Ageing and Dyeing: What the **** is that?

All tied up. A new and perky jacket is sprayed with water and gets its pockets and elbows stretched and shoulders drooped with beebee filled socks. Button holes are stretched out with small clamps. Ager: Carol DeMarti

I was away last week working on location and I realized that some of the skills or tips I’ve picked up at work might be valuable information for DIY-minded people or just people in general.   When I am not making things for my store, renovating our apartment or writing this blog, I am a costumer in film and TV.   My job varies drastically from gig to gig, from shopping to fitting actors to swatching fabrics, but this past week, I was helping out the Ager/Dyer.    This job is often overlooked in film but it is essential to look of the clothes, and when it looks bad, it looks REALLY bad and vice versa.

Picture your most beat-up, worn-in piece of clothing right now.  Does it have an old food stain on it?  Holes, shreds, paint spots, yellowing pits?   In film, most of the time, the clothes don’t just come like this, and if it is going on someone who gets shot or thrown into water or who has a stunt double, then there are more than one.  So now picture having to copy that worn-in piece of clothing…10 times, or, how about 30?    Ageing and Dyeing is everything from dulling out bright colors to painting in subtle pit stains to completely destroying something and then matching that again.  Artists are best at this job, but even better are artists who understand how we wear our clothes down, lightly or heavily.

People ask me a lot how to break down their own clothes, to make them softer, more comfortable or cooler looking (“those brand new Chucks in the sunlight are really stealing the attention away from my face…”).  So, I’m going to pass on a few basics to you guys and if you want more specific tips on things you own, throw it in the comments and I’ll get back to you.    And whatever you do, please, oh please, don’t comment that you can just “tie it to the back of your car and run over it a few times” because I promise I, and every other Ager/Dyer, have heard that “joke” plenty of times.

Collar of a jacket. Working on matching holes and dirt. Ager: Delia Hauser

“I want this shirt to look and feel like I’ve had it for years”:

1. Fill your washer with warm water and one capful of Downy.  Let it mix and then stop the cycle by pushing in the button or just opening the top.  Put in the item you want to break down and let it sit awhile (30 minutes to an hour is plenty).  Start the cycle again and let it finish.   Just a note: fabric softener actually ruins your clothes, so don’t use it in your regular wash unless you want them to go to Goodwill faster.   We like it for breaking things down, but if that’s not your intention, steer clear.

2. You know those rubber mats that suction to your shower floor?  Buy one and cut it up into 4 inch squares.  After your clothing has gone through the rinse cycle, throw it into a dryer with those squares on high heat if won’t shrink or medium if it will.  The rubber pulls at the fibers and continues to wear them down.  You can also use a bunch of soft rubber balls or if you are really daring (and have an old dryer anyway), you can staple sheets of sandpaper to the rubber and use those.

3. Repeat if you want and as many times as you want.   When you reach desired softness, wash the item(s) with white vinegar to remove the Downy residue.   If you aren’t getting results because, let’s say you are trying to break down Carhart work pants, add these steps to your list:  Turn the item inside out and sand it with a foam sanding pad, wash with a 1/2 cup of TSP (an industrial wall and floor cleaner), and then go through the fabric softener steps.  It’s great to dry items between steps because it bangs them around more and softens them faster.

“My new leather boots hurt and look too new”:

1.  Buy some rubbing alcohol and a spray bottle. Don’t buy shoe stretch because it is expensive and basically just alcohol anyway.

2.  Spray the leather with alcohol, inside and out, and bend the shoes in ways you could never imagine your feet moving.  Mush them around and then put them on while they are still wet with some thick socks on.  Bend your foot, walk around, and remember that extreme bending and flexing is best to stretch them out a bit.  Repeat if you want.

3.  To make them look even older or edgier, use fine sand paper and gently rub around the front of the toe and the back of the heel.  Don’t be too extreme or it will start to look fake and completely cheesy!

4.  Finish off with some leather conditioner or leather lotion.  This hydrates the boots after the alcohol strips some of the moisture away and also helps to soften them.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Ageing and Dyeing: What the **** is that?

  1. Love these tips! Makes me want to buy some leather boots!

  2. I’m trying this with a T-shirt that I need to look a lot cruddier than it does. Well let you know how it goes!

  3. Pingback: Rethinking and Reinventing CRAFT «

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