how to dye a wedding dress

I really loved my wedding dress. It was pretty, it was simple, and it was formal enough to match the husband's tux without being a giant terrifying pile of icing. Getting it was incredibly simple: I'd looked at it for weeks online before my mother and I had a chance to get to a David's Bridal. We sat down with the saleslady there, and she asked "What kind of dress are you looking for?"

"Style number WG3313," I said.

Her jaw dropped. "You... know the number?"

So she went to find the dress, came back with the two sizes the store had in stock, and had me try one on. It fit absolutely perfectly, no alterations needed. And Bam! I had a wedding dress!
It was comfortable, pretty, and easy to dance in. Everything I wanted!

But after the wedding was over, the dress no longer had a purpose. I was a little bummed that I only got to wear this awesome dress for one day, so decided to DYE MY WEDDING DRESS. I was inspired by Sherry over at the Young House Love blog, who dyed her wedding dress an awesome gunmetal gray color. I was also aware of the fact that she'd wanted to dye it black; I was prepared before I even began for things not to turn out as I'd expected.

Here is the extent of my experience with dyeing prior to this: once, when I was Prop Master of a play in high school, I dyed a pair of white cotton gloves yellow. Which is to say, I have almost no experience dyeing things. I was originally planning to use Rit dye, just because that was the only brand I knew, but our local art store didn't carry it. I ended up going with iDye, which had the advantage of having colors for both natural and manmade fibers. (Rit is only for natural fibers.) The top layer of my dress is 52% polyester and 48% rayon. Almost all of the other layers were 100% polyester. Rit was probably not going to work. iDye recommends that for blended fabric, one should combine the normal dye with a complementary color of their "poly" dyes. I got Crimson and Red.
Let me point out right now that these are powders. As soon as I opened a packet, tiiiiny invisible particles of red dye disseminated throughout the bathroom, landing in weird places and not showing up until after our next couple showers, when the steam condensed into little tiny drops of PINK all over the surfaces of our bathroom, even the ones I had covered with a layer of catalogue pages for safety.

For polyester, you're supposed to boil the clothes in the dye for 30-60 minutes. My dress was much too big for even our largest stock pot, so instead I boiled loads of water over the stove and poured it into a storage container in our bath tub. I then added the dye, and THEN THE DRESS.
My dress is in there! Eek! Note the gloves (otherwise I'd've had blotchy red hands) and the paint stirrers: You're supposed to agitate (stir) the dress the whole time! I leaned over the bathtub and listened to an episode of This American Life. After 45 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore, so next came the final, and for me, the hardest step: rinsing the dress. You rinse the dress over and over in cold water until the water runs clear. This. Took. FOREVER. That dress held a lot of dye, let me tell you. Then I put the dress on the fire escape to dry.

While it dried I scrubbed and scrubbed the bathtub, because it had turned hideously pink.

But then, by dinner time, it was dry. AND LOOK:

The light looks dim in this one, but the color of the dress is very close to what it is in real life.

I love it! Mind you, I had expected a crimson/red dress, and this is sorta mauve with cherry red accents. And the dress was "Dry Clean Only," which all sources say not to dye... and definitely not to soak in boiling water. As a result, the heat shrunk the cloth on either side of the zipper, so the bodice shrunk by about about 1/2 an inch... which sounds negligible, except the dress had fit me PERFECTLY before. I had to wear it around the house for a couple hours breathing really deeply to stretch it back out. But it fits fine now, and above all, I think it looks great!

The color looks a little washed out from the flash in this one, but you can see the sash better. And if you look at the bottom right hem, you can see that the layer of crinoline turned cherry red!
Now I just need an occasion to wear a puffy pink dress.


Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Great post! We're going to tweet it at @VeganWeddings - Are you on Twitter? (P.S. Our blog manager is a Sarah P in Boston too!)

blessedmama said... Best Blogger Tips

Just found your blog. So great! Congrats on the wedding - you look so happy. I love your creativity, wow, dyeing your wedding dress! That's a big step! But, it turned out great. My dress was very traditional, so no matter how hard I would have looked, I don't think I could have found an occasion to wear my version in such a pretty crimson as yours. Ah, it's vacuum sealed forever now.

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

@Rose Pedals/VeganWeddings: I'm psyched you'll be tweeting about it! I don't have a twitter handle, thanks for asking. I do have a few other wedding related posts from this month--on DIYing invitations, mason-jar centerpieces, and all-vegan wedding food.

@blessedmama: Thanks! It definitely helped that my dress wasn't super traditional, because that makes it look less like a wedding dress once it's dyed. But the nice thing about preserving a dress, like you did, is that you can hand it down--maybe you can pass it on to one of your daughters when she gets married!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

We saw those other posts and loved them (maybe even tweeted them at the time). And check it out - Your story got picked up by this paper by our tweet! http://paper.li/contravento/1288352414

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

Sweet, thank you! (Also, Sarah Ps in Boston are the best!)

sara said... Best Blogger Tips

i love that you had your dress all picked out and told them the number. you were probably their easiest customer ever! it looks beautiful -- both before and after the dye :)

bestpmchennai said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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Kittee Bee Berns said... Best Blogger Tips

i LOVE how your dress came out. i got married in a cotillion dress we dyed crimson FOR the ceremony. so much fun!

Natalie Z. Eagan said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you so much for posting this! I got married (almost a year ago) in my mom's wedding dress, which I had remade into something more my-style. I'm happy it got twice as much use as most wedding dresses, but why stop there?! After reading Sherry's post, I had a feeling the rit wouldn't work on mine either, so I'm excited that I decided to google dress dying one more time. Can't wait to try!

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

@Natalie, have you tried it yet?! Let me know how it goes!

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Terrance Siler said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my, doesn't seem like it was white before! Looks too original! Maybe I can save doing some stuff like this for the bridesmaids, same as what I saw on some long island bridal shops.

Bonnie said... Best Blogger Tips

I just dyed my wedding dress use iDye, and I'm so happy with how it turned out!


Dorie Kong said... Best Blogger Tips

Wedding is such a very special moments in everyone life. Thanks for shearing information about Design Your Own Wedding Dress Online

Stacey Adams said... Best Blogger Tips

I was trying to figure out if my dress would look good if I dyed it. Then I came to this page. I have this exact same dress!!! I'm so very happy I came to this website! Now I know my dress will look cute! Thanks!

Andrea W said... Best Blogger Tips

I love it! I'm looking to find a thrifted wedding dress to dye and recreate for a Halloween costume (Effie. Trinket style). Your dress turned out beautiful and the color really brings out the overlay which I didn't even see before when it was white.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I've been thinking of dying my dress since the day after my wedding, I loved it so much. Which is why I was so happy to stumble onto this blog. An even happier coincidence? That's my wedding dress! So glad yours turned out so beautifully, I can't wait to do mine!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I bought the exact same dress! Your dye job looks awesome. =)

Mine is just sitting in a bag in the basement, perhaps a dye job is in its future. ;)

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