Failed Dress Dying

I was invited to a masquerade ball and my first thought was; what do you wear to such a thing? A gown and mask, I suppose, but what will I wear?

I really didn’t want to spend a ton of cash-o-la on a fancy dress that I would probably never wear again. But I had this old prom dress. And it still fit.

I came up with this brilliant plan to modify it and update it. Trying for a subtle renaissance-meets-steampunk-at-a-formal-event vibe. I would take the straps off the dress, add lace to cover the back and shoulders, and wear it under a beautiful corset.

dress to dye

The only snag is the corset is maroon and gold and the dress was a salmon color. The lace was white. No worries! I will dye it.

Or so I thought.

I completed the sewing without issue and was pleased with the result. I tried it on under the corset and really liked how it looked. This could be a cool outfit!

On to the color…


I’ve never dyed fabric before, but I have a bunch of “bare” yarn that I’d like to dye some day, so I figured this would be good practice. I did a little research. Since the dress was polyester, I learned it might not take powder dye well, but the liquid dye seemed to yield better results. It would also require heating the water/dye mixture, not just immersing the fabric. I bought maroon dye (it was called Wine) and an inexpensive soup pot. (Now the dedicated DYE pot, NOT to be used for food EVER.)


When I rinsed the dress, the lace retained the wine coloring and the rest of the dye slid right off the polyester. I didn’t get a photo, but you can piece it together from the above images… the two colors together; salmon and burgundy. Ick!

I didn’t even wait for it to dry. I threw it straight in the trash.

Now, if you are eyeing up the time on the stove behind this pot, you will notice it was past 9:45. That is 9:45 PM the day before I needed this dress. Talk about last minute stress! Fortunately, I DID find a great alternative at a great price the next day- just hours before I needed it! (Oh, and there were no modifications necessary!!)


What I learned

I want to be clear. I occasionally share a story of a failure or a flop because I like to peel back the curtain and dispel the image of perfection that online communities tend to show (even subconsciously!).  Sometimes there are lessons learned that “redeem” the whole struggle, or put a silver lining around it. I’m happy to put a positive spin on things just to keep my attitude in check, but honestly sometimes a flop is just a flop. Those moments happen, too.

  • (-) I was not able to salvage the dress.
  • (+) I did get some practice with dyes.
  • (+) I learned not to try to dye polyester.
  • (+) I can reuse the dye-pot

What about you?

When was the last time you encountered failure?

How did you handle it and what (if anything) did you learn?


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