How to Tie and Dye a Maxi Skirt

Explore your creativity through tie and dye and create a unique maxi skirt design. Discover everything you need for the process through this easy-to-follow tutorial.

There are many reasons you would want to tie and dye a maxi skirt. You could be attending a festival, visiting the good country of Jamaica, or simply feeling like it.

Tie and dye has in recent years become a trend that comes and goes, and celebs haven’t been left out. Though most do t-shirts, hoods and dresses, this tie-and-dye maxi skirt by Hilary Duff left an impression on me.

The dark color is something you can wear every day, and it is so unique. In fact, I will post a variation of black and white tie and dye maxi skirts that prove you don’t have to goal rainbow with tie and dye.

If you have a white cotton maxi skirt you would like to transform like me, this post is for us. The tie-and-dye trend may not come around often, but we don’t have to wait for it. (You can also check out types of cotton maxi dresses here.)

What is Tie and Dye?

Tie and dye is a dyeing technique that uses saturated colors and bold patterns to decorate fabric. You must first fold or crumple the material and then tie it with a string or rubber bands. Then, immerse the fabric in a dye bucket or apply the dye with a brush or squirt bottles directly on the material.

The folds and ties prevent the dye from saturating the fabric everywhere and separate the colors. This is what creates that unique pattern.

It’s important to know there are different tie and dye techniques. Every race, from Asians to Africans, has its own way of dyeing clothes. The three most common methods however are;

  • Traditional Tie-Dye. This is where you use color buckets with a color and water solution and dip the fabric in there.
  • Ice Dye. With this method, you apply the colors on your fabric directly and then cover it with ice cubes. As the ice melts, the dye powder dissolves and saturates the fabric.
  • Bleach Tie and Dye. Also known as reverse tie and dye, this method starts with colored fabric instead of white. You then apply bleach to lighten parts of the fabric and create a unique pattern and design.

How to Tie Dye a Maxi Skirt

Tie and dye is a 7-step process;

  • Prepare your supplies- fiber reactive dye, fabric, soda ash, laundry detergent, rubber bands, buckets or squeeze bottles, zip-lock bag, gloves, and a dust mask. You can also buy a ready-made tie-dye kit that comes with everything you need.
  • Set up the work area (flat surface and line it up with a plastic cover).
  • Mix the dyes if necessary and clean the garment.
  • Fold and tie the garment.
  • Apply the dye or immerse.
  • Let it rest for 6-24 hours.
  • Rinse, wash, and dry.


Step 1. Mix the Dyes

When you have all the materials on hand and the work area is ready, it’s time to get started. Here we are using the Tulip One-Step dyes because it comes ready for use- no need to pre-soak fabrics in soda ash.

Add some water to the dye bottles as instructed and shake to mix. Set aside.

Run the garment under a warm wash to remove any oils or dirt that can make the dye not stick. You also want to do the tie-dye when the fabric is damp but not soaking wet. You can squeeze all the water out and leave it slightly wet so the dye can saturate easily.

Step 2. Fold and tie the fabric

There are more than a few ways to fold and tie a garment. You can scrunch it, fold it or even clamp it together. The idea is to have many folds on the garment to create your desired pattern.

With this one, we fold the skirt horizontally several times to create those horizontal lines. We then secure the fold with rubber bands or strings so they don’t come apart during dyeing.

Step 3. Apply the dye

Again, you can dip the fabric in a dye solution, but since we are using Tulip One-Step dyes, we apply it directly to the garment. Using a paintbrush or squeeze bottle, apply as few colors or as many as you like.

With this skirt, I only had to apply one color and leave spaces in between for the white stripes. If you use multiple colors, consider placement because colors will bleed into each other. Ensure the colors next to each other make a lovely combination, not ugly colors like brown.

When you finish the tie-dye project, you can check out what to wear with a black maxi skirt for summer because tie and dyes are so summer appropriate.

Step 4. Allow the dye to set

When you have saturated every place you want with dye, give it time to rest. It’s important to keep the fabric damp but warm.

To achieve that, we place the fabric in a zip-lock bag and leave it in a sunny spot for 6 hours to a day.

Step 5. Rinse and wash

After the rest time, you must wash out the excess dye from the garment. Leaving the bands on, rinse the skirt under cold running water until the water runs almost clear.

Remove the bands and continue rinsing with lukewarm water until it’s completely clear. Run the skirt through a wash of warm water using Synthrapol detergent. You will want to wash the skirt separately or with other tie dyes for the next few washes, but it will eventually stop bleeding any color.

Can you tie-dye any maxi skirt?

No, you can only tie-dye natural fabrics like cotton, rayon, linen, and hemp. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, lycra, and nylon will not absorb or retain the dye. However, a 90 or 80-percent cotton fabric with some polyester will also work.

What is the best dye for tie-dying a maxi skirt?

Fiber reactive dye is the best type to use on natural fabrics like cotton. The dye is brighter, long-lasting, and easier to use compared to all-purpose dyes. It also reacts with fabric in cold water, so the color won’t wash out when you launder the garment.

Lior Shapiro

I love clothes with pockets and dresses, and I think any woman can pull off a good maxi dress.
I believe women's clothes with pockets make the world a better place.