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July 6, 2012


Overdyeing is highly underrated technique.  I subscribe to the notion that men look most handsome dressed dark and subtle, and for me, overdyeing had always proven to be an easy way of salvaging many a cheery, colorful mistake and making it wearable.

Not that I would call this a particularly cheery mistake, but I thought the charming urn print and the quality of this vintage silk shirt would make for a perfect illustration of the merits of overdying.

Before I go any further, note that overdyeing is not like the Microsoft Paint fill tool; it doesn’t magically turn Tiki prints into solid colors.  What it does is that it lends a more subtle tone-on-tone quality to colorful prints, and and gives an interesting saturated matte finish to solid-color fabrics.  Adam Kimmel overdyed a Hawaiian print for Spring 2012, and Assembly New York regularly does overdyed black shirts and jackets.

I typically do a bath of iDye for natural fabrics then iDye Poly (because fabrics contents aren't always what they say they are), but this particular shirt looked great after just iDye so I went on and skipped the second step. You might find iDye Poly more useful for heavier fabrics such as wool felts or suiting fabrics.

Follow the instructions on the packet, and always use a separately labelled "poison pot" for dyeing.

I rinse it out until the water runs clear, but I refrain from washing it out with detergent, to keep the dyed color as saturated as possible.

Throwing it in the dryer helps heat-set the dye and quells the yearning of many an eager overdyed shirt wearer.

overdyed vintage silk shirt

The overdyed shirt shows patches of darker and lighter dyeing, like clouds of purple-gray and black-brown. I personally find the blotchiness charming, but you could avoid this by using a larger pot.

Illesteva sunglasses, overdyed black silk shirt, 3.1 Phillip Lim shorts, kung-fu shoes from Chinatown

diamond signet ring, Number (N)ine blackened silver bracelet, Native American copper bracelets

 photographs by Kyle Morrison


  • Patrick Wilson
    July 6th, 2012 at 1:43 pm


  • amo
    July 6th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    amazing much better “after”


  • Hannah
    July 6th, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I just love it!

  • Patrick Wilson
    July 6th, 2012 at 10:56 pm


  • mat
    July 7th, 2012 at 5:02 am

    what a blummin’ good effort, it sure seems more wearable now. really nice effect. really liking it with the baggy shorts, something i’d like to get into

  • Sean
    July 7th, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I just destroyed a shirt with bleach (accidentally!) and think this may be the answer for salvaging it and turning it into something new/interesting!

  • Greg
    July 8th, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    WOW, the results look great… going to have to give this a go sometime!

  • WhiteCloset
    July 10th, 2012 at 8:08 am

    that shirt is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G


  • Josh
    July 13th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Izzy, that’s awesome! Very cool post!!

  • GarconJon
    July 17th, 2012 at 4:27 am

    I am in love with this shirt! It came out beautifully. Last season Adam Kimmel did a few over dyed shirts I loved in camou but I think I prefer this actually. Thanks for sharing.


  • mike ormsby
    July 23rd, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    good idea, nice post.
    i’m going to try it on some shorts.
    my only reservation, about dyeing, is that, in my experience, with eg, cotton, the fabric tends to lose it’s ‘breathability’, and can end up feeling like… well, paper or cardboard.
    It’s as if the dye somehow blocks ventilation at a microscopic level, and
    this often means over-dyed shirts feel too hot in warm weather and too cold in cool w.
    then again, it may depend on the dye and the original fabric, but i’ve noticed it in numerous items i have dyed (and one of the reasons I stopped doing it!)
    but, this has reawakened my interest, as i have not dyed ‘over’ a pattern, before.
    thank you

  • Izzy
    July 23rd, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Hi Mike,

    That’s an interesting issue you’ve brought up. From my experience, silk and wool take very well to overdyeing; I barely see a difference in fabric weight, perhaps a minimal change in the fabric finish (it seems matt-ified). It’s cotton that changes drastically. Both my cotton knit shorts and my khaki chinos did feel heavier after dyeing. The chinos, especially, had to be worn and washed (and faded) before they felt nice to touch. Best of luck with your project!


Who Linked To This Post?

  1. Borgy Manotoc | The Dandy Project

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