How to dye your wedding dress

Guest post by Alayna Cole

We saw an inspired idea for what to do with your dress when you don't get married in it. This story is about how to dye your wedding dress as a way to celebrate the end of a relationship.

my wedding dress
Photo of the author by Tara Lee Photography

In 2013, I had a wedding. I wore a knee-length dress of white and ivory lace, which I paid a few hundred dollars to have custom-fit to my shape. It was the first strapless dress that I've ever been able to wear and feel good about myself in. I felt like a beautiful bride.

But how I looked is one of the only awesome things that came out of my wedding. Unfortunately, the marriage itself didn't go to plan. Or rather, it didn't go at all.

After my wedding, I was left with a dress and accessories that I loved (I mean, look at those gloves!) but they were marred by the circumstances that surrounded their debut. There was this dress in my wardrobe that fitted me perfectly but that I couldn't wear, and that I couldn't bring myself to give away. In some ways, I felt like this dress was stopping me from moving on with my life.

So I decided to reclaim my wedding dress. I swallowed my nerves, broke out a different pair of gloves, and dyed it blue. And it was amazing.

Here's the process for anyone wanting to alter their wedding dress, whether it be to spice up their wedding day, to give new life to a dress that marked the beginning of a happy marriage, or — as in my case — to cover some bad memories with a dose of brightly coloured dye.

wedding dress dye kit

For this incredibly simple washing machine method, you will need:

  • A washing machine with an agitator (that is connected to both hot and cold water)
  • Dye in the colour of your choice (and appropriate to the fabric of your dress. I used iDye Poly, as it's effective for polyester or semi-polyester garments)
  • Protective gloves
  • A bucket (that you don't mind colouring a little)
  • A poking stick, for poking your dress beneath the water (again, that you don't mind colouring a little. Try to choose something that won't pierce the fabric of your dress. I used the blunt end of a wooden skewer
  • A sunny day

This is what you need to do:

Fill your washing machine with the hottest water your pipes will allow. Hot water will make sure your colour is the brightest it can possibly be. You will need just enough water to cover your dress so that the fabric can move freely.

Add your dye to the water and allow your washing machine's agitator to distribute the colour evenly through the water. If your dye packet came with a colour intensifier, add that too (unless you're aiming for a more pastel result).

Add your dress. Use your poking stick to ensure all of the fabric is beneath the surface.

dying my wedding dress in the washer

Wash the dress for the longest cycle your washing machine allows. If you have a dress like mine that contains fragile fabric, lace or tulle, then set the machine to delicate settings and ensure that, instead of a spin cycle, the machine simply “holds” the dress. If you don't have that option on your washing machine, just make sure you stop the cycle before it starts spinning to avoid damaging any of those fragile parts.

Allow your washing machine to complete the full hot water cycle with your dress.

Once that's finished, drain the water and allow the dress to go through another cycle with the coldest water your pipes will allow. This will help to set the colour in your newly dyed dress. Again, if your dress is fragile, make the machine “hold” the dress instead of putting it through the spin cycle.

After the cold cycle, it's time to dry the dress. I had to use a bucket to move my dress outside to avoid dripping blue water across my laundry tiles, and I recommend this method to avoid mess.

Untangle the various layers of your dress and hang it outside in the sun so it can dry.

my wedding dress dyed blue

Tip: After your dress is hanging up, check your washing machine. If it is tinged a particular colour, now would be the time to do another empty wash with a whitener in the water to avoid accidentally dyeing your next load of washing.

This might just seem like a simple DIY project, but altering this dress so I could wear it again was an utterly empowering experience. I hope that whether you want to dye a dress for your wedding day or to help you move on from it, the project can help you feel stronger, like it did me.

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