DIY Your Halloween Costume with Dyed Lingerie
Dyeing is a great way to bring lingerie back from the dead, as Estelle mentioned in her article. It’s also a great way to make costume pieces out of lingerie you aren’t getting much use out of. I’m all about sexy Halloween costumes, but I’m usually not a fan of the pre-packaged kind, since they tend to be flimsy at best and culturally appropriative or creepy at worst -- so this year, I’m going to try to make my own. This Halloween, dyeing might be what you need to turn something you already have into the perfect lingerie-based costume.
Here are some types of lingerie that can be dyed easily at home:
If you find a long slip at a thrift store (they’re everywhere, and usually only a few dollars), you can spatter it with dye and suddenly you’re Sissy Spacek as Carrie. Dye the bottom of the slip red and then do a little bit of spatter over the rest of the garment with splashes of undiluted dye, or with red fabric paint.
Any bra, longline bra or bustier can be dyed to become the base of a superhero costume -- if it doesn't look like one already. My ladyfriend and I are going as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy this year, so we’re definitely making use of this technique. We're buying cheesy bad corset-style garments -- don't judge us -- and dyeing bras to match.
Anything that looks innocent in white or pink becomes vampire attire if it’s in black or red. I recommend doing an extra long dye bath, because you don't want anything meant to be spooky to turn out a faded pink.
If you think there's a chance someone will see your underwear in your costume, why not have them coordinate? And cotton absorbs dye pretty well. Try adding a cup of salt to the mixture for best results.
Tights and stockings made of nylon take dye very well, so if you have every part of a costume except the tights, dye some to match.
- Before you start, I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with how dye works. There are some amazing articles on basic dyeing techniques here and here.
- Take all cautions about dye very seriously; it’s incredibly messy and you’ll probably want to wear gloves.
- Some lingerie-specific dyeing information: natural fibers of almost any kind dye best. Nylon will take dye a lot more intensely than the polyester foam padding layers of bras, or cotton backing layers as shown below. This means if you have a nylon lace overlay on a cotton or polyester bra, you should prepare for it to be the boldest part of your garment.
- Certain artificial materials may give you more of a problem than others; most people cite polyester and acrylic, but I’ve also had problems with things like: elastic, threads (since most of them are polyester or a blend), and zipper backings.
- Use about half a bottle of liquid RIT dye in my color of choice in a spaghetti pot full of water (Use an old pot you don't cook in, or buy one for this purpose, because dye doesn't come out of cookware.)
- Be sure to test a swatch of cotton or something similar in the dye bath to see what the initial color looks like. If the swatch is too dark I add water, if it’s too weak I add more of the color of dye, and if the color seems too light or too bright, I’ll add a small capful of black dye. Go a little darker than your desired result, because everything looks too dark in a dye bath.
- Submerge the bra and poke it down with a stick a few times, since bras tend to float. I've used disposable chopsticks in the past.
- Stir it. As Estelle says, the more you can bring yourself to stir the pot, the more even your dye job will be. With bras, I’ve seen very little patchiness. Problems tend to happen more with larger items that bunch up inside the pot, so if you’re dyeing a slip, that’s when you should be sure to put in your stirring hours.
- After about an hour (make that maybe two for cotton fabrics or larger items), rinse your item out thoroughly in a metal sink and let it air dry. Dyed lingerie will bleed a little on the next few washings, but this is less of a problem with lingerie, since lingerie usually needs to be handwashed anyway. (You do handwash, right?)
- You're finished! Get excited about your costume. Send us pictures.
Your results may vary, so I’d suggest not dyeing anything you’re in love with -- at least, not on your first attempt. Thrift stores have bras you can practice your technique on, even if (like me) you don’t really want to wear someone else’s bra. Marshall’s and TJ Maxx often carry lingerie starting at $5 as well, which makes for a good costume base. And of course, if like Estelle and me, you accidentally stain one of your favorites, definitely try dyeing it to watch it emerge reborn from the vats. Resurrection is very Halloween.
What do you think about incorporating lingerie into Halloween costumes? Let us know in the comments!