Discoloration In Fabric

Hi Jennifer…
I am so pleased to have found your column.
I have a question…that seems to be a struggle to get some answers to.
I acquired an amazing vintage sheath and ¾ sleeved jacket at a recent estate sale. I estimate it to be 30 years old. It is a cream and silver brocade fabric…not entirely sure what the fabric content is. It has silver metallic thread running through it…and a nylon? acetate? lining.
My dry cleaner was able to get the heavy smoke smell out…but the discoloration of the fabric remains.
I really want to over dye it black…thinking that the metallic threads will remain silver and the effect would be cool. However…nobody does clothing that I can find. I even tried the cobblers in the area. So…I would like to attempt to do it myself…I have little to lose otherwise.
I am dying to wear it to an event I have 11/5…so any advice you might have would be terrific. What kind of dye? How much? How do I determine what the fabric is exactly? Please help.

Dear Kate,
I have some experience with this sort of thing, and here’s what I would say about your project.
1. The outfit, which sounds fantastic, is probably a combination of acetate, polyester, metallic – maybe some rayon. My guess is that it will take the dye, but not at full strength.
2. Black is the hardest color to get anyway, even with all natural fibers, so there is virtually no chance that you will get a deep, even black. More like a charcoal tint, if I had to guess.
3. The lining, zippers, even the thread will not take the dye and will remain the ivory/off white that they are now.
4. Remember, dyeing is a water-based process, so the whole outfit will have to be submerged and agitated in order to dye. It must be sturdy enough to handle all this. I really do advocate doing this sort of thing in the washer for the best possible even results. But of course this can also result in shrinkage or stress to the fabric.
5. Even in the best circumstances there is a good chance that there could be unseen spots or discolorations on the fabric that would make it dye with uneven spots.
6. Okay, with all those warnings, I think you have an interesting project if you are willing to take whatever color it comes out. If you really do not like the current color or it looks awful on you, you could go for a warm brown or lavender and see what happens. I wouldn’t try black, unless you want gray.
7. This is a place in New Jersey that will do individual garments.
Sometimes these sorts of experiments are marvelous!! And sometimes they are disasters. If you do not have any experience dyeing fabric, look at www.dharmatrading.com and read their instructions carefully. They carry everything you will need. I do not recommend Rit.
Have fun and write back if you want to discuss further,

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