July 19th, 2020
On My Mind

Do or Dye

There is a small stack of beloved shirts and cotton dresses in the back of my closet. Even though they are faded and discolored, I will not toss them — instead, I’m going to attempt to dye them.

Helmut Lang had a brilliant assistant who would dye garments in the studio as we prepped for a show. Watching her transform the pieces was mesmerizing. Yesterday, a reader commented that she dyes her old shirts, which gives them a “new lease of life.” I reached out to her for advice before I give hand-dyeing a whirl. I’ll report back.


what's new


Roll-neck cable-knit wool-blend sweater


Viviane wool turtleneck sweater


Floral stretch-lace tights


Slanted-cuff leather knee-high boots


Wool-twill coat


Textured-knit tights


Oversized hooded cable-knit wool and mohair-blend cardigan


Cavalier wool blazer


Aiden sleeveless cashmere top


Hawes T-bar cutout leather pumps


Oversized cashmere knit top


Wool-blend turtleneck vest

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  • I’m very picky about color, so I dye a lot of my clothes. My go-to trick is using a small amount of Dylon Powder Pink or Pearl Grey to make saturated or warm-toned clothes a bit cooler and more subdued to suit my coloring.

    IoJuly 19th, 2020  3:03 PM

  • Wanting to refresh some old but very beautiful Italian embroidered cocktail napkins I bought in Florence many years ago, I spent some time at the Rit dye website. The company has been around forever but I was delighted to discover how modern they have become and their website is an excellent resource, with videos and detailed tutorials. A good thing as I’ve never dyed anything before.

    Just today my order from Rit arrived and I am looking forward to tackling my cocktail napkin dyeing project. A good thing to do as I continue to stay home. If the napkins turn out well maybe some shirts will be next.

    KateJuly 19th, 2020  11:01 PM

  • I’m looking forward to your research. I too have a stack of clothes that have faded – yet I can’t part with them.

    Lisa EastmanJuly 20th, 2020  6:57 AM

  • I recently dyed a white linen Prada jacket (unstructured) using Rit dye with great success. It is now a gorgeous shade of grey which I can wear spring, summer and early fall.
    Preston, I’ll send a pic.

    GigiJuly 20th, 2020  8:04 AM

  • Inés de la Fressange often writes about this, and she recommends dying all faded clothing indigo.
    Please tell us more about any good white shirts you find, as others have said, white shirts do need frequent refreshing, so one is always in the market.

    KIC fanJuly 20th, 2020  8:13 AM

  • This fills me with an undue amount of excitement, can’t wait for you to report back. Thank you also to Kate, I too have some beloved napkins from grandmother that would be perfect to try and “update”. ❤️

    SueMJuly 20th, 2020  8:18 AM

  • I have bought so many white shirts, I’m on a mission. Love the Toteme and Saint Laurent. Holiday Boileau, Save Khaki, and Alex Mill coming this week. To be continued

    PrestonJuly 20th, 2020  8:24 AM

  • Preston,
    I am curious about the Save Khaki ones you ordered. I ordered one from the Claridge and King website based on a previous post. They looked gorgeous. Please report back with all of your choices.

    YasminJuly 20th, 2020  9:42 AM

  • I’ve heard indigo is a great color to dye things as is doesn’t have to be perfect and looks sort of cool if it’s not. What dye did you order?

    KathyJuly 20th, 2020  10:19 AM

  • Dylon for hand-dyeing

    PrestonJuly 20th, 2020  10:32 AM

  • Great idea! Please share a classic Before & After shot of your home DIY crafting items. Felling inspired, might invite a fashion friend over and make it a fun GNI.

    jean louise lillyJuly 20th, 2020  10:36 AM

  • Yes please do report back. I have a black cotton summer dress that I adore, but it is so faded that it’s become unwearable. I have been nervous to dye it on my own. Great post!

    BryceJuly 20th, 2020  3:36 PM


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