While sleeping in her spare bedroom I noticed her wedding dress on the floor in its cover, still uncleaned from the wedding. She hadn't got around to having it cleaned, and with a quote for $600 to clean it, I can understand her procrastination. This is the dress that was dragged about in the dirt, through the long grass and up onto boulders for the photos.
Here is the dress in mint condition: Just look at that train!
And a close up of the lace. Unfortunately, you can't see the occasional spangle of a discreet sequin in this shot, but it is really beautiful.
Here is the bride wearing the dress on the day:
It was full of grass seeds and clippings all tangled up in the lace, and was grey for the bottom six inches around the hem. I occupied myself pulling out the grass seeds while watching TV that evening, which took about two hours. I don't know whether you've ever seen the seeds of corkscrew grass, but I hadn't. Country Victorians will no doubt be very familiar with it, but it was new to me.
These annoying little seed tails do a great job of twisting themselves into the fur and fleece of animals and thus travelling around and spreading. They had also twisted themselves all through the lace of the dress.
What possessed me to offer to wash a $3000 dress in the bath? Evie said she was happy for me to try as she was only going to "archive" the dress anyway. So I took it home, and next morning it went into the bath tub. I sprayed a pre-wash laundry spray all around the hem, using 1 1/2 bottles on the hem of the full circle skirt and train. I estimate it to be 10-12 metres in length. I left it to soak for about 30 minutes, then added eucalyptus woolwash liquid and ran the bath. To my horror, the water immediately turned black from the dirt, so I pulled out the plug and kept sluicing all the water down the plughole till it ran clean. Then I gently rubbed between thumb and forefinger with a mild soap all around the hem and removed the dirt.
After two rinses in the bath and a gentle squeeze, I made a dash for the clothesline with a dripping dress over my shoulder. It took two of us to arrange it flat across the top of six lines of wire. Luckily, it a was a sunny, windy day. I brought it inside after dinner and left it to dry on the dining table.
By the next day the skirt was mostly dry so I decided to start ironing. This dress has six skirt layers - lace, satin, two layers of pleated and ruched net for body, 3 layers of tulle stitched together for a petticoat, plus, I now discovered, an inner skirt to protect the bride's legs from the scratchy tulle. This inner skirt was still muddy as I had overlooked it in the cramped conditions of the bathtub. My partner supported the dress behind me over my shoulder as I washed the inner skirt in the kitchen sink. Then back onto the table for a blow dry.
Here is the full circle of the skirt spread out across the table upside down so that I can pick out all the grass seeds I missed the first time in the underlayers. Getting them out from in between the stitched up layers of tulle was interesting. Note the bowl on the chair for the seeds once removed.
Here is a close up of the grass stuck between the layers of tulle:
Then time to get out the iron. What saved this dress is the fact that the fabric does not require ironing. The underlayers are deliberately crumpled to add body, and only the top lace layer around the hem where it had been rubbed to clean required careful pressing under a cloth.
And here it is, "come up beautiful", as I said to the bride.
Evie's father says I should go into business cleaning wedding gowns, and that at $600 each I would only need to clean three a week to stay in business. Yes, as long as I'm not sued for ruining them. No thank you, one is enough.