I want to purchase a beaded taffeta dress and dye it for my daughter's wedding
Country or region: Texas
Message: I am wanting to purchase a dress and dye it black for my daughter's wedding. It is made of iridescent taffeta. It does say dry clean only. There is beading on it, so I am certain that is why it is dry clean only. I am not worried about the iridescent part, I am worried about not wearing the right color for her wedding. Thank you.
What could possibly go wrong? Let's go through it step by step.
First, you have to pre-wash the dress, before you can dye it. Some dresses marked "dry clean only" do survive washing, but those with beading or sequins, and those with linings, are more likely to be permanently damaged. The beading may be sewn on or glued on. If it's sewn, a few of the beads may break in the process of washing; if it's glued, then the beads may become unglued. If there is a lining, it is apt to shrink to a different extent than the outer layer, resulting in deformation of the garment's shape, so that the dress no longer lies correctly.
Assuming that you've successfully washed the dress, and that it has escaped any significant damage, then you need to choose the right dye for the fabric. Check the fiber content. Taffeta is a word that describes the way the fabric is woven, but it doesn't tell you anything about what it's made of. You would probably have been more specific if your dress were made of silk taffeta, though, instead of a synthetic fiber such as polyester, acetate, or nylon. If your taffeta is made of polyester or acetate, then the only way you can dye it is to boil it in a very large cooking pot with a special dye for synthetic fibers, which is a type of dye called disperse dye. Cotton and silk can be dyed at room temperature in a plastic bucket, or in the washing machine, but polyester or acetate cannot. The next problem is acquiring the cooking pot to do your dyeing in. If it's a short sleeveless dress, then you won't need as large a pot as you will if it is a long dress with sleeves. The cooking pot needs to be large enough for the dress to move freely in the dye mixture in the pot, as you stir it. Estimate how much the dress weighs, while dry, by weighing a similarly-sized dress. If your dress weighs one pound, then, depending on its stiffness, you may be able to get by with a five-gallon cooking pot, filled with three gallons of water. A two-pound dress would be better dyed in a pot that holds at least six gallons of water, plus space at the top, so you'd need an eight- to ten-gallon pot. Keep in mind that you should never plan to reuse a dyeing pot for cooking afterwards, because clothing dyes are not considered safe for use on food preparation equipment. A dyeing pot should be made of either stainless steel or of enamel-coated steel; stainless steel is better, but enamel is more economical. You can often buy a 33-quart enamel canner pot for a little under $50, while a stainless steel kettle of the same size will usually cost well over $100.
When you do the dyeing, you will have to stir the dress frequently in the large pot of water, mixed with dye and, for polyester only, an unpleasant smelling intensifier chemical which probably requires you to wear an acid gas respirator for safety. If you don't stir frequently enough, then the color is likely to end up uneven, with some sections darker than others.
Cooking the beads in the dyebath may turn out to be a mistake. They are probably made of plastic. Some plastics will soften at temperatures well below the boiling temperature required to dye polyester, while other plastics are safe up to temperatures over boiling. Unfortunately, it's impossible to determine what the beads on your dress are made of. Even when there is a fiber content label inside the dress at the time of purchase, it will invariably add "exclusive of decoration". The type of plastic used in the beads is never explained. Glass beads will be fine as long as they do not break, though their color will be unchanged by dyeing.
After completing the whole dyeing process, you must then wash the dress to remove any unattached loose dye, so that excess dye doesn't rub off onto you and anything the dress happens to touch. Sometimes a dry-clean-only dress that survives one washing becomes frayed in the next.
Now, let's assume you've done everything right. You've pre-washed your dress, it's turned out not to have any dye-repelling fabric finishes, and you've stirred frequently while boiling the dress in the dye plus chemical additive for an hour. Even after all that, you might find that your results are not good. Sometimes when you dye a commercial garment, one panel of the dress will take the dye much darker than another one does, due to having been cut from a different bolt of fabric. There is no way to predict whether this will happen, except to prevent it by dyeing only PFD ("Prepared For Dyeing") garments that have been sold for the purpose of dyeing. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a PFD formal dress.
To sum up: you might destroy the dress when washing it; you'll have to spend a lot of money on a dyeing pot; the beading might break, fall off, or melt; and the fabric might not even end up all the same color. I really can't recommend buying a formal dress to dye. There are just too many things that can go wrong.
Instead, I recommend that you try doing more shopping for the dress that is already the right color, or do a web search for "mother of the bride" dresses and look for one that is already black, or hire a local seamstress to make a dress for you in the color that you need.
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Posted: Saturday - November 19, 2011 at 01:38 PM
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