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. 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.
What exactly is a dye lot?
First things first: A vocabulary lesson! “A dye lot is a record indicating a fabric or trim was dyed or colored in the same dye vat (a large tank or tub),” says Janine Diaz, fabric coordinator for Jenny Yoo.
Adds Grace Lee, founder and CEO of Birdy Grey, “Most fabrics used for bridesmaid dresses (such as polyester chiffon, tulle or mesh) are spun in a neutral ‘greige’ color. 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 is assigned a unique code called a "dye lot." The code, oftentimes numeric, is used to identify the batch that it came from. Every batch is assigned a different dye lot code.”
How do dye lots impact bridesmaids dresses?
“Bridesmaid dresses are made for group dressing, so dye lots matter if a bride wants her girls to be super matchy-matchy. (After all, no one wants one of her girls to stick out while standing at the altar!)” says Lee. “Even if a bride opts for mix & match silhouettes, the expectation is that the color of the dresses should be identical. However, the amount of water, temperature and dye-time can affect the coloring - even if the same formulation is used - resulting in inconsistencies between lots.
Most of the time, the variances are minimal (maybe 5%?)... but I've also seen dramatic differences between lots.”
In some cases, though, dye lots can matter a lot. “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.
Does getting dresses from the same dye lot actually matter?
It all depends on where you’re getting your dresses. Some designers and retailers emphasize the importance of dye lots to help a bride get that perfectly matched look, while others are working to make it a non-issue as much as possible.
“Getting dresses from the same dye lot does matter, especially because we at Jenny Yoo can go through several dye lots in a year for some of our fabrics and colors,” says Diaz. “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.”
“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.”
Why might getting dresses from the same dye lot matter?
It’s all about the look. “Colors are interpreted by people differently, and they can change under natural sunlight, incandescent and fluorescent lights, and even candlelight,” says Diaz. “Dresses from multiple dye lots may read differently in certain lighting conditions, even if they appear identical in others. But if your dresses are in the same dye lot, these lighting variances won’t affect you.”
Are there certain colors that are more impacted by dye lots?
Worried about dye lots?
Opt for a more saturated color over a pretty pastel. “Neutrals and greys are more difficult to keep consistent because they are the combination of many different hues,” says Arruda of David’s Bridal. “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 than others? For example, is chiffon, tulle, lace, or another fabric more likely to show color differences?
“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 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 more pale, 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, or will a pattern not have noticeably different colors even if the fabric is from a different lot?
“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. Adds Coleman of Azazie, “Patterned fabrics are susceptible to essentially the same problem, as they go through a dying process as well.
However, the pattern itself might be distracting enough that people won't notice the color variance as much.”
What advice would you offer brides who are concerned about dye lots? How can they help their bridesmaids both find affordable dresses and ensure dresses match?
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.”
Lee also emphasizes 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.”
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.”
And of course you can nix the issue all together 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!”