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Dyeing An Antique Dress

Hi Jennifer:
I have a dress that is from the 1960s and is decorated with rhinestones and a lot of fringe. The outside was once all black, but there are some light spots on it now, especially under the arms and the front of the dress. I bought some black dye and was going to “paint” the light areas with the dye. I don’t want to dip the dress because it has a gorgeous lining that is a brown and beige print, really nice. Do you think the “painting” process will work if I put a plastic piece under the fabric so it won’t touch the lining?
Sincerely,
Marjorie

Dear Marjorie,
I really don’t know if it will work or not. It mainly depends on the fiber content of your dress. It might be any combination of fibers from the 60s – but synthetics such as acetate, polyester, and acrylic will not take any sort of dye. If the dress is rayon, cotton, linen, or silk, you have a chance of at least adding color to the fabric.
Another factor is the sort of dye you are using. Rit dye in black is not particularly dark – and even in reactive dyes, black is the hardest color to obtain. Since you are over dyeing, there’s at least a possibility that the dye will have an effect. But, if the fabric has been damaged with deodorants containing harsh chemicals, it’s possible that nothing will reverse the color loss.
This is the thing with vintage clothes. Sometimes they have potential, sometimes they are just too degraded by time and use. I also love vintage, both wearing it as is and remaking. Maybe there is a chance of taking the undamaged part of the dress you love and remaking it into something updated or unique?
good luck,
Jennifer

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