Can Wedding Dresses Be Dyed?

There are plenty of reasons you might want to dye a wedding dress. Maybe you’re feeling a creative spark, or trying to stretch the budget on your special day, or aiming for a specific colour you’ve not seen on the market. Or maybe you’ve already celebrated your wedding and are looking for a unique way to update your dress so you can wear it again without everyone automatically thinking bride.

Regardless of your motivations, dyeing your wedding gown isn’t nearly as intimidating as it might sound. As long as you arm yourself with the right materials, are methodical during the process, and don’t cut any corners, it’s well within your reach to create a stunning, one-of-a-kind gown that will leave you swimming in compliments. 

Savvy Things to Do with Your Wedding Dress After the Big Day

Preserve It

Chances are, even if you had a tight budget for your wedding, you splurged on the dress—it may even be the single most expensive piece of clothing in your closet. If it doesn’t have monetary value, its worth could be sentimental—not only did you get married in it, maybe it’s the dress your mother or your grandmother wore. Luckily, there are several ways to preserve your dress, so it stays like it was the moment you walked down the aisle.

Preserving your dress may sound like a hassle, but many companies have preservation kits where you send out your dress, and it’s returned to you clean, preserved, and packaged in an archival box. Having your dress professionally cleaned is very important to maintaining the integrity of the dress. Stains, even if they’re not visible at the time, can discolour and damage the fabric. A professional preservationist will either gently hand wash or dry clean the dress to remove all those unwanted stains.

If you’d rather save preservation for another day, professionals say to store the dress by wrapping it in unbleached, pre-washed muslin and keeping it in a sealed box.

Make Jewelry with It 

Maybe you don’t want to keep the whole dress, but there are some nice details you’d like to keep as mementos—maybe a patch of lace, some fancy beadwork, or sparkly gems. If that’s the case, then you should consider making those parts of your dress into jewellery. Past brides have made necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and headbands with small sections of their dresses. The best part about only using a small portion of the gown is that you may still be able to resell, donate, or repurpose it for further use.

Convert It Into a Special Occasion Dress

OK, so you don’t plan on using your wedding dress again, but if you have a beautiful, high-quality dress, then why not put that material to use? This is why a lot of former brides choose to refashion their dresses into skirts, shirts, cocktail dresses—you name it. This is a chance to be creative, fashionable, and thrifty with your amazing gown.

First, come up with a design you like and decide what parts of the dress you want to keep and what alterations you’ll need to make, then take it to a seamstress. You can shorten it, cut off sleeves, take out some of the heavy fabric—but don’t forget to use every part of the dress. That extra hemline can be upcycled into a stylish clutch. That petticoat will make a great tulle skirt. And the extra lace can be used to make jewellery or accessories.

Whatever you do with your dress, you’re sure to have a one-of-a-kind look for date night.

Dye It

If you love the cut and fit of your dress the way it is, but you want to switch up the look, then try dyeing your wedding dress. All you have to do is get a trustworthy fabric dye, such as Dylon or RIT, and get to work. You’re going to need a bucket of water and a lot of patience, but it’ll definitely be worth it in the end. You can soak the whole thing or dip dye the dress to get an ombré effect. You’ll end up with the same beautiful gown but with a pop of colour.

Donate It 

Maybe you’re not into keeping stuff you don’t use or just don’t have the storage space, but whatever the reason, there are plenty of brides in need if you’re willing to donate your beautiful dress. Instead of just dropping your dress off at the local thrift store, consider donating it to a worthy cause.

Ombre design

If you want to follow in the footsteps of Gwen Stefani (maybe not opting for a completely hot pink gown), ombre is a recent trend for bridal gowns. However, it’s best left to the experts as you need to be careful on the dyes used… you don’t want your beautiful dress to become a crumpled mess.

If you’re looking to include a bright colour on your wedding dress, the most effective looks are those that just have a little colour on the very bottom. It really makes the dress look striking (and is a great way to stop the bottom of your dress from getting dirty!).

Tie-dye effects

Tie-dye wedding gowns are also becoming trendier at the moment. It’s a great way to incorporate your wedding theme into your outfit and a real twist on the traditional white wedding. If you’re a particularly artistic type, it means that you can add a hint of your personality to your big day too. If you’re going for a tie-dye, this doesn’t mean you have to colour the entire dress. Even just tie-dying the bottom half of the dress would look stunning.

Boho vibe

If your wedding is centred around a boho theme, a dip-dyed wedding dress would be the perfect match. It’s the ideal way to personalise a budget-friendly dress, making it look even more glamorous. 

Don’t forget the veil.

Whilst all the attention should be on your stunning dress, if you’re adding a splash of pink or purple to the bottom of your wedding dress, don’t forget to add a hint of this to your veil too. Think about your whole outfit as one – you could also add some of the colours subtly into your hairstyle with some pretty flowers.

How to Dye a Wedding Dress

It’s also possible to complete this DIY project without completely destroying your workspace, so take a deep breath and read on for everything you need to know about how to dye your wedding dress.

MATERIALS

  • Fabric dye 
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Salt or white vinegar, depending on your fabric type
  • Measuring cup and a teaspoon
  • Non-porous spoon or stirring stick
  • Plastic cover to protect surfaces
  • Rubber gloves and protective eyewear
  • Fixative (optional, but recommended)
  1. Practice on a scrap piece of fabric, as close to the fabric of the dress as possible. Practising first gives you an idea of how the fabric reacts to the dye. You can gain insight into the timing and the amount of dye needed to achieve the colour that you want.
  2. Pick a dye that works with the fabric of your dress. Wedding dresses are often made from delicate fabrics, and many are dry clean only. It is crucial that you use a dye that is least likely to harm the fabric of your wedding dress. For example, a dye like Procion works with silk charmeuse, while RIT dye is not recommended for dry clean only fabrics.
  3. Fill a large container or bucket with hot water from the bathtub. You can also use your sink, but dye can harm some finishes and using a disposable container or one that you do not need to worry about will make it easier on you.
  4. Add calsolene oil. The calsolene oil helps create even dyeing. Use one-half of a teaspoon per gallon of water.
  5. Add the dye to the water. Use your previous findings, in Step One — or the directions, as a guide. Stir the dye mixture using the wooden paint stick.
  6. Stir in vinegar and salt. The vinegar acts as a safe fixer for silk. It helps the Procion dye — and other fibre-reactive dyes — permanently bond with the fabric. You can also use baking soda as a fixer for silk, while soda ash is used on many other types of fabric. Use one ounce of fixer per gallon of water. Salt supports the dyeing process by helping the dye stick to the fabric. Add one cup of salt to every gallon of water.
  7. Dip the dress into the dye, up to the point where you want the colour to begin. The gradated effect from dip-dyeing usually goes from light to dark. Leave the fabric in the dye for a few minutes. Once the colour starts to change, gradually lift out an inch or two of the dress every couple of minutes. If you want a more obvious contrast in colour — take out bigger sections of the dress — every five minutes. You can also add a stronger dye solution to the water each time you remove a portion of the dress in order to further enhance the colour.
  8. Rinse the wedding dress in cold water. After you pull the hem of the dress out of the dye mixture, rinse the dress under cold water until it runs clear.
  9. Wash the dress in warm water. After washing, hang the dress and let it dry.

Our Top 5 Tips for Home Dyeing projects:

  • -Prepare properly before you begin. You should wear gloves. You should wear old clothes and possibly an apron. It can only take a second for you to dye your skin, carpet or clothes, so you need to plan out every step of the process before you begin.
  • -Keep your spirit of adventure! As you can see, the thread in the upper bodice of my dress did not dye but remained white. Also, the lace trim along the bust is a slightly different purple than the rest of the dress. These “imperfections” are what make home dyeing projects fun—but only if you don’t go into the project with too high of expectations.
  • -Use cheap buckets or stainless steel to dye and rinse garments. You could also do the rinsing outdoors with a hose. Do not use your bathtub or porcelain sink as it will probably stain. My kitchen sink is stainless steel, so it was ideal for this project, but I was sure to remove all dishes before the project, and I cleaned the sink after. You don’t want to eat dye. Gross.
  • -Rinse the garment as thoroughly as you can, but the first time you wash it, do so with other dark clothes or wash it by hand separately. As I learned from my sock test, even a thoroughly rinsed dyed garment would probably bleed the first time it’s washed.
  • -Check your dye package for any allergy information. Most stores bought dyes contain chemicals that you (or your loved ones) could be allergic to. In general, they are perfectly safe, but it’s best to double-check before beginning a project.

How long does this take?

Our transformations take about 5-6 weeks to complete once we have the gown. Sometimes if it is just a simple dye or shortening of the dress, it can take less time, but please allow at least 8 weeks before you need it to allow for transport, etc.

What are the risks of dying?

Your gown WILL look different – meaning that it won’t be EXACTLY the same as before, but in another color. Once submerged in water and dye, most materials take on a slight textural change – Organzas get softer and more wrinkly, bodices can often develop ripples in a previously smooth surface, and chiffons are prone to streaking in color. These are just a few examples. If you have had dry-cleaning done, this can also impact the outcome.

How much does Dying my gown cost?   

Dying of the gown starts at $300 for basic whole garment dye and can go up depending on material content or any complex/customized dye requests. Individual separates start at $150 for tops and $265 for skirts. 

How much does it cost to make it into separate pieces?

Making your gown into separates starts at $250 and can go up depending on complexity. In some cases, we may advise against it if we do not think it will work structurally. 

What kind of dyes do you use?

It depends – if your gown has a mixture of different material components, we recommend an all-purpose non-toxic dye. We do have plant-derived pigments available in limited shades for an additional cost. In some custom-dye work, we will use silk paint. 

Whilst we wouldn’t advise dying a designer wedding dress (unless you have a substantial budget in case the dying process goes wrong!), there are many ways that you can incorporate colour within your dress. We always advise that you get an expert to add colour to your dress to ensure the dye is spread evenly.

Don’t forget to take into consideration the venue too, and those all-important wedding photos. You need to make sure the colour of your wedding dress will be brought out in front of the stunning venue backdrop.

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