Whether traditional or avant-garde, the garment you wear while pledging fidelity to your loved one can be a treasured artifact of your life. You can’t shuck off a wedding gown, hang it in the closet and expect it to look the same at your silver anniversary. Special care must be taken of the fine fabrics and unique embellishments. This is doubly true if you are wearing a vintage wedding dress. Correct preservation is a must if you want your gown to remain in great condition.
Wedding gowns and accessories can be subject to discoloration simply from exposure. Invisible stains from colognes, sweat and body oil can cause structural changes to textiles, and dust and mildew can cause mustiness. The older a garment is and the longer it is left untreated, the more significant these changes will be.
It’s fortunate that one of the world’s most respected garment preservation experts is based in Clio. Customers from nearly every state and several countries ship their garments to the Clio facility for museum-quality restoration and storage. Jan Caon Barlow of Jan’s Professional Dry Cleaners has won numerous awards both national and international for her expertise in garment restoration and other specialties.
Correct preservation is a must
if you want your gown to remain
in great condition.
Most recently, she was a finalist for the Global Best Practices Awards given by Comité International de L’Entretien du Textile. Jan’s Cleaners was one of 25 companies honored out of the 350 nominees. She was honored in Milan, Italy, on October 19. The award is given for innovation and sustainability in retail textile cleaners. Barlow is also one of only a handful of people to have earned three certifications from the International Fabricare Institute.
Barlow has been in the dry-cleaning business since 1981, opening her business in 1982. Since then, she has taken the facility from 1,500 square feet to 10,000 and added a number of niche services in which she has risen to the top.
“My master plan was to be more than just a mom-and-pop laundromat,” Barlow says. “We’re open seven days and our motto is ‘The answer is yes, what’s the question?’ If a customer is asking for a service we don’t provide, we know where they can be referred. And we’ll always make an appointment for a customer’s convenience.”
Barlow and her staff will meet with a potential customer before taking a garment for restoration. “It generally takes 30 days, sometimes longer if we’re altering, cleaning or pressing the garment,” says intake manager and social media administrator Lexi Younge. “We go over everything thoroughly with the customer and document it. We check the beads or sequins on the dress. That helps us give them a price estimate.”
Barlow explains that storage of a preserved gown is extremely important. “The boxes we package the gowns in are 100 percent acid-free cardboard and are used by the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists. We enclose muslin gloves with the package that should be worn when handling the gown. The Smithsonian Institution recommends storing old fabrics in a controlled environment where the fabric can ‘breathe,’ so attics or basements are out and so is vacuum-packing the gown.”
Sometimes garments suffer severe damage from fire or flooding. Simply being stored in a moist environment can lead to a garment becoming moldy. Don’t assume your garment is ruined if it undergoes such damage. Jan’s Cleaners can restore fabrics even after they’ve been savaged by the elements. This is one of the specialties for which Barlow has won awards.
The staff is trained in this delicate work by experts from all over the country. At least one staff member, Peggy Flynn, has been working with Barlow for more than 30 years. In addition, Barlow makes sure her company uses all the latest technologies in her industry, including cleaning with environmentally safe and nontoxic products.
“We are using a new solvent made from alcohol called Sensene that’s been modified so it won’t give off an odor,” Barlow says. “We use pH-neutral soaps because we want to make sure your clothes smell like nothing – unless a person asks for a particular scent. Sensene has only been available for three years and we’ve been using it for two. We’re the first United States company to use it.”
“ The Smithsonian Institution recommends storing old fabrics in a controlled environment where the fabric can ‘breathe,’ so attics or basements are out and so is vacuum-packing the gown. ”
JAN CAON BARLOW
These sensitive products are also better for the staff. “We wanted an environment that didn’t risk employee health,” Barlow says. “We make sure to be good corporate citizens and have always been in compliance with EPA restrictions.” All of these codes of excellence are what make Jan’s Cleaners internationally prominent in the dry-cleaning industry.
Wedding gown refurbishment is far from the only service for which Jan’s Cleaners is renowned. Barlow says, “We have a custom window fashion service and we work with bedroom fashions too.” All these services are offered in addition to a core cleaning service, which offers free pickup and delivery and both laundering and dry-cleaning in 15 cities.
Prices for garment restoration begin at $124 and depending on the type of services needed can approach $1,000. Prices are determined by the labor involved.
Occasionally a garment will not be able to be fully restored. In that case, it may be partially preserved for display or use.
The facility includes a photo studio, a soot removal area, spaces set aside for wet-cleaning and dry-cleaning, a clothing shower machine, a steam tunnel, a double shirt press, a cuff collar machine and more.
“We can press shirts from sizes zero to 5X,” Barlow says. “We have to stay innovative because today there is less of a need for the dry-cleaning business. That’s why we have branched out into window and bedroom fashions and offer so many different services such as window blind cleaning and large commercial jobs. We have a building set aside for sewing, and a full-time tailor. We also employ an interior designer and an interior decorator. They make cornices, do blind repairs, new blind sales, draperies and valances.”
Barlow says her staff are the best in the business. “They’re incredibly good people,” she says. “I am only as good as the people I surround myself with. Everyone is cross-trained so they know the entire business, and we have a cohesive team. We welcome dedicated workers even with no experience, and we’re currently looking for someone to join our production department.”
LEARN MORE BY CALLING 810-687-7590
JAN’S PROFESSIONAL CLEANERS IS LOCATED AT 130 GRIFFES ST., CLIO