Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I dyed my wedding reception dress!

Eeek, I did it!  After months of agonizing (I started thinking about this in October) over whether it would ruin the dress, I finally decided to go ahead and dye my wedding reception dress.

I loved the style, the fit, the pockets - everything!  But it's simply inappropriate to wear an ivory cocktail dress to many events.  A cocktail dress would be great for a bridal shower or wedding, but you'll be talked about mercilessly ("bless her heart"), if you show up in ivory.

So I decided to go for it!

The tag indicated that the dress was polyester, with some silk on just the flower doodads.  Polyester is infamous for not taking dye very well, especially RIT.  Jacquard Products (www.jacquardproducts.com, 800-442-0455.) offers a special polyester dye, called iDye Poly, so I went with that.  They also have awesome detailed instructions for first-timers.

I chose iDye Poly Blue dye - I figured if it was super light, a dingy medium, or the color shifted (sometimes you get a neighboring color instead of what you bargained for), I would still be OK.  I thought baby blue, purple, or turquoise green were all OK with me.  Also, the polyester dyes only come in 8 colors, so there weren't many options.


The directions say to simmer your garment on the stove throughout the dye process.  I was worried the polyester would melt, but my engineer Dad assured me it would need to be around 600 for that to happen.  Water boils at 212, so I was good to go.

To remove any dirt and oils from the dress (dye won't take to dirty fabric), I washed it in a Professional Textile Detergent that I ordered from Dharma Trading the last time I dyed stuff.  I took it out of the washer before the final spin cycle so it would be fully saturated - ready for the dye bath.

Meanwhile, I brought water to a boil on the stove.  They recommend not using your dye cookware for food afterwards, so instead of sacrificing one of our nice pots, I picked up a giant one for $20 at our Korean grocery store.  This was a double bonus since I also got fresh BiBimBop for dinner.  I did sacrifice some tongs.  I also suggest trying a thrift store, but ours didn't have anything as big as the vat I required.

I made sure to cover the counters and backsplash well so I wouldn't have a blue disaster in my kitchen.

Once boiling, I added the color packet (super easy, it just dissolves and it zero-mess) and the color intensifier (comes in the kit with the dye) to the water.

I cut a flower off the dress and swished it in the dye to see what would happen.  This entire time, I had in my head that the dress would turn out light blue.  Silly Bonnie, this is iDye Poly!  The material was definitely loving the dye.

So I took a deep breath and threw the dress in!  The directions said to boil it for 30-60 minutes, so I set the timer.  After five minutes, it was already indigo!  I gave it 30 minutes anyways, but not any longer because my arm was killing me (you're supposed to constantly swirl and swish it around for even dyeing).

By this time Tommy was home and was a little frightened by his mad scientist of a wife (you know, dancing and stirring and talking a mile a minute)!  He talked me out of using our kitchen sink to drain the dye, and lovingly lugged the giant steaming pot down to the basement and drained it in the utility sink.

It was a good call on his part, because the sink is definitely blue now.  It wasn't pretty before, so it's not a disaster, but be warned!  At this point, the dress looked purple!

I washed the dress in regular detergent in the washing machine, and hung it to dry.  It still smelled like dye, so I ran it through a second time.

I pressed it while wet to get it looking normal again.  Those tucks and folds were a total pain, and it took almost two hours to get it normal-looking again.

The color isn't as vibrant as when I was in the midst of dyeing, but I think it's lovely.

I had psyched myself up for this project to be a disaster, but I really couldn't be happier with the results!  I didn't expect this exact shade of blue, but I like it. 

So there you go, a successfully dyed polyester wedding reception dress, wearable for years to come for all sorts of events!
I immediately wore it to a wedding!  Is it good luck for a couple to wear their wedding attire to other weddings?

Tommy in his wedding suit, and me in my reception dress, now dyed blue!

I'm linking up over on East Coast Creative's Upcycle Week!


  1. Love all the tips! The foil covered counters and especially Tommy draining it into the utility sink.
    You and the dress look great and now now one can say "Bless her heart...'

  2. I would love to dye things but we don't have a utility sink! We have a stainless steel sink - I wonder if it would dye that? How long did it take your utility sink to get back to normal?

    1. I just dyed the dress last week, so the sink still isn't back to normal. I wonder if you could use something (like a trash bag with a hole in the bottom?) to line your sink before you dump? Or coat the sink with soap or oil before dumping?

      My stainless pot got a little stained, but it was also boiling the dye for 30 minutes - maybe for a few seconds it would be OK?

    2. No, it will not permanently stain steel. If the stuff worked that well, dying polyester wouldn't be a pain. Remember that successfully dying fabric requires at least half an hour in boiling hot water!

      If it makes you nervous anyway, here are some tips:

      Let cool completely (use ice if in a hurry) before dumping.
      Coat sink in Vaseline, grease, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
      Fill sink most of the way with water BEFORE dumping dye bath in so it will immediately be diluted.

      Lastly, if you are dying cotton/organic fabric the dye is likely to be nontoxic. Check into it and see if you can avoid the anxiety entirely by dumping outdoors. Honestly if it's safe to dump down the drain and thus into the water supply it's probably fine to dig a hole, dump, and fill back in.

  3. Wow, it's fabulous! It came out amazingly well! I'm so glad you got brave!

  4. Great refashion -- I love the color you chose! Thanks for emailing me about it!

  5. I love the new colour of your dress, so very pretty! My mom used to dye material all the time, back in the 60s, but I've never tried it. She always did it in the washing machine. I've never heard of it being done this way. Very interesting...
    I saw you sharing at EC2 link party
    Debbie :)

  6. Wow! That looks fantastic! I would have been waaaay too nervous to attempt it, but you sure got great results! Thanks for entering One Crafty Contest!

  7. What were the washing instructions? I have an old bridesmaid dress 100% polyester hand wash/dry clean only. Wondering how that would work out

    1. Mine also said dry clean only! I think some polyester can shrink, so that's the worry there. In general, polyesters should hold up OK through washing. Mine was a complete pain to iron and get looking OK again, because it was a wrinkled wreck after going through the washer 3 times.

      Since it's hand wash, I wonder if it would do OK on the gentle cycle in your washer?

      If you do it, let me know how it turns out!!!

  8. Wow, This turned out really nice. It was an awesome dress to start with, but now you is much more versatile! LOVE IT!!!

    esthersipatchandquilt at yahoo dot com

  9. I linked to this via your comment on AT. You did an AMAZING job. The dress is gorgeous in both colors. Can I ask - who was the designer?

  10. How big was the pot you bought/used for this project? I have a floor length bridesmaid dress I'm excited to try and dye a deeper shade.

    1. I think it's 3-4 gallons. You might want to take the dress with you when you go buy a pot and make sure it'll stuff in there with room to move around.

  11. Thank you for this! You helped me get up the courage to dye a white chiffon maxi dress red. Perfect results!

  12. This post answered alot of questions I had (I'm wanting to dye a poly silk bridesmaid dress a different color with iDye poly..guessing the dress is likely dry clean only as well). thanks!

  13. Hi! Your dress is stunning! I'm thinking about dying my wedding dress. It's 100% polyester. The part I'm worried about is washing it in the washing machine afterwards. How did you dry it and get it looking so NOT wrinkled???

    1. I air dried it, but it was pretty wrinkly. I would 100% try dying it. It's so unlikely that you'd use it again (except maybe remade into a christening gown?), that the risk seems worth it! Best of luck!


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