Your wedding gown will be preserved in photos for years to come. No one wants to open their beloved wedding album to the sound of laughter from future generations. If you pick a dress with truly timeless appeal, however, your daughters and granddaughters will not only admire your style–they’ll be begging to borrow the gown when their own big days come.

How do you create a fashion heirloom that will endure for generations? If you dream of passing on your wedding gown, you’ll need to choose a classic fashion that will stand the test of time.

Stay Simple

Wedding dresses are like kitchen appliances; the more features they have, the more ways things can go wrong. Simple gowns stay classics for a reason: a basic white dress flatters everybody.

Avoid too much ornamentation. Features like beading, lace, colored trim, embroidery, and artificial flowers may look great as part of this year’s hottest trends, but the most eye-catching details are also the ones that go out of fashion the quickest.

The best part about a simple wedding dress is that it allows its wearer to accessorize in her own, personal way. She can wear the dress with pearls, gloves, and old-fashioned pumps, or she can spice it up with a vivid red sash, bright lipstick, and peacock feathers. The same dress can have a completely new look with each bride, giving it a truly universal appeal.

Flatter Every Body

Just because you happen to look improbably great in a sequined, body-hugging, mermaid cut gown, it doesn’t guarantee that the future women in your family will. Do everyone a favor and choose a gown with a style that flatters a wide variety of body types. While gowns can be altered and sized to fit down the road, you can make the seamstress’s job easier by picking a universally flattering gown to begin with.

Look for A-line dresses, which do wonderful things for every body type. Steer clear of dresses that are too short or too long. Anywhere from an ankle- to a calf-length hem will give the bride room to move freely while remaining modest and graceful. Keep necklines simple and not overly revealing. Scoop necks and V-necks that don’t plunge too deeply are flattering on most builds, and both types of necklines work well with sleeves and straps. Avoid both strapless dresses and dresses with ornate, long sleeves. A dress with simple, wide straps or short sleeves is a timeless look because it works well with nearly every body type; it's guaranteed to flatter not only you, but your daughter or daughter-in-law, too.

Beat the Weather

A truly timeless dress can be worn in any season. Steer away from fabrics that are too heavy, since it’s easier to add layers than to remove them. A light, breathable wedding dress can be worn alone for a springtime or summer ceremony, or it can be worn with a jacket, scarf, stole, or shawl for an autumn or winter ceremony.

Wear White

While it’s true that vividly-colored wedding dresses are making a comeback (white didn’t emerge as a popular wedding gown color until the 1840s), only time will tell if crimson, emerald, and violet wedding gowns become the new standard. In the meantime, it’s best to stick with tried-and-true white bridal dresses if you want to ensure that future generations want to walk in your shoes. Even if other colors join the wedding fashion lexicon, it’s unlikely that white gowns will go out of style. (And, if nothing else, at least white dresses are the most easily dyeable!)

Preserve Your Dress

The single most important factor in whether or not your wedding dress can be passed on to future generations is whether the dress is in good shape. Never simply hang your dress in a closet, as the weight of the dress on the hanger can warp and stretch the material. You can have your gown professionally preserved by companies that specialize exclusively in dress preservation. Simply wrap and ship your gown, or drop it off at a participating retail store, and the company will keep your dress flawless and safe until you request it again.

You can also keep your dress safe in your own home by dry cleaning and vacuum sealing it or storing it in a box with acid-free tissue. Make sure to take your dress to a dry cleaner as soon as possible after the wedding reception, so stains don’t have a chance to set. When you get your dress back from the dry cleaner’s, unfold it to make sure you’ve picked up the same dress you dropped off. Although mistakes are rare, there are instances of mix-ups that aren’t discovered until it’s time for a daughter’s or granddaughter’s wedding.

Look Flawless Forever

When you choose a timeless look, you’ll ensure that your wedding album looks flawless for the rest of your life. But you’ll be doing a favor for more than just yourself. You’ll also be doing a favor for the future women in your family. They’ll look every bit as resplendent as you do in a dress that just keeps on giving. Why not be remembered as the woman who started a family tradition of excellent fashion?

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