Help on re-dyeing an academic gown

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion Q & A' started by Anna Evans, Jun 19, 2020.

  1. Anna Evans

    Anna Evans Registered Guest

    Hello everyone,

    I have an academic gown (possibly dating to the 60s- incidentally, I would be delighted if anyone has a better idea of the era. The label is Bodgers of Cambridge.)
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    Unfortunately, it has faded on one shoulder from sun. I would like to re-dye it black, but would like any input on the best way to go about this. I THINK it's cotton. I did a burn test with a stray thread and did not detect the 'burnt hair' odour. It smelt more like paper to me. There is a chance it may be a very fine wool, but my instinct is cotton. I have a packet of Dylon black machine dye, but I am hesitant to put a vintage item in a washing machine; particularly since it's pleated. I am not sure what padding the material is on the inside of the pleating. It is soft and fibrous.

    I would be very grateful for any advice!


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    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
  2. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    I wouldn't put that in a machine. I think the agitation will ruin the structure, and the heat will affect those under layers which look like wool.

    I'm not sure if these are meant to be washed, or are more like a tailored garment and only dry cleaned. All the structure and different fabrics underneath does look like it might not take being immersed in water very well. If they aren't meant to be washed, it's possible dyeing might spoil it.

    If you want to take the risk, I'd do cold water hand dye, which will work for wool or cotton. Dylon used to make those, I expect they still do. You'll have to do a lot of stirring! Also make sure you use enough dye for the size of garment.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  3. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    Hmm looks like Dylon hand dye is now meant to be done at 40 degrees. Still better than washing machine dye, but I'd be concerned that 40 degrees would be too hot for the garment. You could try using it at a lower temperature, but it might not set as well.

    Procion make cold water fabric dyes but I've no experience of using them..
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  4. mags_rags

    mags_rags Trade Member

    How much scrutiny will the finished product need to withstand? Even if an immersion dye process doesn’t twist, shrink or otherwise ruin the structure of the garment, the final result may not cover the fade as well as you hope. I am constantly reminded by garments in my own closet that there are many shades of black.
    If it were mine, and if there was some margin for “good enough”, I would be looking into a spray dye. I have no personal experience with spray dyes, but intuitively feels less risky.
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  5. Anna Evans

    Anna Evans Registered Guest

    Thankyou for taking the time to help me out Ruth! I agree, the idea of putting it in a machine is daunting. I have experience of cold water dyes- and it didn't go too well. I did stir, but I think you're right- you need to stir constantly in order to disperse the dye. Thankyou again
  6. Anna Evans

    Anna Evans Registered Guest

    Thankyou! Great advice. I'll take a look at procion.
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  7. Anna Evans

    Anna Evans Registered Guest

    Thankyou Maggie! I didn't even know that spray dyes existed! I like the sound of that option. I will do a bit of research. I also have many different shades of black in my wardrobe. Sometimes in a single garment. Many thanks
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  8. Vinclothes

    Vinclothes Alumni +

    I have had moderate (not complete} success using fabric marking pens on small areas of fading. Do not use an ordinary black marker; they discolor and shine.
  9. Anna Evans

    Anna Evans Registered Guest

    Thankyou Marian! I will look at fabric pens as well

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