If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid and shopped for a bridesmaid dress at a salon, you’ve heard chatter about dye lots—and what you’ve heard has probably varied a lot. “Most fabrics used for bridesmaid dresses (such as polyester chiffon, tulle, or mesh) are spun in a neutral ‘greige’ color,” says Grace Lee, founder and CEO of Birdy Grey. “The bulk fabric is then dyed in large batches (we're talking hundreds of yards at a time!) according to a specific color formulation. The vat that the fabric is dyed in is assigned a unique code called a dye lot.”
What Is a Dye Lot?
A dye lot is a record or code indicating what dye vat a fabric or trim was colored in. The code, oftentimes numeric, is used to identify the batch that it came from, and every batch is assigned a different dye lot code.
Some salons insist it’s the only way to ensure those colored frocks match perfectly. Some brides care and will insist that their bridesmaids all order their dresses at the same time and through the same salon. And some might just choose a dress and a color, then let you shop around to find your size and a price that makes you comfortable (hello, resale sites and sample sales!).
So the question is, do dye lots really matter, and is it something brides need to add to their list of things to worry about? We spoke to experts from some of the top bridesmaid dress companies to get the low-down on dye lots and the steps you can take to ensure a beautifully coordinated bridal party.
Why Dye Lots Matter
“Since bridesmaids need to take group photos and stand near one another during a wedding ceremony, it is definitely noticeable when two people standing next to one another got dresses from significantly different dye lots and have a different shade of the same color dress on,” says Ranu Coleman, chief marketing officer at Azazie.
Most designers go through multiple dye lots a year for certain fabrics and colors. “If an exact color match is what you want for your bridal party, it is very important to have dresses cut in the same dye lot (on the same order), however small the color differences in color may be," says Janine Diaz, fabric coordinator for Jenny Yoo.
Some larger brands have systems in place to ensure all bridesmaid dresses are the same color, regardless of when or where they're ordered. “David’s Bridal has a proprietary color creation process at our Color Center, which has been in place for over 15 years,” says Paula Arruda, director of production at David’s Bridal. “That means bridesmaids can order dresses at different times and in different locations across the country without worrying if the colors will match—because our color experts are overseeing color creation and ensuring color—matching from start to finish. It gives our brides and their bridal party more flexibility and helps reduce stress in the process.”
Dye Lot FAQs
Our experts answer the most frequently asked questions about dye lots for bridesmaid dresses.
Are there certain colors that are more impacted by dye lots?
“Neutrals and grays are more difficult to keep consistent because they are the combination of many different hues,” says Arruda. “Any small change in the recipe or dying process can be very noticeable.” And Lee agrees. “Lighter, dustier shades, such as pale pinks, roses, or mauves, are definitely more difficult to shade match than darker hues, such as burgundy, emerald, or navy,” she says.
Are some fabrics more susceptible to differences in dye lots?
“Fragile textures like chiffon or tulle do not necessarily affect color,” says Arruda. “Laces, however, can be a bit more difficult because sometimes they are a blend of different fiber types, such as rayon and polyester, which requires different types of dyes to be used at the same time in the same bath. At the David’s Bridal Color Center, we get trials of each color in the fabrications that they come in to ensure the colors match across silk, lace, organza, meshes, chiffons, etc.”
When in doubt, choose a light fabric instead of one that’s soft and opaque.
“Generally, the more opaque the fabric, the easier it is to see a color difference. Airy tulle dresses may not be as obvious in color difference. Solid crepes, on the other hand, are flat and opaque, so dye lots are more noticeable,” says Diaz. “If several chiffon dresses were cut in different dye lots, you may not see the shading differences in the skirt, but it could be noticeable when the fabric pools at your feet.”
Matching colors between fabrics can also be a challenge “Different fabrics pick the same color formulations differently,” says Lee. “For example, if we used the exact same blush pink formulation on chiffon and mesh, chiffon will render paler, and mesh will appear more vibrant. There's definitely an art to shade-matching between fabrics!”
Is there a similar concept that applies to patterned fabrics?
“Our prints are controlled for color in the same way as solids, although they tend to be more forgiving. This is due to the fact that patterns often can distract the eye from specific color matching, and instead, the eye is fixated on the design and placement of the pattern,” Arruda explains.
Dye Lot Tips
In the market for matching dresses, but hoping to help your bridesmaids out with cost and availability? “Leniency between color shading really depends on the bride and her party,” Diaz says. “Although we do recommend parties to order their dresses all at once, if the members of the party need to order separately, we suggest ordering all dresses from the same designer and their certified retailers, so that knockoffs—and off dye lots—are better avoided.”
Look for quality control
“For a matching bridal party, ensure you’re purchasing dresses from a brand that prioritizes quality control. (For example, if one of Birdy Grey’s dye lots are off, our QC team rejects the fabric, and it won't see the light of day.) If it's the photos you're concerned about, most photographers apply filters or presets to their images, masking the look of slight color inconsistencies.”
Stick with bridesmaid dress companies
And Coleman urges brides to stick with bridesmaid dress companies, even if they’re going the more affordable route. “Even at a lower price-point, we at Azazie still specialize in custom-made dresses and understand the dying and matching process. Fast-fashion companies are entering the bridal space, but they may not be equipped with the process to deal with matching across dye lots.”
Go for mix-and-match looks instead
Of course, you can nix the issue altogether with a mix-and-match bridal party! “We are a big fan of this look, and we cater to it by creating styles, fabrics, and colors that can be easily blended together to make a cohesive bridal party look, without the worry of dye lot variances,” says Diaz. Adds Lee, “It’s rare that we see a bride go for full-on matchy-matchy these days. Instead, they’re opting for a mixed palette of colors and silhouettes, creating fresh color combinations and allowing bridesmaids to choose a color they find flattering!”