How to Dye a Dress

    by Jane Smith

    About the Author

    Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.


    You got a great deal on some fabric, but it really isn't your color. You go ahead and sew a dress using it, but you still aren't satisfied. Or you see a ready-to-wear dress that isn't your color, but you like the style and the way the fabric feels. There are many ways to change the color of a dress to one that suits you. The trick is to know what colors and types of dye will work best with your dress, fabric and creative vision.

    Things You'll Need

    • A color chart
    • 1/2 cup each of lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach
    • Hot water
    • Large metal pot
    • Large plastic or metal spoon
    • Coloring agent of choice (commercial dye, tea bags, black coffee, onion skins, fresh berries or red clay)
    • Salt
    • White vinegar

    show more

    Use the color charts in the reference and resources at the end of this article to help decide what color you want your finished garment to be. If your dress is already a dark color, you will either have to choose a darker color or bleach it lighter if you want to use a pale color.

    Snip a little of the fabric from an inside seam. Cut it into three pieces. Drop one in lemon juice, one in hydrogen peroxide and one in bleach. Decide which piece is light enough for the color you have chosen. Use the chemical that lightens your fabric best without damaging it. Be sure to use adequate ventilation when using chlorine bleach, and do not mix it with other chemicals. If you can smell bleach fumes, you do not have adequate ventilation.

    Check your dress to be sure it is one uniform color, with no spots or stains. If it is spotted or stained, use a spot cleaner or stain remover before you dye your dress.

    Follow directions on the dye package, or use the reference and resources at the end of this article to make your own homemade dye using natural ingredients. Use hot water and stir the garment into the dye with the spoon. You can also use a paddle or broom handle.

    Some fabrics dye better when salt is added to the dye mixture. Vinegar helps set the color once the garment has been rinsed.

    • Experiment with tie-dye techniques after you perfect single-color dyeing. Dip the top of the garment in one color, rinse it and dry it, then dip the bottom in a different color. You can also make bunches all over the garment with rubber bands and marbles. When you remove the rubber bands, you will have interesting swirls of color.
    • Do not use any of your dye equipment for food.
    • The stitching in the dress might come out a different color than the fabric.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images