We received many an email requesting a little dress dyeing tutorial after I mentioned my wedding dress presto-change-o for this gorgeous wedding.
So without further ado, here’s how my very own wedding dress went from “I do” to “party on” in six easy steps:
Step 1- Purchase two bottles of liquid RIT dye in black (I had intentions of taking my dress from white to black). Doubling the content of dye will help a very light item of clothing turn darker in the dyeing process.
Step 2- Fill the sink with enough HOT AS YOU CAN GET IT water for the garment to move around freely. Then add two bottles of RIT liquid dye (without adding the garment just yet) and stir the water and dye mixture thoroughly.
Step 3- Note that the label of my dress says “dry clean only” and that the bottle of RIT clearly says “not for use on dry clean only fabrics”. Think about how I’ll probably never wear my dress again if it remains white and how I called countless local dress dyers (everyone turned me down saying it was “too risky”). Then think about how amazing it would be if this actually worked. Say a tiny prayer (or five) and wet the dress with HOT water before tossing it into the dye filled sink.
Step 4- Freak out a little but press on. Stir constantly (up and down, back and forth) for 25 minutes (you want the water to be piping hot when you start because it works best if the fabric remains in hot water so the hotter it is to start, the longer you can stir the garment in the dye bath and the longer it will soak up color).
Step 5- Remove item after 25 minutes of thorough stirring and rinse with warm water that gradually gets colder and colder (to seal in the color). Keep rinsing in ice cold water until the water runs clear. Then hang dress up to air dry (I hung mine in the sunroom with bucket underneath to catch any errant drips) after saying a few more prayers.
Step 6- Thoroughly clean sink to remove all traces of dye (this was actually more stressful than dyeing the dress as dye got everywhere and I was nervous about our stainless sink and our granite countertops but they all came clean with some good ol’ soapy scrubbing).
Sure my dress ended up a pretty gunmetal-pewter color thanks to the metallic threads that ran through the satin, and not black as I originally planned. Here it is from the back:
And sure as my dress dried in the sunroom it looked totally ruined (and not at all consistent in color). But once it was dry, the color was locked in (no black dye bleeding into my skin as I worried) and for $12 of dye I turned my once-in-a-lifetime gown into a cocktail dress that I can wear time and time again (and believe me, I’ll wear it as long as I can squeeze into it!).
I realize that this entire process could just as easily ended in disaster, so I guess the lesson is to only dye something that you might never wear again and remember to stir stir stir and use hot hot hot water. For other dyeing methods, click here to learn alternate ways to get a hopefully fabulous result. It’s like Russian Roulette, I tell ya…
Hey I just dyed two white cotton tops I had, a white thermal top and a cream tank with a ruffly front from J Crew. I used the iDye packets you used for your chair covers… and same thing, I wanted to go black. HA! Three washing machine dye attempts later, I ended up with the same kind of purpley-grey instead of black. Ah well, it’s nice and unlike any other color I have in my closet, and happily, it’s not white :) I guess going from white to black is really hard to do.
Haha- too funny!
it’s pretty, but i don’t think i would ever be able to alter my wedding dress
Tia Sparkles Singh says
JUST found your blog about an hour ago and am still here reading away. You guys kick ass :) And that dress looks amazing in the colour it is now! I’ll be back xo Tia
I have dyed many a garment, and i’ve had the best luck by putting it in the washing machine on hot. It’s SUPER simple that way. After that I just run another load of nothing so it’s all clean, and BAM! Done! :)
Hi ladies! I too stumbled upon this thread hoping to dye polyester. I did find some dye that works well on polyester: http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/5590684-AA.shtml
Hope this helps, and good luck!
Thanks for sharing Liz!
Just stumbled across your blog (which I love as a semi-experienced DIYer flipping my first house). I have a very ironic yet similar dress story. My uncle/godfather also got married on 7/7/07. The theme of the wedding was 40 Shades of Green after the Irish saying. As a family member, I was asked to wear a shade of green to the wedding.
I was elated to hear the news as green is my favorite color, and then not so elated when after multiple shopping trips and online browsing, I couldn’t find a single dress that made the cut. Shopping for a dress when you’re 5’1″ and built like a 12 yr old boy is hard enough without the color requirement! Green had been “trendy” the year before, and it seemed I was out of luck.
Less than a week before the wedding, I happened to walk into Express and found ONE dress in the store that not only loved, but it was on clearance, AND in my size. One small problem, it was white. Major wedding no, no. Being my usual MacGyver self, I decided it was worth the risk of attempting to dye it green and bought it anyway. The dress was a simple plunge neck halter with a twist at an empire waist and was a rayon/jersey knit. I bought 2 boxes of RIT (the green they had was little too bright and cartoony by itself, so I bought gray also) and started mixing up a color. I ended up with about a 2:1 ratio of green to gray dye and hoped for the best. Well, the dress came out a gorgeous pale green. I was ecstatic! I had a unique dress for the outdoor wedding on that gorgeous day, and almost 5 years later, I still love it. Glad to see you had luck doing the same with a dress from that very same day. I love the pewter/gunmetal tone yours ended up with.
A shot of my dress I found on an old photobucket account…
(sun washes out the green a bit)
So pretty! I love it!
Lisa Lamb says
This looks amazing.. love how it looks kind of glimmery!
I’ve dyed lots of black black clothing to extend the life of the garment- but I always did the washing machine method. Worked great – not sure if things bled later though because I always wash my black clothes together.
Ps – love love love the grey. Definitely a happy accident- that color is fabulous on you.
I bought my daughters communion dress, it is Ivory polyester organza fabric, can it be dyed to white? if yes-how? I called rit dye, per them, they do not carry white dye…
I thank you for any help reference that may be able…
Merry christmas, happy New Year!
So sorry, we haven’t tackled a project like that. Maybe try calling other dye companies or googling around to see if someone else has a tutorial about that? Good luck!
If you are terrified to try this process on a very expensive wedding gown, here is an alternative.
I just dyed my wedding reception dress, and it came out awesome! There are special dyes for polyester, and they came out wonderfully on my dress. If you ever wanted a darker color, you could try that instead of RIT.
Has anyone tried 100% Polyester – hand wash? I would wear the dress again in the puke green color but would wear it 100 times more in a different shade.
Does anyone have ideas?
Anyone have ideas for Nicole?
The budget for my starter wedding was limited; my last wedding probably cost less, but for both occasions, my dress was a one-of-a-kind “original, a Vogue pattern with alterations designed by me. This was a budget driven decision the first time, and also reflected the fact that I had no one with fashion sense to help me. However, I did meet an excellent dress maker and we worked together to create a spectacular dress much nicer than I could have afforded and truly unique. My “going away” outfit was also hand made — by me.
Growing up I was a home sewer by necessity, and chose textile design for my undergraduate major; design remains my avocation. I started out as a textile science major, but was intimidated by organic chemistry, but have remained close to STEM policy. For recommendations on dyes that develop with sunlight, and not heat plus cold, I suggest a consultation with a textile design or fashion design program in a major university like UC Davis, Iowa State at Ames, or Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
For my first wedding I made the dress myself — not the wedding dress, but made a day dress first using the same pattern — to see if I liked it on me as much as I liked the picture on the pattern package. For my wedding dress, I would be hiring a dressmaker to layer more expensive fabrics with Victorian details — long, full sleeves with deep, buttoned cuffs; a layered, full length skirt, with a modified train; a bodice layered with antique lace and buttons. The fabrics I chose were off white, to complement the antique silk lace and covered buttons. When I made the day dress — before committing to the pattern and a professional dressmaker–I recall purchasing the same fabric that I used for my textile design projects, a natural, unbleached cotton, without sizing. My budget was limited, but I also planned to dye the fabric and bleach and/or sizing could interfere with the dye. The dress I would make myself first would be sleeveless and knee length. In the end it was a lot of work but was worth it; I had to add a light cotton/poly blend lining for the fitted, empire bust line and gored skirt. I cut out the dress pattern pieces and then applied the dye to each piece in what was then my signature water print style. Even though I was experienced with this dye and this fabric, the deep chocolate brown and hot pink pattern developed more brightly than I would have preferred on some of the panels of the gored skirt. I simply reversed these panels and used the “wrong” side to achieve a more even coloring across the front and back — five or six pieces in all.
This “test-wedding dress” project became part of my senior thesis for my Design major, chosen because it not only looked good, but I had sewn it well and it looked good on me. I wore the “test” dress to the meeting with my professor to present my senior project(s). Even though I was majoring in textile design, not fashion design, looking good in a dress made with fabric I designed myself boosted my self esteem, whether or not it improved my grade. Long story short, I still have both dresses. It’s been 45 years.
The second wedding dress was also a Vogue Pattern for which I chose an elegant elephant ear pattern in a jacquard woven silk, also off white. For the second time I had been nable to find a dress or suit I liked and this one was made for me in three weeks. I still have this dress, too, and may be someone should dye it. But please don’t use RIT. It’s fine for tye-dying tee shirts and Halloween costumes, and is safe for children to use with adult supervision, but please always choose a natural fabric like silk or cotton for your event dresses and use a better dye that is not as finicky as RIT. Wear rubber gloves and dry clean a hand dyed piece of clothing unless you want a faded look over time. Dry cleaning in my dryer works well for my hand dyed fabrics, but every so often a professional cleaning is needed. I wonder about steam???
Congratulations on your third (?) anniversary! I am going to hope that my children take notes from your blog and even if they are interested in a less DIY event, I am taking tips from your site for my own family parties. Keep up the great work. Although I do not understand how you served 75 guests beer AND wine for the amount quoted in your budget.
I have also noted that TeleFlora vases are available in great quantities at larger Thrift Stores in the DC area — not far from Richmond. Flowers from the yard are always nice, but it is difficult to keep them looking good over the course of a day. Even professional florists have difficulty with this issue outdoors in the summer. The vases I see are generally clear, but I also see the odd red vase in both the modern and traditional styles. One of my favorite stores is he NAMI store in Rockville, but check first to see if there are special discounts scheduled.
When my aunt and uncle were married at the end of WWII, the only flowers available were forsythia from the yards and a few day lilies, recorded for posterity in their wedding photos. For their 50th I brought big buckets of forsythia branches from my yard that were placed in galvanized buckets and other containers for the celebration that was held at the old Evans Farm Inn in McLean. We had more than we needed and guests took branches home — sadly, McLean no longer has this old fashioned farm venue for special occasions — that was complemented so well by such a simple flower. It was a wonderful reminder for them of their special day and start in life. You are quite right — it’s the thoughtfulness that your guests will remember, not how much you spend. We, too, have a family member who is a professional photographer — however, you have provided many more great, cost-effective ideas to share with my children if and when they begin to plan a special day — I really liked the cards for guests to fill out — so much more personal.
My last wedding was a home wedding; we had more money than time and it included a small, catered cake — that arrived with a really weird floral design on top — fingers of salmon sugar icing that were supposed to be a day lily but looked more like jelly “worms”. A best friend was asked to “do something” and she quickly removed the offensive “floral” and replaced it with the real thing — flowers from the garden. The biggest hit was the chocolate covered strawberries, white and dark. A low cost substitute is strawberries and a dip made with sour cream and brown sugar. AND chocolate. We also had an after lunch ceremony, and the two of us went out for a romantic dinner afterwards, before boarding a plane for our honeymoon the next morning- but later I wished that we could have also stayed at the house to share Chinese take out with the relatives. Can’t believe that you cleaned up yourselves after throwing a huge party during which you were married! I also recommend that the clean up be provided by other than the wedding celebrants, if not also their relatives. Let the wedding party pitch in !
Congratulations on getting dry weather for the event — not easy any afternoon in the summer in Richmond.
So cool! Love those stories!
I just found your blog after reading about you in a magazine, and WOW! I am absolutely in love with your sense of style and imagination. Beautiful wedding, and the gunmetal grey cocktail dress rocks!
Wow! Great job. I don’t think I would have ever had the courage to try that to my dress.
I am currently shopping for wedding dresses (yayyyy!), and I am very much drawn to short wedding dresses. Are you happy to have chosen a short wedding dress or do you wish you had worn a long wedding dress? Thanks!!
YES! I’m so happy with it! I think working with your location always helps. So with so many guests in garden attire (nobody was in long gowns) it felt like I fit right into the crowd, but still stood out since it was satin-y and white.
Hi Sherry, I am happy that your dress dying turned out great! I have a question… did your dress shrink from the hot water? I am concerned that it would. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. And since this was 5 years ago your posting have you dyed any other garments since then?
Mine didn’t seem to shrink at all from the warm water! Hope it helps! I have only dyed things like pillows (tea dying and regular dye made for fabric) but no other garments.
Nice dye project!
I’ve been dyeing new life into my faded jeans for years. Use Rit denim blue or navy then Rit fixative according to package directions.
Works great and Extends the life of those fave jeans till they go threadbare.
Out of total curiosity, did you continued to wear your dyed dress anymore after this wedding in 08?
Yes I’ve worn it to a few more weddings! Still have it in my closet (doesn’t fit right now since I just had Teddy – haha!).
I just dyed my wedding dress and I wish i could submit a picture. Our colors are royal blue, sterling gray, and yellow, and I really wanted a gray dress. So I did it myself. It turned out great. I used the tub method and pearly gray rit dye. Everyone doubted that it would turn out right, they were wrong. It looks awesome. I’m so excited.
Sounds awesome!!! Feel free to upload a photo to a free site like Flickr or Pinterest and link to it in the comments so we can check it out!
Hi there! I’ve too recently had success dyeing a dry clean only bridesmaids dress from blush to black. However I was wondering about the care afterwards – do you still take your dress to the dry cleaner??
Yes I dry clean it occasionally and try not to spot clean it wet or anything.