Dying will be the death of me.

At this point the most frustrating and expensive part of this costume has been dying the clothes.  The design that I have in mind only requires two colors for the shirt and the same for the pants.  Seems pretty straight forward, right?

BUT, because I am taking two shirts and two pairs of pants, cutting them up and sewing them together to make one pair it is not as easy as it could have been.  I actually want it to look like two pairs of pants sewn together.  The intention is for it to look like I made the costume from scratch after discovering my powers.  Sort of an origin type costume.  I want the color scheme and overall appearance to immediately signify the character I am portraying but be unique enough that it is my own creation.  Oh, and because it is a gender swap I also want it to be masculine.

As I mentioned previously, the process of bleaching pants to prepare them for dying requires some skill.  Rather than develop that skill I went another route.  I ordered white pants that I could dye.  Pretty clever if I do say so myself.  And it would have been if I had enough skill.  Unfortunately there is a significant amount of technique that comes into play when dying clothes.  Not to mention salt.  Lots and lots of salt.

There are a number of different brands of clothes dye available on the market as well as forms.  Rit, one of the more common brands, produces dyes in powder and liquid forms.  On top of all this there is a variety of ways to USE the dyes.  Instructions written inside the Rit box detail a Bucket, Stove top, and 2 Washing machine methods.  Most, if not all, can be used with the Rit liquid dyes.  During my learning process I used both the powdered and liquid Rit formulas and the Dylon powder.  I also used 4 different brands of pants.  Remember, this required two pairs of pants, one of each color.  Now I think you’re beginning to see how this can get expensive.

Let's begin.
Let’s begin.

My first attempts began with the Rit powdered dye.  The directions indicate using one dye packet per pound of clothing or 1 yard of fabric.  I wanted to ensure that the color of the pants exactly matched the color of the shirt so I decided to dye the pants and shirt together to get the hues correct.  Unfortunately this did not go as I had hoped.  First tip, make sure the dye is completely dissolved in the water.  All of the powder will eventually dissolve given enough time, and since the directions call of 30 minutes, there is plenty of time.  If, however, there is still some powder at the bottom of the water, it can discolor the fabric.

Fabric that is discolored.
Fabric that is discolored.

Just to add an extra twist to everything, this is not the only way your fabric can be discolored.  If the fabric folds or bunches up it can prevent the dye from evenly saturating the fabric.  This leads to light spots instead of dark.

Light spots
Light spots

While on the yellow pants this is all but unnoticeable, in the darker colors this becomes a glaring problem.  BUT WAIT, there’s more.  With the first attempts I used the powder.  My second attempt I used the liquid.  Couple that with the stove top method and I got a slightly different hue.  I cannot say if it was the liquid dye or the continuous application of heat that made the difference.  Even so, my technique was still shit and I still had mottling and light spots on the pants.

My attempt used new dyes and new brands of pants.  The Dylon dye did not give me a dark enough color for either the yellow or green.

Just the two on the left.
Just the two on the left.

While the color was even, it simply was not dark enough for my purposes.  Given my luck so far I didn’t think trying to redye the clothes was going to be worthwhile.

My 4th attempt is on the right in the picture above.  I returned to both the Rit powder and the bucket method.  Shit went absolutely perfectly.  I got a great color and an even distribution of color throughout.  Even so, the pants are worthless.  I chose some cheap pants to keep costs down and I ended up with cheap pants.  The washing process and time spent in the hot dye shrank the pants to the point where they no longer fit.  Go figure.

I ordered yet another set of pants to try again.  This time, great results.


There is some lightness in areas for the green pants but nothing to the point where I would discard them.

Now the part you’ve anxiously been waiting for; the actual techniques and tips that I used.

When googling the subject you’ll get some sound advice like washing the fabric without soap.  This gets out any residual chemicals or detergents that could hamper the uptake of the color.  Additionally, you want to use quality fabrics or brands.  See that whole thing about shrinking clothes above.

This process is all about getting dye INTO your clothes.  Unfortunately it will also get dye into everything else as well.  This is an incredibly messy chore and you will want to take precautions as you see fit.  Towels on the floors, plastic bags on the counters, borrowing that serial killers basement space.  Additionally, I suggest you wear something you don’t mind changing the color of in limited areas.  Because this is done in water, there will be some splashing and that means other shit is going to get wet.  Reconcile yourself with that before you wear your designer pants and shirt for this.

I started with the “stove top” method and switched to the bucket method part way through.  The instructions call of the addition of salt or vinegar depending upon what type of fabric you are dying.  Since I was just doing cotton I got to add salt.  A CUP of salt.  That’s a lot of fucking salt.  On the stove I added 2 gallons of water to a large pot and applied heat to dissolve the salt into solution.  The directions call for up to 3 gallons of water.  The extra gallon could be useful in speeding up the dissolving of the salt and dye.  It would also keep the clothes from bunching up, this means a more even color.  Of course that is also another gallon of dye water splashing all over the fucking place.

Once the dye and salt were completely dissolved I turned off the burner and moved the pot to the floor, which I had covered with towels.  This prevents coloring the floor or burning holes in it.  Either one I consider “bad”.  The directions tell you to get the clothes wet first to aid in the saturation.  When putting the clothes in the water I “rinsed” them.  Put them in and make sure the were submerged and then lifted them out and put them back in several times.  Make sure that you open up the clothes as well.  When you wet them down and then submerge them the fabric and stick together just like wet clothing sticks to skin.  This will prevent  even saturation of the material.  Open the clothes so the water can get inside and out.  After “rinsing” a couple of times submerge the clothes and try to push out as much of the air as possible.  This will help keep as much of the fabric as possible beneath the surface of the water.  Periodically, every 5-10 minutes, perform this rinsing again.  I did not follow the 30 minutes explicitly but after 3 or 4 rinses I removed the clothes.

Per the directions I washed and dried the clothes.  Naturally, you don’t want to mix the dyes in the washer so wash each color separately.  This is not too hard as you’ll probably be dying the second color while the first is in the washer.

Making sure the dye is fully dissolved and “rinsing” the clothes were key in making sure that the color fully saturated the pants and prevented additional swearing and expenses.  The method you choose, obviously, will determine how you apply these tips.  If you use a washing machine I doubt you’ll need to remove it from the stove top.




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