Help me remix my wedding dress
July 5, 2012 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I have a wedding dress. I have a black tie event in August. I want to wear a modified version of my perfect-for-me wedding dress to said black tie event. What are some things I can do to remix it?

About the event: It's an award show. A handful of people attending the event also attended my wedding and will recognize the dress. That's OK.

About the dress: It's 100% polyester. It has a chapel-length train that can be bustled. The golden circle pin is removable. I would be more than willing to chop off the train or a significant portion of the dress, and I've already removed all the petticoats. It still has some volume, however.

Dyeing the dress is automatically out. I considered all the possibilities of doing it myself, and decided that doing it correctly would not be possible. I can't afford to pay someone else to do it (I've gotten quotes in the upper $200 to $500 to do it). Even a dip dye is out, as it's poly and dyeing poly is significantly more complex than natural fibers.

I would really like to paint it, but I literally know nothing about doing this. I'd like it to look like this, this, or this, rather than this or this. I have never done it before but have painted a bunch in my day, so the skill is there. Repetitive patterns seem risky to me, but I think I can do almost anything else. I just don't know where to start.

...That's it! I'm clueless, so I come to you, Metafilter! What can I do to remix this dress? Timeless ideas are ideal, as I'd like to keep this around for a while! I'm open to basically anything you can think of OTHER than dyeing it.

If you have any expertise or advice or even a link about painting on fabric, I want to know about it! Thank you!
posted by two lights above the sea to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Whatever method you choose, if you do anything with paint or dye, use the train material to test before you do anything to the remaining dress.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:23 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: EXCELLENT IDEA! I was probably going to chop it off anyway! It's just a bit too long to be appropriate for a black tie thing.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:24 PM on July 5, 2012

I saw a wedding dress accessorized with a bunch of black accessories - hairpiece with netting, necklace, bracelets, ring, etc. and it looked great. A bunch of friends of mine have an annual formal awards ceremony and last year they promised best-dressed to any girl who could repurpose her wedding dress. This girl won, no modifications to the dress.
posted by lizbunny at 6:25 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know anything about painting fabric beyond puffy paint ;) Have you considered embroidery? That might be fun.

I think simply shortening it and maybe adding a shawl/belt combo could give you enough of a change to make it feel like a whole new dress.
posted by manicure12 at 6:27 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was thinking it would look good chopped to the middle of your knee then add two or three velvet or satin ribbons around the hem, separated by a space of an inch or whatever for the white fabric to show through. They could be black or taupe or whatever colour appeals to you.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:40 PM on July 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

What about a netting overskirt that has color or a pattern? Or some other gauzy fabric? Then you don't have to worry about dye or paint.

If it's really the bodice that you like, and you're confident in your sewing abilities, you could also just replace the entire skirt with a different fabric. But an overskirt would be easier.
posted by emjaybee at 6:51 PM on July 5, 2012 [10 favorites]

What a pretty dress!

If it were me I might get a sheer colored/patterned fabric and drape it over the skirt area, starting at the waist, then take another piece and tuck it around the bust area, then either paint the bow or accessorize it to fit in with whatever color you chose.

It would be easier than painting the entire dress.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 6:54 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about shortening the dress to tea length and adding a tulle overskirt with the tulle an inch or two longer than the hem on the dress. I'd take the original bow off and tie wide ribbon around for a belt in a color that coordinates with the tulle. I love ombre tulle (not exact but kind of like this). Tulle is pretty easy to work with and you probably could do it yourself, although de-training it would be more fiddly.

If you do take the train off, save the fabric if you think you might have need for a christening gown someday. My mom made my wedding dress and then 10 years later cut it up to make my son's christening gown and it's one of my most treasured heirlooms.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 6:55 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you should lose the train, reduce the skirt volume a bit, and cut it to tea length and wear a pale pink tulle slip with a little bit showing. The next thing is to remove the bow detail completely, is that possible, along with the sash? Then I'd get a pale pink silk taffeta to make a new sash/bow combo (but a tied bow). Next, with more tulle, make a very subtle 2 inch ruffle along the top of the bodice, kind of peeking out, to match your hem.

By the way, that's a fabulous photograph!
posted by thinkpiece at 6:58 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

The dresses that you like look more like printing or airbrushing than painting to me, so you might want more fabric than the train, even, to make sure you can get the effect you want.

If you're up to remove the bow, I think that would go a long way toward making it look less wedding-like. I think the suggestions of an overskirt will be considerably easier than painting the dress.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:58 PM on July 5, 2012

Hey, SweetTeaAndBiscuit, maybe we should go into business together!
posted by thinkpiece at 6:59 PM on July 5, 2012

Have the bow taken off of it. Maybe a belt but stay away from the sash belts that are common on wedding dresses. Getting rid of the bow will take away some of the bridal feel. I don't know how a poly will take paints so I agree that you'll need to test the paint out on the train fabric.

Because its a black tie event, you probably don't want to hem the dress too much but the instinct to cut off the train is a good one. If you do feel comfortable going a bit shorter for a black tie event, then I agree with the people above who said go tea length.

Finally, with your styling think very chic and sleek. If you still have long hair like in the first picture, go with a sleek ponytail. Have one pop of color in either the purse or the shoe and have the other item be a metallic.
posted by GilvearSt at 7:00 PM on July 5, 2012

I like emjaybee & Lt. Bunny's ideas: a really, really gorgeous silk chiffon like this, or this, or this.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:00 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trim the train, dye it, and you have the black tie ballgown I just hung up in my closet. (Except I'm assuming yours has not been wadded up in the bottom of a department store bag from the last time you wore it!)

If you can't dye it, here's what you do: you stencil it. Stencil the skirt with fabric paint. You can do one, one that wraps front to back, or I guess the whole skirt - but as long as you put cardboard between the front and back, it is really hard to fuck up fabric stencils!
posted by DarlingBri at 7:04 PM on July 5, 2012

Well, I'll start by saying that what you have is a very pretty wedding dress. Now, the bad news is that your very pretty dress is rather unmistakably a wedding dress: the pale peachy color, the taffeta-like fabric, the bow, the fullness of the skirt, the Empire waist, the draping of the bodice, even the straplessness (in combination with the other elements) all scream "wedding gown." That screaming is going to be very hard to drown out.

My honest advice would be to go to an experienced seamstress with the dress, tell her you want it copied, and then select a either a fabric that is less crisp (say, silk charmeuse or crepe-back satin) or else a more definite color: black, a jewel tone, or a clear saturated pastel like Schiaparelli pink. One or the other (or both) of these elements will probably override the very strong "bridal" signals this (again, VERY PRETTY) dress sends out.
posted by La Cieca at 7:22 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree with the previous posters who said to
•take out some [a lot] of the volume from the bottom
•[possibly] shorten it. But I don't think this step is vital to maskin the 'weddingness' disappear
•add an overlay, if you can't paint it.

I would also seggest this. One shoulder gowns are always in, always super classy. And it'd be really easy to take the train, or bow, from your dress and alter it to be like that.
If you're going to paint, I feel like the easiest and most fool-proof style would be ombre, which is also super in right now. Basically, ombre is fading from one color to another. Black/steel is classy.
And if you're adding an overlay, instead of doing the whole dress/whole skirt, maybe try something where the overlay is open in the front and you can see the gown beneath, or even slits all the way around.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:11 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going to a black tie event, keep it long! And maybe shorten it afterwards?

I think that to get that sort of watercolor-esque look that's in your first couple examples, you could try painting it with this dye that says it works on polyester. This page (on the same site) indicates that the colours aren't super bright, but that seems perfect for you. (That page also lists a bunch of other products that might work.)

Maybe experiment (on your extra fabric) with wetting the fabric first and then brushing on the dye, so that it bleeds a little?
posted by Kololo at 8:44 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're concerned about dyeing I'm not sure that painting is a safer option, but here's a link to a web page devoted to a number of ways to get color onto polyester fabric.
posted by xyzzy at 10:07 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Furthermore, most such pre-made dresses are marked "dry clean only", and you simply cannot dye a garment that is not washable.

I think dyeing is out of the picture for good. Sorry! :(

I have some great ideas, and I'm heading off to my favorite tailor tomorrow morning. Check back soon!
posted by two lights above the sea at 11:42 PM on July 5, 2012

One of the issues with paint on fabric is that it tends to change the drape and hand. Polyester can be difficult for paint to adhere to because synthetic fibers don't take paint in the same way natural ones do. It can also be coated with a finish that resists paint, and if you cannot wash the fabric you may have issues if it is coated. Another concern is that many fabric paints require high heat to set. However, Dharma's Setacolor paint mixed with their No-Heat fixative may work for you. The transparent paints are what I would use in order to avoid the stiffness of regular fabric paints. Another option is transfers made from disperse dyes. This page lists several techniques for disperse transfers onto poly that cannot be washed. You could also ask the tailor to make a removable overskirt from the train or other fabric that could be painted, ensuring that you don't wreck your dress and giving you more flexibility to experiment with media without destroying your dress.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:09 AM on July 6, 2012

Best answer: I disagree with the "tea length" suggestions. Tea length gives everyone teddy bear legs. If you're cutting it shorter, go knee-length and let your legs have some shape.

Embroidery is a great suggestion but that's a lot of real estate. Machine embroidery might be possible but it would take ages to hand-embroider much of anything on that much material.
posted by workerant at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Update! I just took the dress to the tailor. The tailor was SHOCKED that I wanted to shorten such a beautiful dress, but understood that I wanted to keep wearing it. I definitely didn't want to go tea-length as that's a common wedding dress length, so I went right at the knee. I'm also getting the bow removed.

It's amazing that I never paid much attention to this, but the front of the dress has really perfect pleats that would work well I think with some subtle gold shimmer or beading work or something hidden in there. I'm not going to dye or paint the dress. I'm planning to pair it with a few things I found on a huge gold hammered cuff and long gold plate hammered earrings. Going with a lot of gold and glam so that I play down the weddingy feel of the dress. I'm thinking of getting some kind of belt, but it depends on what it looks like without the bow. I'll likely wear some strappy goldy sandals or maybe bright red pumps!

Keep checking back, I'll update as time goes on and eventually share the finished product. Thanks for all the help! <3
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:15 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Too late for this?
posted by b33j at 3:27 PM on July 6, 2012

I'm so glad you're going short! So chic and young and fun. I love your ideas for accessories. And, yeah, a sleek, minimalist ponytail would be perfect. Have fun!
posted by primate moon at 6:03 PM on July 6, 2012

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