My parents, particularly my mum, was big into dyeing clothes and other fabrics. They had a stall at our local markets at one point, and were renowned for their super colourful tie dye. Although I do love a good tie dye, when it came to making over a few white dresses I had, I decided to go with an ombre dip dyeing technique instead.
I never used to be a ‘dress’ person, but in the last few years my collection of dresses has really grown. As I well and truly move on past my teenage tom-boy phase (which to be honest stretched well into my 20s!) I’m starting to see the positives of wearing dresses instead of my shorts and t-shirt unofficial uniform. With the exception of their lack of pockets, which frustrates me to no end, dresses are pretty cool.
Of the dresses that I had accumulated in the last few years there were three that annoyed me most. Although I loved the design and cut of them, they were white. Now, I can certainly see why people like wearing white, but for me white (particularly for women’s clothing) always seems too see-through and too prone to be destroyed by just one random stain. So, I decided to take my three white summer dresses, and give them a bit of colour.
The three dresses I was planning to use for my ombre dip dyeing were all different fabrics, so admittedly I wasn’t sure if they would actually hold the dye at all. Only one was definitely 100% cotton, one was an elastane mix and the other was a mystery because it was from the second hand shop and had no tags.
Still, I figured I wasn’t wearing the dresses at all as they were, so there was no point being too cautious.
Before actually doing the dyeing, I set up my work space. Even though I prefer to dye outside, we live on the third floor and it’s not really practical. So, I had to use my laundry room, which is about 100 degrees. Just laid a bit of movers paper on the floor, and set up my two containers (in blue) which I had bought at a dollar store. I also had a big box just in case I needed to put something down not on the floor. In case of leaks, I set up my two dye baths on top of the larger box lid.
I used RIT dyes to do my ombre dip dyeing. I had initially planned on having a few different colours, but because this was the first time doing it, I ended up just going with two complimentary colours: Teal and Royal Blue. The dyes were easy to mix together, I only used half of the powder in the box mixed with half the suggested water. Rubber gloves are definitely recommend, even for just getting the dye packets out of the box!
I had a general idea of the dye pattern and mix I wanted to do on each dress, so I didn’t wait around. On some of the dresses I held each side in different coloured dye for about 10-15 minutes, just balancing them there. On others I realised they needed a longer soak so I did the lighter colour first and then partially dipped the other colours. It wasn’t perfect by any measure, and as I had anticipated one of the dresses (the elastane one) really didn’t want to hold the colour. I left that to soak for upwards of 40 minutes in the different baths.
After the dresses sit in the dye for a bit, they have to be washed in running water until when they’re squeezed the water is clear. For some of them, after washing them I realised the colour wasn’t dark enough, so they went back in the dye to soak. After washing the surface dye off, I popped them in the washing machine individually for a quick wash, and then onto the line to dry.
I think that, for the most part, my ombre dip dyeing was a success. The elastane dress definitely didn’t hold the colour as well as the cotton one, and the mystery dress was somewhere in the middle. Even then, the mystery dress actually turned out to be my favourite one. I love the way the colour has really lit up the lace overlay, and since I dyed it the dress has become one of my favourites. Definitely worth the effort to do, and super easy! I think I’ll be getting more white clothes at the second hand shop in the future!