How can I stain my wedding dress?

I got an email with the above subject line and assuming it was spam, braced myself for a rude message – but in fact it was a genuine reusing/upcycling question from Valerie:

i am getting married again, but because it is my second marriage, i don’t want to spend a lot of money all over again.

i still have the gown i wore for my first wedding, a couple of years back (not outdated yet!), which i love, but i wouldn’t wear it white again…can i stain it? to make it cream or just not white?

i read something about tea staining, but i would need to use a tub to evenly stain it, which i don’t have…suggestions?

My first thought whenever anyone asks about staining/dyeing old clothes is always: what fabric is it? Natural fabrics dye a lot better and lot more evenly than synthetic ones. If you’re not sure what fabric it is – well, even if you are sure, it would be worth doing a swatch test on a hidden layer to check out how well the stain will take and what it’ll look like.

(For those interested in natural dyes, I’d recommend the Pioneer Thinking guide to plant dyes – what to use to get different colours and what to use as fixes.)

Any other advice? and what about tub suggestions/advice? I’m not an expert dyer but I believe you have to be careful using some metal pots (especially aluminium) – is plastic to be avoided too? Valerie seems happy with the design but any other upcycling advice?

(Photo by trudyloos)

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6 Responses to “How can I stain my wedding dress?”

  1. Anna says:

    I´ve done a few things, but we called it “dye”, not “stain”. Look in Wikipedia for a general idea, and then just look for dye, or dye products, and you would find something avaliable in your area.
    Then follow the packet instructions very close.
    You can use a tube or washing machine, as long as you clean it thouroughly afterwards. The washing machine is easy to clean: just wash it empty, no clothes, no soap, in a full 90 centigrades cycle.
    Good luck!

  2. Kara says:

    It is usually possible to spray on the dye (no immersion) but it’s harder to get it perfectly even. I use plant mister bottles for this purpose, and it gives a lovely result on silk. However, if the dress has any 100% polyester (trims are often that way), there are very few options that won’t rub off or run if it gets wet other than dilute fabric paint.

    In any case, go ahead and have the dress cleaned before you get started and be sure to tell the cleaners that you want to dye the dress – some dry cleaning methods make it difficult if not impossible to dye a garment. Or just wash it according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the label, but be sure not to use any fabric softener because that will make it harder to dye evenly.

  3. That’s interesting, most people ask how to remove a stain from their wedding dress. :)

  4. Laura White says:

    You could always tea stain it. Just boil extra strength tea – about 4 gallons. Immerse the fabric into the tea and stir constantly (it’s easiest to just use your hands, and no gloves are needed.) Leave the fabric in the tea until you acheive the desired color. You’ll probably want to do a test swatch from your dress before you do the whole thing. Then hang to dry. This tea staining process creates a beautiful antiqued look. Hope this helps!!

  5. Skip the risk of ruining the dress and try these:
    1. attach a cloloured sash to the dress or some coloured trim.
    Then accessorize in the same colour: the bouquet, the shoes, jewelry, maybe a flower in the hair.
    2. Trim the dress and make a knee length dress. Wear it with a hair piece instead of the veil.
    3. If the dress is strapless, like most wedding dresses, wear a lacy bolero. It completely changes the look.

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