How To Dye A Wedding Dress

There could be a million and one reasons why you would want to dye your wedding dress, but fear not, it isn’t as difficult as one might think. Dying your dress could be a simple way to stick to a budget, especially if the color you are after is a little out of your price range.

Perhaps the wedding day has been and gone, and you would like to turn the dress into something that looks less bride and more summer dress. The creative possibilities are endless.

These days, most brides wear their dress once and either sell it or leave it hidden at the back of the closet.

How To Dye A Wedding Dress

But as we look at becoming more sustainable, the wedding dress is a good way of not only looking at the bigger picture – the planet – but also as a way to generally repurpose something (that may have cost you a small fortune), and in the process finding a new way to wear it.

Also, if it is for a wedding, who needs to wear white? Stand out in whatever colour you like. 

Right now it may sound quite daunting, but if you follow the method without cutting corners, it should be a simple and rather easy task. Soon you will have a fabulous one-of-a-kind ‘new’ outfit that will feel just as good as it looks.

If you are extra careful, you shouldn’t make a mess, but do keep your surroundings in mind with this one.

What You Will Need

  • Fabric Dye
  • A tub or bucket – big enough for the dress
  • Measuring Cup
  • Teaspoon
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • A material to cover surfaces
  • Rubber gloves
  • Non-porous spoon or stirring stick

Before You Start

Make sure you know exactly what you are planning to do ahead of time. Instead of just buying a pot of fabric dye and hoping for the best, what you will need to do is make a note of the process.

This is so you will not get confused halfway through, and will be able to dye the dress without any hiccups. Don’t worry, it will not be as complicated as you think.

Before you even start dying the dress, take a look at the care label to see what fabric it is. You will need this information to know what fabric dye to use, as each fabric takes to dye differently. Also, weigh your dress. This will be important later, so write it down.

Check The Type of Fabric Used

As stated above, now is the time to check what fabric the dress is. This is really important because it will determine what type of dye you will use. The best thing you can do is research what different dye options are available at the store. Here are the things you are looking for:

If your dress is cotton or linen (think cellulose fibers), then you will be looking at a fiber reactive dye. 

Synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic, polyester and acetate respond best to disperse dye, but because these blends can be different to each other, it is worth researching before you start.

If it is made up of protein fibers like wool, silk, cashmere or angora, an acid dye will be a good choice.

Is It The Correct Fabric Dye?

Firstly, is the original dress white? Good. If it is not, you will need to use a color remover. This usually involves using another product which will take color out from fabric leaving you with a blank canvas to work on. It will take time, so keep this in mind if this is a process you will need to do first.

Think about the color you are aiming for. Is it a deep, saturated colour like a dark blue or red? If so, you will need to use more dye. If you are just dip-dying or wanting to add a light layer of color, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Preparing The Workspace

Before you start, it is best to prepare the workspace ready for any potential mess. Let’s not forget, you are working with products that could easily splash and stain. 

Make sure the room you are doing this process in is a well-ventilated space. Cover anything near to where you are dying the dress with something like plastic sheeting, as to protect any surfaces.

Another handy tip is to have all the things you need with you, and that includes a plastic or stainless steel tub or bucket that is big enough to fit your dress.

Some of you may want to use the bath or sink for this, but it is not recommended if it is ceramic. The reason being is that ceramic is porous, meaning it will absorb the dye, just like the dress, and leave you with stained bathroom units. Not fun! 

Prepping The Dress

You can use the bath for this one, or the item you are going to do the dying process in. Fill it up with warm, soapy water and handwash the dress, making sure there are no stains or grime. This is especially very handy if it hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time. 

Once you are satisfied it is clean, rinse the soapy water off and drain the tub/bucket. Now that step is complete, put your dress to one side and refill the receptacle with hot water. 

Mixing The Dye

After putting on your rubber gloves, take a look at the dye instructions, as it will likely be different per brand. Most of them will use the dry weight of your garment to determine how much to use. For example, it may recommend a powder or liquid amount of dye per three pounds of fabric.

Make sure you stick to the recommended amount. Guessing could cause the dress to not be the color you planned. However, there are times you can break this rule.

A deep saturated color like hot pink will need extra dye if you want the desired effect. So, doubling the amount is a good way to go.

There are two forms of dye to choose from; powder or liquid. For liquid dyes, it is recommended to shake well first, and then add to the hot water along with a teaspoon of dish detergent.

When using a powder, add it to two cups of very hot water so it dissolves, and add that into the tub or bucket along with a teaspoon of dish detergent. The use of dish detergent helps the dye penetrate the fabric better. The way it does this is by reducing surface tension in the water helping chemicals dissolve more easily. 

Swatch Test

Once the dye is mixed, now is the time to do a swatch test. This will help you get the color right and see if anything needs to be changed. 

Find a bit of material on the dress that is hidden away so you can snip a little bit off ready for a swatch. If it went well, then it is onto the next step…

And Now To Dye The Dress

This is the moment you will be anticipating. It is quite normal to feel a little nervous before plunging your white wedding dress into a dye bath! Add the wet dress to the dyed water and stir it slowly, non-stop for around ten minutes to avoid any patches.

From then on, how long it stays in the water depends on the fabric and desired color. The usual amount of time is around an hour. Once you see the dress has reached the color you would like it to be, remove it from the water and drain it away.

To Fixative Or Not To Fixative

At this point you can use a fixative. What this product does is help to extend the life of dye and to prevent bleeding. You will need to refill the tub or bucket with hot water and add the fixative as stated on the label.

It will then mean stirring non-stop for twenty minutes. Sounds like hard work but it is worth it in the end.

Rinse And You Are Done!

Whether you have used a fixative or not, the next step is to rinse the dress under cool water until it runs clear. Afterwards, wash it with a detergent and warm water, and then rinse again. Once it is dry, you are finished. 

So long as you stick to the advice of care labels and the above routine, the outcome should be exactly what you are after. Remember to check the fabric, swatch and enjoy the fabulous new looking dress.