For those of you with a holiday destination wedding approaching, this is for you. Traveling at this time of year can be hectic. Getting not only your dress but yourself and all your bridal paraphernalia from one point to another is something you need to think about whether you're navigating across town or half way around the world. Things might go a little easier if you've invested in a dress made out of microfibers (yes silk can be microfiber) ; you'll have little worry about it wrinkling. In most cases your dress will consist of delicate silk with length and volume (many underlips and linings) that need to be kept intact.
Getting your gown home safely from the shop is the first step. You’re going to have to treat it with all the love and care of a newborn. No, you won’t need an infant seat but just about any size back seat of a car will do. In all probability once delivered, your gown will be packed in plastic, the bodice stuffed with tissue. Hang it on the hook above the back door draped across the back seat. This applies if you're going on a two block or two thousand mile trip.
With so many destination weddings these days, salons and stores have special procedures preparing your gown for not only that car trip home but air travel. You need to decide whether or not you're checking your gown as baggage or carrying it on board the plane. Either way there are pluses and minuses. Once upon a time carry on was a given. No matter how BIG your gown--and some gowns run very big-- the stewardesses found a way to look after it. Since then the friendly skies have become so heavily booked, unless you travel first class, space is going to be tight. If your gown isn't too poufy and more of a sheath than ball gown, the overhead bin will work. Take into mind this a good-to-go situation only if there's no other baggage crushing your gown.
To avoid hassles during check in, be certain beforehand the box or bag holding your gown is an approved size. Yes, some airplanes don't have additional room for over-sized carry-on pieces so make arrangements with them before purchasing your ticket. Some airlines allow the cabin coat closets in first-class to be used for bridal gowns even if you're flying coach. However, doing my research I found some airlines are better than others on this. Again, MAKE ARRANGEMENTS BEFOREHAND!
You've met folks who never check in luggage; they're afraid once they land in Boston their bags will turn up in Cleveland. Well, imagine asking a bride to check her gown as baggage. If you're brave enough to consider it, think of little old me, a fashion designer who must fly with five gowns at a time, that, by the way, just like your gown, need to arrive in New York in pristine condition (otherwise they don't sell). I have no choice but to check them as baggage so here's what I do. Since I'm a pro I know how to pack them. Your store can do this for you. All you need do is decide on whether you want to pack the gown in a box (salon's job but you can do it) or suitcase (your job).
I've done both.
Use a large box, about one-third the length of the front of your gown.
Line the box with tissue and lay the gown over it. Your gown should be centered in the box and laid face down, spread flat out. This way you can avoid any wrinkles or creases from forming.
Now, start with the side seams and fold your skirt length-wise all the way over the tissue. Your skirt should not exceed the width of the box.
This is when you add more tissue and fold the top of the gown over into the box.
The top of the gown (bodice) will be facing up. Now use more tissue and pack the bodice, cushioning anything else (florals, bows, belts, sleeves) that should be protected. When you are finished, the dress should really be packed in tight so as not to move around in the box.
If your gown is a generous A-line or ballgown complete with petticoat, you need to go for the biggest suitcase you can find. Otherwise, like the box, find a suitcase about a third of the size of your gown. Your gown should be the only piece of anything you pack in the case other than tissue. Follow the same procedure you would for packing your gown in a box, especially the part about stuffing the bodice with tissue. This way your gown can retain its shape.
The first thing about bagging a gown in a garment bag is finding out where the dress hangers are. Most gowns have these little hangers resembling straps that keep the stress off the shoulders. They are typically found at either the armhole or waistline. After hanging the gown up on a padded hanger, pack the gown with tissue in the bodice so it keeps the shape. If there is a full skirt, pack the bottom of the bag so the skirt rests on it to eliminate stress to the hemline.
TRAIN AND SHIP TRAVEL
Brides either marrying on board or sailing to their destination via cruise ship generally have few worries. Closet space is available and pressing services on board ship are top notch. This of course depends on the cruise line. I've heard horror stories about cheap cruise lines with bathrooms so small your shower is in the toilet. Think Cunard, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and you're in a major city floating on water, everything you ever wanted readily available. Same goes without saying for private yachts. Shorter cruises on, say, ferries are trickier but usually have more closet space than that aboard a plane or train.
ALL ABOARD! THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAINS
Once upon a time in America this was one of the most common and luxurious forms of long distance travel. No more. Over time train travel has lost its glam factor. But for those who have a morbid phobia about flying or just plain love going by train, here's the scoop. Trains offer a little more space for moving around from compartment to compartment than planes do. You'd think this would mean more room to hang a gown but when I spoke to the Amtrack agent she said it's either the overhead bin or baggage car for the gown. Since Amtrack is the only game in town if you're getting from point to point in the USA, please avoid coach unless you are going a short distance. Then, use the above info to box your gown and check it in as baggage (yes box--your gown. The way they throw baggage around your gown will be packed tight in the box) If you're going a little further than say Buffalo to NYC: go for one of the larger compartments if you can. Here's the link
for finding the right sleeping car which invariably means having your own space to guard your prized procession.
Train travel through Europe is a little different and more common. Schedules there actually run on time and go faster than their American cousins. Going short distances via coach, the space problem still exists so you can do one of two things: either box your gown and check it in as baggage or buy an extra seat on which to put it. Take into mind there are many more train routes that go through Europe. This means whether your destination is a major city or smaller village, a train either runs through it or nearby. Check online if you are traveling through Europe or Asia and find out as much as you can about space.
Once you reach your destination remove the dress from the bag and make sure to put it on a padded hanger. An alternative to the padded hanger is my hanging dress form above. This is a display hanger I use in the studio to show off my designs. They have another function: keeping your gown shaped and taking the stress off the shoulders or from whatever point your dress hangs. You can order one from Robert Hamm
If you can invest in a portable steamer, do it. They're twice as fast as the conventional iron and give a clean, finished look. As with over pressing, the steamer if held too close can water spot silk. A small travel iron is great for getting all those corners and pleats. Having a portable steamer and travel iron both is ideal. The optimal option if you can arrange it is getting your gown professionally pressed once you reach your destination.
Other Options and Tips
*If you don't want to travel with your gown have your salon, dressmaker or yourself ship the gown ahead to its destination. Out of the big three--UPS, Fed Ex and the US Postal Service, the latter is the cheapest way to go. Brides have always exercised this 'Send my things on ahead' option by arranging for a friend, family member or hotel/venue/consultant to sign for it. Thus, this has become so convenient for destination brides, many hotels and venues are signing for the wedding dress as part of their service.
*Pack your bridal accessories for travel separately from your gown. Once you reach that beautiful destination you can assemble your whole ensemble.
*More suggestions about pressing: If your gown is made out of tulle, don’t you dare press it! Steam it instead. The same goes for your veil; ironing scorches tulle.
*Pressing hard to get at wrinkles out of your gown is done with a cool, dry iron over a piece of broadcloth or muslin, called a press mitt. Forget worrying too much about wrinkling your gown going to and from the ceremony. Just push the bulk of your skirt aside once you’re in the car--that is, if you will be in a car or carriage.