So...What is Garment Dye? - Harvey Ltd

So...What is Garment Dye?

It’s a technique, not a particular type of dye. The typical method for adding color to a garment (like a sweatshirt) is through a process called piece-dying, which means the fabric roll is dyed before it’s cut into a pattern and sewn together. Piece-dyeing fabric creates an even color without variation. Garment-dyeing flips the process around; the sweatshirt is sewn first, then washed in color.

Instead of the pristine, uniform finish you’d get with fabric dyed by the roll, garment dyeing lets the dye settle in different amounts in different spots. So it might be deeper at the seams or around the collar, and a little more faded in the body, giving it that gently worn-in feel from the start.

So that just-so, lived-in look lasts longer. Win-win.


A side-bonus of a garment being dyed after it’s been constructed is that it’s already been through a washing process by the time it gets to you, meaning it’s less likely to shrink when you wash it yourself later.

Since the finished piece of clothing is washed in dye all at once, you’ll see some variation where the color collects differently. This usually happens when the texture changes, like on a ribbed collar or at the seams. This is what gives garment-dyed pieces subtle variation in color.

Even in a batch of clothes that were garment-dyed together, no style is exactly alike.


In general, garment-dyed clothes have a cool washed-out look. Since some interior tags are attached before the garment-dyeing process, you may find that they’re the same color as the piece. Seams may be another clue, since dye also coats sewing thread during the coloring process. But keep in mind that seams may absorb the dye differently, depending on what the thread is made of.

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