Can this dress be saved? Domestically challenged edition.
April 22, 2019 12:41 AM   Subscribe

I needed a very nice dress for work, and saved up for this one which fit me perfectly, and which was exactly what I needed for the office. I really only need one grown-up dress like this one, so I splashed out on the price. The problem happened the first time I washed it. Help?

I followed the hand washing instructions to the letter, but it came out more crinkly than I expected. The label called for cool iron, but since it was pretty wrinkled and I am not a champion ironing person I decided to take to my local dry cleaner to have it pressed. I specified "cool iron", no steam and they claim this is exactly what they did.

I have some doubts, and I won't be going back there again. (They've given me some vouchers, but nowhere near the cost of the dress, and they claim the dye ran even with a cool iron and said I should go back to the manufacturer if I want more. Which I can't do since I washed it.)

The crepe fabric has a kind of greyish backing and the black has gone quite mottled and see through in places, showing the backing. From a distance it is still okay, but up close, it's visibly shiny and mottled. Part of the reason I doubt their story is that it's obviously worse along the seams and collar.

This has been a really expensive lesson learned, but before I toss the dress I'm trying to figure out if there is any way to salvage it. Is there any earthly way to dye just the black parts or some kind of treatment which can help if the iron does this? My guess is probably not, but I'm so bad at this kind of domestic stuff that maybe there is a really obvious fix which I'm somehow not seeing.

Please don't try to give me advice on how to get my money back. I'm working on that part. I'm looking for advice on how to get some use out of an expensive and likely ruined dress.
posted by frumiousb to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god I’m so sorry how gutting! Unfortunately I think given the material (crepe de chine) the dress is a loss. Mayyyybeeeee you can save it for the winter and style it with a cozy oversized sweater but it can be a tricky look to pull off and I guess it depends on how extensive the damage is to the skirt.
posted by like_neon at 1:07 AM on April 22

That is a lovely dress. So sorry.

Is it possible to paint over the faded spots with a permanent marker? I've done that with small spots...
posted by mightshould at 3:16 AM on April 22

The washing instructions were a lie. Every "machine washable" viscose top I've ever tried to machine wash has been ruined in the washer. I'm really sorry that happened to you with such a special dress.

One option for salvage might be to see if any undamaged portions can be trimmed off and made into something new or into a replacement for the damaged collar. Maybe you could get a nice top out of the skirt?
posted by snaw at 4:52 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]

I haven't tried it but the Rit website has instructions for spot-dyeing.

Very sorry this happened - good luck!
posted by bunderful at 5:49 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

It's a gorgeous dress. I agree about going back to Net-a-porter. Worth a try.

Try steaming it, which requires a really good steamer. Crepe has a subtle texture woven in that ironing can smush, but it may revive with steam.

If all else fails, and you have nothing to lose. If it has lost color, you can overdye it. The print looks like the fairly sturdy printing that is almost like paint, and will not pick up dye. One packet of dye (or less) would do it.
posted by theora55 at 6:03 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]

You could try to overdye the dress black using Procion fiber reactive dyes in cold water in a large bucket. The Dharma Trading website has very good instructions. The red print might still show as a different shade of black but you can pass it off as a two tone thing. You would still have to be careful washing it and of course you'd still end up with the ironing problem. It sounds like the dry cleaner didnt use a pressing cloth to prevent shine.

The one time I bought a rayon crepe de chine blouse, the label said "dry clean only" but I was like, that's ridiculous, I'm not going to dry clean this blouse every time I wear it. So I handwashed it and the button placket stretched so badly it was unwearable. So that's something to watch out for. Never twist or wring, even rolling in a towel and squeezing is problematic.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:12 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]

I would check with Net A Porter--it was a dry cleaner's error, but you never know.

Also, FWIW, viscose is a rayon--a manmade fabric of fiber made from cellulose, generally wood pulp. Viscose is the oldest rayon process (from the late 19th century, although it has adapted over time). People stopped calling it "rayon" in the 70's and 80's. Cupro, Lyocell, Bemberg, and modal are all wood pulp rayons as well.

They all take dye really well but all are quite fragile when wet (modal--"high wet modulus rayon"--was developed to offset this weakness of the fiber, but it's still pretty fragile when wet compared to, say, cotton or silk). Garments made from rayons are fairly high maintenance. Undergarments and spot cleaning can reduce the number of times they need to be laundered. Viscose should not be steam pressed. It should not be hung to dry.

So, if you try to overdye it, definitely go with the Procion cold water dye. Use a large basin, so you can avoid crumpling the garment and don't have to agitate it often nor vigorously. Rinse without draping the garment over anything, too (meaning don't leave parts of it hanging while you hold it under running water to rinse it--rinse it by swapping out the water in the basin until it's clear). Lay it between two beach towels and gently pat most of the water out before drying it flat--drying screens set over the bathtub are a good way to go.
posted by crush at 7:39 AM on April 22 [9 favorites]

That sucks. It is sometimes possible to remove shine caused by ironing. Personally, I might try that before attempting to dye anything.
posted by pinochiette at 8:10 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

I know you didn't ask for this advice, but I'd still write to the manufacturer, tell your story as you did here, and see if they will replace it (definitely not give you your money back). They should be happy that someone tells them there is a problem.
posted by mumimor at 8:14 AM on April 22 [7 favorites]

So, I am afraid all efforts failed. The overdying failed in a fairly hilarious way. So it has been donated as polish rags to my household for cleaning.

I did write the manufacturer, and was frankly disappointed that they were rather snotty and talk-to-the-hand. Won't be buying from them again.
posted by frumiousb at 5:25 AM on June 17

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