Valentine’s Day DIY: New Dress with Dye

Thanks to my very dear friend and the master of “fashion DIYs from thrift store don’ts,” Marisa Lynch, I’ve recently rediscovered the budget-loving beauty of dye. A $2.50 bottle of dye from HEB can give new life back to a washed-out or faded favorite, or can cover any manner of sins on a slightly imperfect score, or simply change last year’s must-have neutral into this season’s “color of the year.”

From Dingy to Gorgeous

To get ready for Valentine’s Day, I decided to try my hand at dyeing one of the many less-than-bright whites I’ve found recently at Goodwill. I took my standby Little White Dress – which I wore to Austin City Limits last year, but which has seen better days as it’s a little more “greige” than white at this point – and gave it the Marsala treatment by soaking it in a bottle of Wine-colored RIT dye. Using Marisa’s expert tips from her blog, New Dress A Day, I had a brand new dress in less than 2 hours – but only about 10 minutes of work! (If you’re more of a visual learner, check out Marisa’s online video workshop on

What I love the most about dyeing clothes is that, depending on the type of fabric, you just never know exactly how it’s going to come out, and the surprise is half the fun. There are natural dyes for cotton, linen, silk, and other natural fibers, and poly dyes for polyester and other synthetic fabrics, so if you know the materials of your garment, choose appropriately, or have fun by taking the chance on mixed-material garments. Like mine! If you look closely, you’ll notice that the white polyester lining of my dress just barely took the dye, leaving it just a blush pink, some of the white threads around the neckline and hem didn’t take at all, and some of the spots where I’d bleached or Tide-penned the dress when it was stark white took less of the dye, creating a tie-dye effect that I think looks pretty cool and organic.

DIY Made Easy

Even if you don’t have a top-loading washing machine at home, the recommended method, you can dye your clothes on the stovetop (grab a big ol’ stock pot or lobster pot at Goodwill if you don’t have one!) or simply by adding boiling water to a stainless steel sink or Home Depot bucket. There’s really no excuse for not giving it a try, and plenty of inexpensive finds on the racks at Goodwill for your test subjects!