How to Dye a Silk Dress

by Michelle Powell-Smith
Dyeing your silk dresses can give them a vibrant new life.

Dyeing your silk dresses can give them a vibrant new life.

If you are ready to give your silk dress an all-new look, a trip through a dye bath can dramatically change your old favorite. Silk can be overdyed in a variety of colors, depending upon its original color. Light tones will dye easily; however, you can dye darker or richer-colored silk successfully if you choose a darker dye. Make your simple silk sheath stunning in a deep burgundy or turn your bias-cut silk wedding gown into a wearable pale gold with these dye techniques.

Remove any buttons or other ornaments on the dress, using small scissors to cut threads. Set aside to replace after dyeing. Soak the dress in lukewarm water.

Fill the stock pot, designated for craft or non-food use, with enough warm water to fully cover the dress and place the pot over medium heat on the stove. Wearing gloves to protect your hands, add dye powder to the water. Use 1/3-ounce to 2/3-ounce of dye powder per pound of fabric.

Stir to dispense the dye. Add the dress to the dye pot and continue stirring. Add the candy thermometer and heat to below boiling, around 185 degrees Fahrenheit.

Push the fabric aside with the wooden spoon and add 1/4-cup white vinegar per pound of fabric. Continue to heat the dye mixture for approximate 30 minutes.

Rinse well with lukewarm water. Wash by hand using a specialty textile detergent intended for dyeing. Hang to dry.

Items you will need

  • Silk dress
  • Scissors
  • Large stainless steel stockpot
  • Gloves
  • Acid dye
  • Wooden spoon
  • Candy thermometer
  • Vinegar
  • Textile detergent


  • Blend dye colors to achieve a custom color, stirring together the powdered dye.
  • As an alternative to stove top dyeing, you can use a top-load washing machine; however, the lower temperatures are less effective.


  • Powdered acid dyes are often toxic. Wear a face mask while mixing the dry dye into the water.
  • Some finished silk garments, like silk dresses, may be sewn in cotton or polyester thread. This thread will not dye or not dye well compared to the silk fabric. Seams are unlikely to show, but hems or topstitching will.

About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.

Photo Credits

  • John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images