Many of our brides get nervous when we suggest they steam their gown the morning of the wedding, but unless you have a wrinkle-free fabric (possible, but rare in wedding gowns) or the dress won't need to be transported very far from the shop, (again, possible but rare), you will be so grateful to have taken the time to ensure your gown looks as fresh and smooth as possible! Really, there's no need to worry—with a little preparation you'll feel totally confident in getting your gown ready.
1. Check your fabric—do you really need a steamer? Shantung, dupioni, and taffeta can actually look more wrinkly after steaming, so check the fabric of your gown and ask your tailor if you have any questions. These types of materials aren't very prominent in today’s styles, but they can be very striking when done well. For gowns made with these fabrics, its best to use a dry iron (usually medium to low heat) and a CLEAN white press cloth—ideally a thin weave, like a new dish towel. Remember—these fabrics will wrinkle pretty easily throughout the day, so embrace their organic nature!
2. Too much fuss? Get the bathroom steamy. Some gowns really won't need much to help the wrinkles fall out. Especially if you're traveling or using a non-traditional location to get ready, transporting a steamer might seem like a hassle. If you have a relatively simple dress in a polyester or heavy lace, with a minimal skirt and train that haven't been squished into a bag, don’t stress about getting a steamer. Hang the dress on the bathroom door or a high hook in the bathroom before you shower, probably the night before the wedding, when you can leave the dress out of its bag safely overnight. Crank the heat in the shower, take your time, and get the room full of steam—this is really all some gowns need!
3. Designate a responsible steamer. If you have room in the budget, the best way to ensure your gown is perfectly cared for is to hire a professional steamer. However, if that seems like an unnecessary expense, or not possible at your location, ask someone you trust who will be getting ready with you the wedding morning. It's a great job for an eager bridesmaid or future mother-in-law who wants to be helpful in the morning of the big day! Asking your loved ones to help you prepare really can make them feel included, but it's a great idea to designate someone before the actual wedding morning who feels comfortable steaming the gown and can read up on some tricks, or even practice using a steamer!
4. Secure a steamer. Make sure where you will be getting ready either has a quality steamer—most hotels will, especially in Chicago—or purchase your own. A friend may also have one you can borrow, but check that it's in good condition—some steamers that haven't been used in a long time and had some water sitting in them can spew some discolored water that you won't want anywhere near your pristine, white gown. It can truly be a worthwhile investment if you choose to purchase one—you'll be amazed by how often you'll use them once you have the option on your regular work clothes or cocktail dresses! Chances are your bridesmaids will need their dresses steamed as well, so let them know what time the steamer will be available so they can plan accordingly.
5. Ask your tailor for any suggestions for maintaining your gown’s shape. The way you hang the dress on the hanger to be steamed is important, and may be different than the recommended way to store it. Some dresses will benefit from gently holding a skirt hem taut, using a balled-up towel to help hold the shape of the bust area, or hanging the sleeves in a certain way. Every gown is different but your tailor can give you some suggestions as they have lots of experience with a variety of shapes and fabrics!
6. Cover steamer head with fabric. A clean white t-shirt you don't care about, or a thin white towel should work just fine. This is to catch any drops of water that could leave marks on the dress, and to prevent any drops from burning your arm as you steam! Do remember that the steam itself can burn as well, so be sure to never put any body part in the direct path of the steam.
7. Steam from the inside and with distance. This is another precaution against damaging the fabric. Most dresses you can steam from the outside if you're using a covering to catch any drops, but it's still safest to steam from the inside of the fabric. NEVER touch the steamer directly to the fabric—instead hold it 3-6 inches away. It's usually best to steam each layer of the skirt separately, but steaming several layers of tulle together usually works just fine.
8. Don't forget the veil! Veils are often the most easily wrinkled part of the look, and can really detract from your crisp, smooth dress if not attended to! Veils can add a beautiful airbrushing effect when steamed. They're usually very easy to steam, though they can take a while. Be careful of any rhinestones or decorations that might be glued so as not to melt the glue and slip out of place, or off entirely. And when using vintage veils, make sure to keep the steamer on a low setting, as many of the old polyesters are delicate and could possibly melt. It's unlikely, but better safe than sorry!
9. Get into the dress carefully. The trick is to not undo all that beautiful steaming that was just done! Always put your shoes on first, as it is much more difficult after the gown is on. If it's possible to have someone stand on a chair, dropping the dress over you skirt first, while you protect your hair and makeup with your arms, that is ideal. Most makeup artists will come prepared with a face covering for this process as well. This method is not possible with some dresses, so if that is the case, while you are sitting down, enlist a helper to guide the dress up your legs, until there is a spot of floor you can stand on while your friend helps the gown be situated, while bunching as little fabric as possible. Use your alterations appointments to note what works best, and ask your tailor for any specific suggestions.
10. HAVE FUN! Remember—this day is about so much more than your gown. No one will notice a few wrinkles when they see the way you look at your fiancé as you walk down that aisle! If your ceremony requires sitting or kneeling you might add a few creases, but that's all part of the beauty of the day. Let the photographer and maid of honor worry about adjusting the gown for you—it's your day to enjoy every little moment!