• Lisa

Can I Dye My Wedding Dress?

I am asked this a lot, and lately more so. Maybe everyone is bored and looking for DIY projects. So, yes you can dye your wedding dress, but you might not like the results. Let's explore.

Traditional wedding dresses (gowns) can be intricately constructed and made from a variety of fabrics. They are not preshrunk. You can't just throw them in the washing machine. To dye any clothing correctly it has be immersed in water, and at least stirred around a bit.

Before going any further here are the basics on dyes. There are three basic fiber groups: plant fibers (cotton, linen, etc.), animal fibers (silk, wool, etc.) and synthetic fibers (polyester, spandex, etc.). There are individual dyes developed to work very well with each of these groups. Then there are union dyes. These are the dyes you can buy at Target, Walmart, or the craft store. Union dyes are a combination of varied dyes that work reasonably well on a wide range of of fibers (fabrics). But they are not very colorfast. That means colors fade and run easily. Union dyes work best in boiling water. Not great for your wedding dress.

I'm boring you, so let's look at dresses. The lovely bride on the top is wearing a simple lace gown with minimal construction. Can we dye it? No! It is so fitted it looks like she was stitched into it. It can't stand to shrink a millimeter. Then there's the lace which is usually a combination of fibers. This might be rayon, nylon, and spandex. They will all dye differently, as will the lining. Not so pretty.

The next bride is also wearing a simple (maybe silk chiffon) dress with lace detail on the bodice and hem. The skirt might dye just fine, but the bodice is very fitted, with a corset/bra like structure underneath, so it can support the cut out back. You don't want to put this gown in the washing machine or boiling dye pot.

This dress on the bottom has the best chance of surviving the dye pot. It's not tightly fitted, and doesn't look to have any detailed structural construction. But we don't know what the fiber content is. More than likely it won't dye evenly. I forgot to mention thread, buttons, the tie on the bodice and all the little notions that are part of this dress (and the other dresses). They also have to be compatible with the dye.

Factories have the equipment to dip-dye entire gowns. But I doubt most people have a 6' vat at home with overhead rails and pulleys to lower and raise the dress in and out of the vat. YouTube has DIY dip-dying videos. You can also airbrush your wedding gown. Or, how about painting it with fabric paint? Be adventurous! You could be very happy with the outcome. But don't ask me to dye it for you.

Good luck,


June 1, 2020

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