cleaning and soaping down helps to lift any marks and soiling before the next step.
‘If we are dry-cleaning a specific section of the dress, this section will then be placed in a protective bag before going into a machine for a special wedding gown cleaning program which is very gentle to avoid any damage.’
However, experts typically can’t dry-clean an entire gown and usually hand-clean large sections of the design that are too delicate to be placed in a machine.
‘Lace sections such as the veil are always hand-cleaned,’ the expert added. ‘This is a painstaking process that is only completed by our senior technicians as it takes years to learn and a veil can be easily ruined in the wrong hands.
‘Once the gown and veil have been dry-cleaned or hand-cleaned, we repeat the process (including spot-cleaning and soaping down) until we are confident that our client will be thrilled with the results.’
Getting ready: Meghan’s wedding dress will be displayed to the public as part of an exhibit opening in October at Windsor Castle
Once the gown is clean, it is ready to be put back together, beginning with the different sections of the dress.
That step is left to dressmakers and can several take days to complete.
After the dress has been fully reconstructed, experts use steam and other tools to remove any creases and return the gown to its original shape.
Any embellishments that were removed at the beginning of the cleaning process are then hand-sewn back onto the gown in their original places. That’s when the photos taken at the beginning of the operation come in handy, by helping experts put every detail back where it should be.
The final step of the process is to return to the freshly-cleaned gown to its owner.
‘Our clients can choose to have their gown returned to them in a breathable bridal gown carrier, which can be hung straight in their wardrobe,’ the expert said.
‘However, given that most of our clients will only wear their gown once, we think the better option is for us to return it to them in a breathable box, with each layer being lined with acid-free tissue.
‘You can imagine that these boxes can get to quite an impressive size if the dress has a long train or is constructed from dense fabric.’
The entire cleaning process can take four to six weeks depending on the design of the dress.
Meeting again: Meghan was seen in a new documentary being reunited with her wedding gown for the first time since the day of her nuptials in May
Caring for a wedding gown at home
Once a wedding dress has been painstakingly cleaned and restored, it’s essential to make sure it’s properly stored so that it retains its impeccable condition.
That includes protecting it from direct sunlight, humidity, and moths.
‘Moths love warmth and humidity and mold thrives in the same conditions so be sure to store your gown in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight,’ the expert said.
‘Place anti-moth sachets nearby and refresh them once every few months to ensure it is protected against moths. We recommend Modelli or Acana as the best moth deterrents available. These can be purchased from many good dry cleaners or are available online.’
To those who would like to clean their wedding gown themselves rather than place it in the care of a specialized service, the expert said this is not recommended.
‘If you don’t believe us, ask your wedding gown designer or retailer,’ the expert added.
‘Given the complexity of the structure of a wedding gown and the embellishments that are often added to them, attempting to clean your gown yourself will more often than not end in disaster.’
Meghan has already been reunited with her own wedding gown, which is set to go on display on October 26 until January 6.
The duchess can be seen in a new documentary called Queen of the World seeing her dress and veil for the first time since her nuptials in May, in a visibly emotional moment.
The first part of the documentary aired on Tuesday in the UK, and the movie is scheduled to premiere on HBO on October 1 for US viewers.