August 1

How to transform a boring dress


The Perfect Summer Dress. Almost.

I found it on Etsy, and it's adorable. Just the right length, and has the coveted wrap style that gives the right diagonal line that is so me, according to the style analysis by Florentina Mossou. 

The fabric is pure linen, a favourite natural fibre that I love to wear.

The dress is so perfect, that I bought it in spite of it being in a not-so perfect colour.

The colour is lovely, a clear light blue, but it lacked a little of the intensity that I know is right for me, so that wearing it left me looking as forlorn as a woman in an Edward Hopper painting., even though inside, I really feel more like the women of Paul Gaugin in his Tahiti period, you know, aside from the fact that my skin is more of a Pillsbury Dough Boy kind of colour.

So the dress was lovely but bland:

Linen dress in pale blue

...and I was hankering for lovely and vibrant.

Dylon all-in-one fabric dye

The solution came in the form of a pod of fabric dye from Dylon!

Actually, I have the Bright Winter group of Facebook to thank for this tip. I saw several posts there from people who have transformed their clothes using Dylon machine wash dye.

So I picked Ocean Blue from the Dylon all-in-one fabric dye range and loaded my washer in breathless anticipation.

And what a difference it made!

Bright blue summer dress on a bright red bench

Dyeing clothes is a fabulous trick to tweak the colour to be more aligned with your Season. Keep a couple of things in mind, though:

1. it only works with 100% natural fibres like cotton, silk or linen.

2. The original colour if the item WILL affect the outcome. It works best if you work within the original colour family, like making my light blue dress a more intense blue, at least when you want to keep the colour pure.

This would work equally well if your aim is to tone down or darken the colour of a piece of clothing. Then, simply pick a darker colour in the same colour family, and remember that dyeing a smaller item will result in a darker, more intense result, so if you only want to darken or intensify the item slightly, stick an old sheet or something that you don't care about in with the item you are dyeing, to lessen the intensity of the dye job.

Other inspiration

My friend Karen had a bright white shirt dress that she really liked, but she always ended up taking it off when trying it on.

Something was off. She debated altering the collar taking away the lapels, we discussed different shoes she could wear with it. 

We don't have a picture of the dress before she dyed it, but it was a generic, pure white colour. 

Dylon fabric dye dark green

Eventually she decided to give it a new colour. She used a very small amount of Dylon fabric dye, Dark Green (around a tablespoon if I remember correctly), and voila!

Pale green shirt dress

The result was a lovely pale green.

Because the dress was bright, unadulterated white from before, the new green was a pale icy green, not pastel green, and that suits Karen just fine, since she's a Dark Winter.

Pale green shirt dress styled with blue denim shirt

I just love the way she styled it, with a blue denim shirt and brown/olive pants, and that casual crossbody bag.

I hope she'll get lots of use out of this dress now.


Bright Spring, Bright Winter, DYI project, Dylon fabric dye

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  • You might be interested in the absolutely magical dyes you can find here; (they are in other countries too). The quality is exceptional, the colours are gorgeous; you can use any fabric except Polyester i think. And they don’t run, even if you don’t use their fixative. Simplicol, the german company, have some lovely things, but you can only wash afterwards at 30 degrees and even then they tend to shed. The Abel has free postage. I’ve been incredibly happy with them as the American brand, RIT, while my absolute favourite (and they do cover polyester if you buy the right ones) costs an arm and a leg and take ages to deliver, even using amazon.

    • Hi Annabelle, I am interested in absolutely magical dyes, as are other readers too, I’m sure. Thank you so much for sharing!
      What I love about the Dylon all-in-one is that it truly is all in one, I don’t have to mess with adding salt or other fixatives. But is it true you’ve had good results with Aybel dyes even without using any kind of fixative?

  • Wow what a transformation, Jorunn! What I love is that now you have a truly one-of-a-kind dress perfectly suited to you 🙂

    My transformation go-to is nail polish because it can made such a big difference for such a small investment! I can reinvent buttons, change the metal on glasses frames and shoes . . . even touch up the paint on my bicycle lol

    • Oh Susan that is a fantastic idea! I’ve used nail polish to identify my house keys so it stands out from the other keys on my key chain, but not thought about other uses for it, you’re so creative!
      So if you use nail polish to change the buttons on a shirt, do you find the nail polish holds up in laundry?

      • Yep, I have buttons I painted years ago that still look great—and I use the cheapest nail polish I can find. If you give it a try, I suggest multiple thin coats. Also, I cut a slit in an index card and slip it around the button to protect the fabric—that way I can paint without removing the button—so easy!

        • Yes, many thin layers are better than one thick one (says the woman who has been smearing one thick globby layer of OPI Tulip Red on her toenails hoping for the best, which never, never works out). The trick with the index card also sounds really smart. Thank you Susan, for sharing this wonderful tip. Getting a bottl of nailpolish is for sure cheaper than buying new buttons, and then to save work by not having to cut off and sew on buttons is fantastic.

  • I bought the dress, also 100% linen, in rhe spring of 2018 and wore it once before dying it last weekend… I’ve worn the dress three times since then. Three times in seven days! Now, I have the new “problem” of wearing it to death. 😉

    • Hi Karen, yes I failed to mention that your dress is 100% linen. How wonderful that it’s now getting out and about, being used! Such a great dress deserves to be used. Bonus points for actually wearing it out 🙂

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