DIY Fashion - Tea Dye Your Little White Dress

July 3, 2013 -

Daily Beat Staff

When summer rolls around, LBDs are usually replaced by LWDs, or “little white dresses.” If you’re like me, and are averse to wearing anything lighter than a faded shade of gunmetal, this can be problematic. I find that the best way to ease into white is to start with dresses that are that nice shade of cream or beige, otherwise known as that vintage, antiqued, off-white color. The problem is that it can be challenging to find dresses that color that are affordable, and don’t look dirty or cheap.
My solution? Tea-dyeing.

Tea-dyeing is the perfect way to get bring a more relaxed, Instagram-filtered feel to that bright white dress you love, but wish didn’t look so stark. Be warned though: this technique works best on thinner fabrics like lace, cotton, or chiffon. Thicker fabrics that don’t flow as easily will be much harder to dye, and should be done professionally. With this in mind, follow my step-by-step instructions, and soon your Forever 21 sundress will look like a vintage piece from grandma’s attic.

You will need:

- 2 large pots
- 1-2 boxes of tea (depending on the size of the garment)
- 1 piece of cloth of a similar color and material to the garment (for testing purposes).


1) Make sure the garment you’re dyeing has already been washed to remove any chemicals or films from the store from whence it came.

2) Place garment in a pot or sink with hot water (not boiling!). Make sure the garment can fit comfortably inside, so it can soak thoroughly.

NOTE: Do not skip this step, or the dye will not absorb through the garment evenly.

3) Bring a pot of water to a boil, and soak one teabag for every six cups of water inside. To make the color darker, add more tea. Stir once or twice to make sure the tea soaks through the water uniformly. Let the tea steep for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the bags.

NOTE: Certain kinds of tea will produce different colors depending on the type. Green teas will produce a pale yellow/green color, black teas will produce cream, tan, or brown shades, and flower-based teas such as hibiscus or passion fruit, will result in a pinkish/lavender hue.

4) Turn the heat down to low, and place the test strip into the pot of water, and then into the dye. Hang the fabric upright so excess water can drip off. DO NOT SQUEEZE. The color of the fabric when it’s wet is only slightly darker than it will be when it’s dry, so you should be able to get an accurate feel for what your garment will look like. If the color is too light, add more tea, if the color is too dark, dump some of the mixture out and add more water.

5) When you’ve achieved your desired color, remove the garment from the pot of water and soak it in the dye. Use a wooden spoon to occasionally stir the garment in the mixture so it covers evenly. The longer you soak it, the darker it’ll be. Let it sit for three to five minutes, and then check. If it’s too light, let it soak for longer, otherwise remove it from the dye.

Drying clothes

6) Hang the garment on a hanger in a shower or over a bathtub, or tumble dry on it’s own at a medium to low heat. Again, DO NOT SQUEEZE. Squeezing will result in a tie-dye effect (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case wring away).

NOTE: If you find that the garment is not the color you wanted after this step, not all is lost! If the color is too light, simply put it back into the pot of hot water until it’s soaked again, then into the mixture and let it sit for longer (you can also add more tea to the mixture if you’ve soaked it for a while and the color isn’t changing). If the color is too dark, wash the garment on it’s own with oxy-clean, and then start over once it’s fully dry. I can’t guarantee that it will be back to its original color, but it will be significantly lighter, and you can still dye over it.

7) Once it’s dry, feel free to wear and frolic!

Tea colored dress

Dress by

Cover image CC2013 Pícara Roguedolls

Jenni Zellner  | @Jenni8Z

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