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Refashioned Wedding Dress turned Cocktail Dress

upcycled wedding to cocktail dress

This saucy little cocktail dress was once Ellen’s wedding dress. Can you believe it? Together we cut and pasted and dipped and dyed and gave her dress a brand new life. While chopping apart your wedding dress isn’t for the faint of heart or the even the heartily sentimental, Ellen was thrilled about the project because it meant that she would get to wear her dress over and over again.

ellen's wedding dress

Ellen’s wedding dress was a mermaid style dress where the top was fitted until mid-thigh and the full bottom was a separate piece gathered and sewn along the bottom. This made it an ideal dress for turning into a cocktail dress since it required no reshaping and very little reconstruction.

cat sitting on wedding dress

We started by ripping off the bottom gathered layer. (You can see that Tig immediately claimed the pile of fabric as her own. I eventually stole some back to be a petticoat for myself. And another piece set aside to eventually be a skirt for Ellen. But Tig really, really liked this fabric!)

wedding dress hem removed

This is the dress immediately after ripping the bottom layer. It had a couple of points of concern – a few of the pleats had come untacked. Easy to fix as we re-assembled the skirt. Additionally, the dress felt a bit too short on the shorter side. Ellen’s got lovely legs, but she wanted the dress to be flirty, not scandalous!

adding extra layers to wedding dress hem

I pinned the saggy pleats in place and tacked them down with some hidden stitches by hand. I  added a couple of separate bands of fabric along the bottom to mimic the pleated fabric, each folded in half long-ways  so the bottom edge of the bands are finished.

dying a wedding dress

Then came the fun part – the dye pot! We picked a package of Kelly Green dye, meant for dying synthetic fabrics. We mixed up the pack, following the instructions to the letter. Pay attention, because some dyes and some fabric combinations suggest that you add salt, vinegar, or brand-specific color setting agents.

ellen putting wedding dress into pot

Ellen did the honors and dunked the dress herself.

wedding dress in green dye

We kept it in the hot dye pot for 20 min, stirring pretty constantly so that the dress would be evenly covered. If you’re going to dye your dress, it’s important that you feel flexible with the end result. If you’re only okay with a specific perfect idea you have in your head, don’t do it, because there’s no guarantee of perfect. You may end up with a mottled dye job. You may end up with a different color than you expect. You may find some parts of your dress take the dye differently than others. If these are major concerns for you, do a trial run on a scrap of fabric that you cut off during the re-fashion. It is important to note that the more you have used a batch of dye, the less it will affect other fabric that you put in it, so if you are testing a large piece of fabric and then you add your dress, your dress may not color as darkly as the initial fabric. (For a visual example of this, check out this batch of yarn that I dyed).

green dye gloves

Remember that you’ll want to wear gloves and an apron through this process!

chopped and dyed wedding dress

In the end, Ellen has a fabulous, fun new dress that certainly isn’t the promised Kelly Green, but it sure does look lovely on her. The different fabrics in the side embellishment took the dye differently which gives it some fun depth. We styled the dress with a large plain black leather belt, making it well suited for Ellen’s laid-back style, but with a sparkly beaded belt and jazzy jewelry it takes the dress from simple to knock-out.

wedding dress revamped to cocktail dress

Comments 5

  1. What a great refashion! I’ve always thought it’s silly not to get some more use out of a wedding dress. What’s the good in a dress if it just sits in your closet after wearing it once? This “new” dress looks great on Ellen, and it’s awesome that she’s going to be able to wear it some more!

  2. Love this idea! It always seems a bit of a waste to me to spend so much money on a dress you’re only going to wear once, even if it is for a very special occassion.

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