Ombre trend Ever since candy-colored ombre tights strolled down the Lacroix Spring 2008 Couture runway (top left; bottom right), the fashion blogosphere has been atwitter: check out Fashionista’s DIY ombre tights tutorial; BrightestYoungThings; Nelliina (in Finnish, but gorgeous pix!); BurdaStyle’s how-to; and The Coveted. Tie-dye’s sophisticated older sister has also proved a fun and fresh way to upgrade summer whites and chic solids.

However, the gradient- or dip-dying process is so labor intensive that the pricetags can be less than breezy, which is why you might want to save some cash and try doing it yourself.

Ready? Here’s what you’ll need to know:


1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT ITEM TO DYE For your first attempt, keep it simple by choosing something white. The fabrics that best take dye are natural: 100% cotton, linen, rayon, wool, and silk. At the very least, make sure the fabric content includes at least 50% of one of these dyeable fibers, and avoid the following: anything 100% polyester, acrylic, or labeled “COLD WATER WASH” OR “DRY CLEAN ONLY”.

2. PROPER PREPARATION It’s important to get rid of any stains or surface dirt, so be sure to pre-wash – however, there’s no need to dry it. Fill up a tub large enough to accommodate whatever you’re dying; follow the dye instructions to determine if the water should be cold, warm, or hot. Wet the article of clothing thoroughly, and wring out any excess water. And lest you want ombre’d hands, don’t forget to put on gloves!


3. CHOOSE YOUR OMBRE EFFECT For white-to-color, create two variations on a single color – eg. light green and dark green – and pour into two separate dyebaths. Take the top part of your garment that is to remain undyed, and clip to a plastic clothes hanger. Dip the end of your item in the lighter color, submerging 2/3 into the dyebath; swish back and forth for 2-10 minutes, depending on how dark you want the lighter color to be (remember: colors look darker when wet!). Then submerge 2/3 of the dyed section into the darker color. Alternatively, set up three dyebaths containing three variations of the same color, and dip in the same order: 1. Light; 2. Medium; 3. Dark. For example, start with Evening Blue (your Light color), then dip 2/3 of the Evening Blue section in Royal Blue (Medium), and finally, dip 2/3 of the Royal Blue section in Navy (Dark). As you dip, let gravity help with blending the colors. To use more than a single color, choose colors that, when mixed, create a pretty third color – for example, yellow and pink mix together to create coral. First dip 2/3 of the garment in Color #1, then turn it upside down and dip 2/3 of it into Color #2 – the overlapped 1/3 will automatically create Color #3 (in the center). For a Diane von Furstenberg inspired look (top runway photo, bottom left), try yellow, pink, and dark orange. Dip-dye 1/3 of the garment with Color #1. Turn it upside down, and dip 2/3 into Color #2. Re-dip the bottom 1/3 in the darkest color #3. The result: 3 separate colors, fading artfully into one another.

Dip dye rinsing

4. RINSE Rinse according to the dye instructions, starting from the undyed or lightly-dyed section in the direction you want the dye to concentrate. For 2- or 3- color dye jobs, keep the garment horizontal to the faucet and spray water on the surface instead.

5. MAKE IT PERMANENT Dry according to the dye package instructions, and the next time you wash your item, prevent any dye bleeding onto the rest of your laundry by washing in cold water – or, even better, hand-washing.

How to dye paint fabric HELPFUL HINTS Prefer to watch instead of read? Check out this quirky Ombre Dying Video from EdiesFashionFactory. Dig good ole’ paper? Dyes & Paints: A Hands-On Guide to Coloring Fabric is one of the most comprehensive guides on fabric dyeing and painting techniques. (Finally, a solution on how to spruce up that old t-shirt in the back of your closet!) Additionally, the RIT Dye website features yet more dyeing tips, tricks, and answers to common questions.

Still have questions? Email me at CarlyJCais AT Otherwise, happy DIY-ing!

– Carly J. Cais

(photos: runway top left – Lacroix Couture Spring 2008; top right – Burberry Prorsum; bottom left: DVF; bottom right – Lacroix Couture; all; Ombre how-to demos – all Edie’s Fashion Factory)

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