DIY – Dyeing for Something Different?

Beloved Emcee and costume goddess Cora Vette, owner of Denver’s one stop burlesque shop VaVa Vette, gives us the lowdown on how to create your own custom fashions.


I can only sew for so long. This month I am going to feature custom dyeing.

When you are a crafty gal/performer/crazy person, you tend to pick up things you think you might need in the future. Such was the case with my horde of someday-meant-to-be costume pieces. This month’s D.I.Y. will focus on custom dyeing a small item.

I had a vintage white bustier that I loved, but, never used because it looked a little too “off-the-rack” for my tastes. So, I started experimenting with dye.
Step 1: Assemble your materials. For this D.I.Y. I used a stainless steel bowl, liquid Rit dye, a disposable stir stick (I use wooden shish kabob sticks. They are cheap.), white vinegar, gloves, a teapot and the bustier.

There are a few things you should know before you begin.

A) Use a big stainless steel bowl. Plastic will stain and be ruined.
B) Rit dye reacts differently on all fabrics and needs a different activating agent depending on the type of material. Follow the directions on the side of the bottle.
C) Rit dye comes in 2 forms, powdered and liquid. I like the liquid because you do not have to use a whole bottle and you can save some for later.

Step 2: Heat the water. I use a teapot and wait until it begins to whistle, but you can use the microwave. Just make sure the water is smoking hot!

Step 3: While the water is heating, put 1/2 cup of vinegar in the bowl and add the amount of dye you think you will need. I usually use about half the bottle, but, you can use more of less depending on the shade you want. There is a lot of trial and error in this step. All fabric reacts to dye a bit differently, so do some experimenting.

Step 4: Pour the (near) boiling water into your dye/vinegar mixture slowly as to not splash dye all over your workspace. Stir.

Step 5: Wet the garment first with tap water and then gently place it in the dye mixture and start stirring immediately! Make sure you fully submerge it and get it evenly covered and then keep stirring.

Step 6: Stir.

Step 7: Stir.

Step 8: Stir some more. Basically, stir continually for about 15 minutes and then occasionally stir until you get the color you want.

Step 9: Turn on the water in the sink and GENTLY pour out the mixture.

Rinse the garment until the water runs clear. I have a porcelain sink that I use. Or better yet, use an old paint sink or something you don’t mind staining. I have been lucky so far, but this stuff can really make a mess.

Step 10: Wash and dry the garment separately and you are done!

Like I said, all fabrics take dye differently. Notice in the finished product how many different shades of blue appeared? Bottom line, dying is addictive and fun. Just make sure you have an open mind when it comes to the exact shade and you can have a blast!

I hope you are dyeing to try this!
xoxo Cora Vette

Want more DIY with Cora? Check out her work here: DIY Gauntlet Gloves, DIY Shrug, DIY Shimmy Belt, DIY G-String, Buying Vintage Patterns, DIY Pencil Skirt

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