Revamp Your Vintage - Are You Dyeing To Try It?


Revamp Your Vintage With Dyes:

Love your vintage find, but hate the colour? Was it a bargain? Fits perfectly but the fabric is stained, faded, or just not at its best? Then have you considered dyeing it?

To many people this may seem intimidating but with advances in dyes and dying techniques, it’s become far more accessible with less chance for error. For our experiment we chose 2 items to dye, a 1950s lace suit, and a 1960s pleated hat. Both in unappealing shades to say the least, and both of which needed a new lease of life.

White Dress
White Hat

Picking Your Items:

When picking an item to dye, you have to consider several things:

  • What the garment is made up of:

This is the most important part of choosing what you are going to dye. Simply put, natural fabrics dye best. Cottons, silks, and wools will take the dye brilliantly producing the best colour match to the dye you’ve picked. Next are the poly cotton and natural and synthetic mixes, these will still dye, but to varying shades. This because some poly cottons will contain more natural to synthetic fibres, and vice versa. Finally 100% polyester or any other synthetic garment will not dye. Occasionally white or cream will dye to a very pale shade, however the outcome is usually patchy, bitty, and not what you intended. If you're unsure of the fabric composition, the best thing to do is complete a burn test if possible, take a small piece of fabric, either from a side seam or hem or somewhere it won’t be noticed. Then burn it! Each fibre burns differently, so note the colour of the flame, the smell as it burns, the length of the burn, and finally the ash or residue that’s left once you low it out. Then consult this useful chart to decide what it is. 

Burn Table
  • Its overall condition and structural stability:

Depending on how delicate or sturdy your garment is will have a impact on what dye you decide to use, more robust pieces will be fine in a machine wash, whilst delicates will need to hand dyed. You don’t want to be shredding a family heirloom or destroying a silk gown!

  • The original colour of the garment:

With this, it’s all common sense. If you have a bright yellow dress but put a blue dye on it, it’s going to go green. If in doubt consult a colour wheel.  However Dylon has now come out with a lightning kit if you want to dye one bold colour to another, thus essentially bleaching the fabric, without damaging it. 

Picking Your Dye:

Dylon Dye

Once you have picked your garment you then need to pick your dye.  Dylon for me personally is the most accessible, useable and readily available dye and come in a large range of colours and shades. It also comes as several dye types, hand dying, machine dying, and pod machine dying.

For our project we used the Ocean Blue All-In-1 in wash dye pod, this because of the weight of the fabric we are dying and that the garment is robust enough to go through a washing machine. For more delicate fabrics, use a hand wash dye and for larger amounts for machine dyes they come in large boxes that are then poured into the detergents box. Next all you do is follow the instructions! In our case dampening the garments and putting them in the washing machine with the open dye pod on top. Then after 1 wash cycle run again to rinse and wash the garments through. Then leave to dry and you are done. Or so you’re meant to be... 


Sadly we had a wee bit of a disaster. Our 1960s pleated hat exploded. Miscalculation on our part mean that we threw it in the washing machine, thinking it would be robust enough to survive a few spins. No. Opening up the machine door we looked in horror as a shredded hat emerged. Threads dangling and petals strewn across the dress we had also dyed. Rest in pieces little hat. So we hope you learn from our mistake, and if you aren’t sure don’t risk it, some vintage items are just too delicate.

The Final Product: 

Now for the fun part, the bit you’ve been waiting for, the big reveal! From slightly drab grey and mink to a stunning bright periwinkle blue, it brightens and livens this dress to no end. The dye has worked brilliantly, having no patchiness or unevenness, the dress only needing small threads trimming from the seams that had poked through during the washing. The mink coloured synthetic lining has taken on a small amount of colour, it turning it into a very, very pale lilac. This dress is now perfect for events, a bright pop of colour that can have contrasting or complementary accessories. We have chosen cream accessories to show you what a full outfit would look like, perfect for a fancier occasion or if you want to dress up for an event!

Final Dress

To compliment this now blue 1950s lace two piece suit, we have chosen a forties hand painted and lace trimmed fan, with blue flowers picking up the blue tone of the dress, and the cream lace trimming harking back to the dresses original colour. Next, a 1960s beaded bag, which is small and delicately made, looking very elegant alongside this intricate cotton lace. For a wedding, or if you fancy really dressing up, this Maribu and pearl pillbox hat makes the whole attire very 1960s, the beading very similar to that on the bag. It’s also an accessory that can be removed very easily taking it from day to night. All products in our styling section can be found on our website.

How to Style

I hope this will inspire you to try dying your vintage clothing and hopefully you will have as much success as we had! And have no washing machine disasters as well. Why stop at dresses though? You could dye gloves, blouses or skirts to match any outfit providing they are the right materials! I hope this can inspire and help you in your quest for more vibrant and colourful vintage clothing.

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