You have fond memories of your wedding day. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Your flowers looked breathtaking. And you looked stunning in your dress.

The years have long since flown by, and you doubt whether you could fit in your dress now. On a whim, you decide to pull your dress out in hopes of bringing back those memories once more.

But instead finding a blindingly beautiful white dress, you discover an aged, yellowing mess of material in its place. You remember distinctly that the dress had been in good condition when you put it away, so what went wrong?

1. You Wrapped Your Dress in Plastic

Plastic bags work well for traveling. They keep the water off your clothes in bad weather, ensuring that your garments stay dry for your big day.

However, you should never use plastic as a long-term storage solution. Many plastics produce fumes that often lead to yellowing. Even if you choose a safer plastic, the material will keep moisture in just as effectively as it keeps moisture out. Over time, the damp contributes to mold growth and yellowing with wedding dresses.

To keep your dress in great shape, cover it in acid-free tissue paper, place it in an acid-free box, and store it in a dry area. If any moisture soaks through the box after a burst pipe or basement flood, immediately take the dress out and take it to a cleaner to keep mold growth at bay.

2. You Left Your Dress in Sunlight

For a few weeks after your wedding, you kept your dress on display for friends and family members to admire. After a while, you moved your gown to a more discreet location in your bedroom, but you left it on the display mannequin for your own pleasure.

Unfortunately, blinding white fabrics are not a natural color. To achieve that snowy look, manufacturers use white dyes when making their fabrics. When exposed to UV rays, the chemical bonds in fabric dye start to break down and fade, leaving wedding dresses with a yellow, cream, or off-white color.

If you want your dress to last for generations, keep your dress out of direct sunlight, and put it in a back closet or basement. If you prefer to display your dress, ask a professional to construct a protective shadow box and install dim LED lights. Make sure the LED lights do not emit excess heat or UV rays that could damage the material.

3. You Smoked Near Your Dress

Many brides-to-be suffer from stress in the days leading up to their wedding. The life-changing decisions, the constant planning and frustrating family dynamics can make normally relaxed women break down under the pressure. And if you have the habit of smoking, you may have turned to the occasional cigarette to keep you calm.

But smoke has a way of settling into fabrics long after you stamped out the butt. In fact, studies show that chemicals in nicotine can remain on surfaces for days and weeks. These chemicals react with the fibers in wedding dresses, oxidizing the material and leaving yellow or black stains behind.

If you or your family members smoke, or even if you had a kitchen fire in your home, you’ll want to immediately (and regularly) clean your dress to remove harmful particles.

Talk to a Professional About Restoring Your Dress

If your wedding dress turned yellow for any reason, don’t take it to your typical dry cleaner. Average dry cleaners lack the equipment and the experience to handle damaged, delicate materials.

Instead, talk to a specialty restoration cleaner about your gown. A professional restoration cleaner can determine whether or not your dress is salvageable and can use appropriate cleaning techniques to restore the dress.