Written by Naomi May

Upcycling clothes is made easier with the simple, straightforward and age-old tradition of dying clothes. 

On a recent holiday with my best friend, I inspected the contents of her suitcase (as all dutiful friends do) with increasing intrigue. Here was a bag of clothes packed with shimmering silver fabrics, crisp pink shirts and slouchy T-shirts. They were in equal parts colourful and pared-back. These were, as I told her, very, very good clothes.

For the most part, I recognised them; we have a friendship old enough to know the exact points in our lives together that we bought our clothes. But the others felt only faintly familiar. “Oh Nomi,” she said. “Do you not dye your clothes?”

And in the blink of an eye, this fashion editor was informed of a secret by a neuroscience PhD student that is far more ubiquitous than I ever realised.

Fashion editors rely upon dying their black and blue jeans to keep their colour fresh.

Needless to say that as soon as our plane clattered back onto British soil, I ordered a pack of Dylon’s Intense Black dye with the intention of dying a pair of well-loved cargo pants and a corset I have had for years, but have struggled to wear in recent years.

It’s not that there’s anything objectively wrong with either of these pieces of my wardrobe, but more that I struggled to style beige into the pieces I already have (I’m a new convert to capsule wardrobes, FYI).

Let me be clear: there’s an art to dying your clothes, particularly if you had to part with a far-from-humble amount of money to make them yours in the first place. The corset and cargo pants I wanted to dye were sale purchases, which cost me next to nothing, so the risk of dying them black from beige felt low from the offset.

When everything starts to look the same in your wardrobe, consider a refresh by using fabric dye to inject new life into old pieces.

On the advice of fellow fashion journalists more skilled in the art of dying clothes, I bought a pack of Dylon dye that includes dying salts. This is important because it’s the salt that helps the dye attach to the fabric.

According to Dylon, one pack of its standard dye will dye up to 600g of fabric to the full shade. It also stresses that the DIY dyeing process consumes 60 litres of water, which is a paltry amount compared to the approximate 8,000 litres required to produce a single pair of jeans.

I sprinkled the contents of the dye packet into the drum of my washing machine, threw in my damp and freshly washed cargo pants and corset and let it run. At the end of its 90-minute cycle, I had a newly black corset and cargo pants. I ran my washing machine once more to rid it of any remaining dye and voilà: two new-looking pieces to weave into my existing wardrobe for less than £10. And not a fast fashion order in sight! I call that a win.

Images: Getty; courtesy of author

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