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Repurposing A Wedding Dress By Dyeing It

December 28, 2020

After our wedding, my google search bar lit up with results for “repurposing a wedding dress” as I couldn’t fathom the thought that I wouldn’t get to wear this uber-expensive gown again and didn’t want to put it in a box to “maybe” put on some day just for funsies or a vow renewal.

So if you are looking for a neat way to get to wear your dress again, keep reading!

The Dress

I purchased this Stella York dress at Wendy’s Bridal in Columbus, Ohio during my first and only wedding dress shopping adventure with my bridesmaids. I was between this one and another dress but this dress felt more “me” – so I bought the most expensive article of clothing I’ve ever owned. $1300 later, I had the dress.

Photos of the dress by my awesome photographer, Chasing Eden Photography.
Wedding dress hanging

The dress suited me to a tee! I felt like a princess in it on my wedding day, which is realistically how every lady should feel when getting married. Amirite?!

Wearing wedding dress

You can read more about the wedding here! Now, I actually got to wear this dress twice because we did a second ceremony for my grandmother, who was (and still is) my absolute heart. Gram lived in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, where I’m from originally, and she always dreamed of seeing me get married. So we had to make that happen! I am still over the moon that we made that happen before she passed away and those are memories that I hold dear to my heart.

After the wedding(s), I had the dress cleaned and started researching how common repurposing a wedding dress by dyeing it was. Answer: Not common at all, which was depressing. But I knew that was what I meant to do.

I started to create some prototypes via Photoshop, that way I would have some images to share with a tailor or seamstress. After trying different colors, I chose these below two colors as my inspiration photos.

The Alterations Specialist Search

Now for the toughest part of the journey – I had to find someone willing to dye my dress. I reached out to a few local alteration folks and had zero luck.

i shot emails to a few local alterations specialists, asking about repurposing a wedding dress in this manner. One lady that is one of the main people at a popular dress cleaning and preservation shop sent me a note that left me rather depressed after reading it (quoted directly from the email she sent in response to my question):

I don’t have a recommendation on dyeing your wedding gown. There is no one in the Columbus area who does it. Overall the main problem with dyeing a garment post-manufacture is that you can’t really predict an even distribution of the color. Swales (uneven distribution of color) might develop and that would ruin a garment. And using a wedding gown with the variety of different types of thicknesses, fabrics, etc. you could never know until you try if it would come out well. And if it didn’t, you’d be so disappointed.
Since you are so recently married, I’d advise you to wait awhile before making a final decision. And I’ll tell you why. From the photographs I can tell yours is a classic, timeless designed wedding gown. Oh I know the millennials are known for not wanting to “collect” things or being minimalists these days, but your wedding gown is different! I’ve been at this long enough to know that your daughter, should you have one someday, will most likely not want to wear your wedding gown because choosing a wedding gown is something some brides look forward to for a long time. But granddaughters might want to wear it. And your gown could be shortened (one day, not now!) to tea length for your daughter or granddaughter to wear to her rehearsal dinner! If you don’t choose to take my advice, I’d definitely say for you to keep your wedding veil because daughters and granddaughters seem to want to wear the veils!

While I understand where she’s coming from, it’s odd for someone to assume you are able to have children. I wrote back, advising that due to health conditions, I more than likely cannot have children so keeping it for a daughter is a moot point.

The search did not end there. I had a few more no’s but eventually posed the question to a Facebook group. It was my lucky day, as one person responded with a photo of a business card for Elizabeth Ashleigh Designs.

I crept on her Facebook a good bit and decided to reach out.

Betsy Stevenson

Betsy is the owner of Elizabeth Ashleigh Designs and she is cool as a cucumber! She was honest with me saying dyeing may or may not work. She recommended that we cut it into a cocktail dress, then we could use that as test fabric. Score!

I brought the dress to her and left it in her crafty hands! One thing I learned from her is that bridal shops overcharge for alterations by an arm and a leg. If I would’ve found her before my wedding alterations, I could have saved a ton. So remember that if you are getting alterations!! Find an independent tailor or seamstress.

Betsy worked her magic and once the dress was ready, I was so anxious to see it. The dyeing worked! The dress turned out to be more of a blue-green but it looked SO cool and I absolutely loved it!

Now, I will get to wear this dress time and time again! And it won’t be just hanging for years collecting dust!

And I was able to make this cool little video and feel like a princess again πŸ˜‰

So if you’re thinking about repurposing a wedding dress by dyeing it, know it is a possibility. Now your dress may very well get ruined but if you’re willing to accept that risk… you may end up with a beautiful dress that you can wear again and again!

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