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 color 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.
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.
- Fabric dye
- Dishwashing liquid
- Salt or white vinegar, depending on your fabric type
- Measuring cup and teaspoon
- Non-porous spoon or stirring stick
- Plastic cover to protect surfaces
- Rubber gloves and protective eyewear
- Fixative (optional, but recommended)
Decide What You Want to Do
Determining the direction of your project early on is crucial, as not all dyes are created equal. If you’re aiming for a deep, dark color like an inky black or royal blue, that’s a different process than adding a wash of color to a white dress or doing a dip-dye. Bottom line: the more saturated the color you’re aiming for, the more dye you’ll need to use.
The base color of your garment will also come into play; if your wedding dress isn’t white, you’ll likely want to use a color remover first.
Check Your Fabric Type
Check your garment’s care label to determine what type of fabric it is, as each takes the dye differently. Also, weigh your dress, as you’ll need that information later.
If your fabric has cellulose fibers, like those found in cotton, linen, or rayon, you’ll have the best luck with a fiber reactive dye.
Materials like silk, wool, angora, and cashmere are made up of protein fibers, which will typically respond best to an acid dye.
For synthetic fibers and blends like polyester, nylon, acrylic, and acetate, many will react best with a disperse dye, but it varies from synthetic to synthetic, so be sure to do your research beforehand.
Set Up Your Workspace
Assemble your materials and lay down a plastic cover to protect your surfaces. If you have access to a washing machine that’s available for this project (read: owned by you and not a laundromat or your landlord), that’s one way to tackle this project. But for the purposes of this post, we’ll be walking you through the sink or bucket method.
Look for a well-ventilated area and a stainless steel sink or large plastic container like a bucket or a storage bin. Just as long as it’s large enough to contain your dress and is not — I repeat is not — a ceramic sink or bathtub. Ceramic is extremely porous, so it will absorb the dye almost as successfully as your dress does, and you will be very sad.
Pre-wash Your Dress
Using warm, soapy water, give your dress a good suds to remove any stains or finishes on the garment. Once it’s clean and well-rinsed, drain the soapy water and refill your receptacle with enough hot water for your dress to swirl around freely in — but leave your dress out of the bath for now.
Mix Your Dye
Put on your rubber gloves and mix up your dye according to the instructions on the label, using the dry weight of the garment to determine proportions. (For all-purpose dyes, Rit recommends one liquid bottle or two powder packages per two-ish pounds of fabric.)
If you want a wash of color, stick to the suggested ratio, but if you’re looking for an ultra saturated shade like a deep magenta or an emerald green, for example, you can double it.
For liquid dyes, shake well and add to your dye bath along with a teaspoon of soap. If using a powder, dissolve in around two cups of very hot water and do the same. For enhanced color, you can also add a cup of salt for fabrics featuring cotton, rayon, ramie, or linen, or a little over ¾ cup of white vinegar for fabrics containing nylon, silk, or wool.
Test a Swatch
Look for a piece of the fabric to test your dye on before committing to the whole dress — check near any seams on the inside to see if there’s an out-of-sight area that could be snipped out to serve as a swatch.
Go for it
Add your wet garment to the dye bath and stir slowly and continuously for ten minutes to avoid splotching. The exact amount of time your dress should remain in the liquid beyond that point depends on the fabric, but an hour is just about the maximum. Once your dress hits the desired color, remove it from the bath and drain the container.
Consider a Fixative
At this point, you have the option of using a fixative, which extends the life of the color and prevents bleeding. If you aren’t opting for a fixative, skip ahead.
Refill your sink or bucket with hot water and add your fixative in the indicated ratios — Rit recommends four ounces of fixative and three gallons of water for every pound of fabric. Again, stir slowly and continuously, this time for twenty minutes.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse in cool water until it runs clean, and wash with mild detergent and warm water, then rinse your dress again and hang to dry.
And that’s it! Less than ten steps later, you’re the proud owner of a unique, beautifully dyed wedding dress that you could never find in stores, for just the cost of the dye and fixatives.