Tie-Dye Hippy-Dippy YAY! (Caftan Edition)

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Yeah, I know. Caftans, muumuus…if you’re a true fatshionista, you’re not supposed to touch them. They personify everything that’s evil about plus-sized clothing. All I can tell you is this: SHUT UP.

While I certainly agree with fat people not being limited to such shapeless threads, I work at home, in a (rented) house with no air conditioning. (I might be moving before summer arrives, but it’s rare to find air-conditioned dwellings here in PDX, regardless.) It’s pretty comfortable most of the summer, but we definitely have stretches when it gets HOT HOT HOT, and when it gets HOT HOT HOT, a nice, lightweight, flowy garment that I can wear to nip out to a meal or an errand and sit at my desk and concentrate on doctordrone for eight stinky, boob-perspiration-filled hours, is exactly what I want and need. I don’t even like to wear shorts or a knee-length skirt while sitting on a computer chair; I HATEHATEHATE the way the chair fabric feels along the backs of my thighs. Also, I don’t necessarily want to shave my profusely hirsute legs every hour on the hour, which I still feel compelled to do if said legs are going to be visible to any member of the public at any time.

Plus I tend to wear dresses and skirts at what I call “aspie length”; that is, if I happen to forget which direction my limbs are pointing in, at a given moment while seated or lying down, if my skirt is long enough I don’t have to worry about said public having a free glimpse at my cervix. So yes, a caftan. But with a sash, in case I wanted a more shapely variation on the theme. And it’s that time of the year when colorful craft projects like tie-dye call my name to counteract the Gray Blanket (as my friend J. refers to the endless winter cloud cover here). Where to look? Dharma Trading, of course.

Dharma has every tool you ever need for pretty much any technique of applying color to fiber, plus dyeable clothing and accessory blanks, fabric, even dyeable yarn, if you’re so inclined. And I’d ordered from them several times before and got terrific service. As far as the clothing blanks are concerned, they offer everything they can get for a reasonable price, but can only provide what their suppliers offer them. So unfortunately but predictably, the larger your dimensions, the sketchier the selection. I think they do have several styles of dresses up to about a size 22 or 24 (after shrinkage — ALWAYS subtract about 5″ or 6″ from the measurements they state unless you’re ordering a preshrunk garment), and I’m going to go out on a limb and say the caftan I got would accommodate about the same size; I’ve got 47″ in the bust and 50″ in the tush, or thereabouts, and even after shrinkage I’ve still got a good foot of fabric to spare on either side of me. If you are over women’s size 24, or men’s size 3XL, you can still get t-shirts and hospital scrubs that accommodate up to about 65″ in the bust/chest or hips, but you have to look under “Men’s Bigger Clothing.” I got this light rayon caftan (in Plus) and this rayon sash (the 11 x 60).

I used Procion fiber reactive dye, which is what they recommend for rayon and cotton (Chris and his son, Charles, were going to be dyeing cotton t-shirts along with me, plus I was also dyeing cotton t-shirts for my almost-2-year-old twin niece and nephew). I ordered way more dye (plus chemicals) than we were going to need, figuring that the powder would keep for a couple of years and I would almost certainly use it up. (You can buy kits if you’re just starting out, and they give tie-dyeing instructions here. I also found Virginia Gleser’s Tie-Dye Book, which I got out of the library, very useful.) I got the basic three colors of turquoise, fuchsia, and yellow, from which endless color combinations can be mixed, and I also got black (they’ve got several different ones — I went with Better Black), bubblegum pink, and mist gray, figuring those colors would be a huge pain in the butt to try to mix.

It was a giant mess, of course. Glorious fun, but a mess. I will add my own caveats if you want to try this: Put TONS of newspapers and dropcloths EVERYWHERE, including where you mix the dye. Make sure you don’t wear anything, shoes or socks included, that you care about staining. Get LOTS of rubber gloves (I learned the hard way not to use the same gloves I used for mixing dye to fish the fabric out of the soda soak — oops, didn’t mean to leave a giant turquoise thumbprint!). Check the bottoms of your shoes for dye powder, that shit tracks everywhere. I highly recommend devoting one scrubber sponge to cleaning up accidents. And getting the dye into the squeezy bottles, if you don’t get a kit where they do it for you, is, well, interesting. I used a funnel; were I to do it again, I think I’d go with a tiny measuring spoon instead and rinse it good after every color, because every time you get dye powder on the funnel you can muddy up your next color with the one you just mixed.

I knew mine was going to be a big splashy mess, because I was trying to squirt as much dye as I could, in as many colors as I could, into the fabric folds. (My last tie-dye experience had left me with way too much white to suit me.) But that’s the great thing about tie-dye; it’s klutz-proof, in that it almost never looks bad even if it doesn’t look exactly the way you planned it. And for me, part of the fun is the 24 hours that you leave the dye to set before untying, rinsing and washing, anticipating what it’s going to look like.

Pictures, you say? You want pictures? Okay then. (All pics are headless, because the dress is the thing, dude.) Here’s one without the sash, hanging straight down.

And here it is with wings spread, so you can see the riot of color better.

And how does it look with the sash tied? Glad you asked.

And is it comfy? Mais oui! I’m wearing it now and I don’t want to take it off, even though my ass is freezing.

I’ll bet Cass Elliot had a dress like this once, I’ll just betcha.


18 Responses to “Tie-Dye Hippy-Dippy YAY! (Caftan Edition)”

  1. Lindsay C. Says:

    I used to have something like that, and i loved the hell out of it. It gets insanely hot in Atlanta; when the temperature reaches 100+ F, as it usually does at least 1-3 times each summer? I could care less what people think about my flowy–shapeless-garment-wearing ways. 😀

    After all, part of “fat people can wear whatever the hell they want” does include “even if someone else thinks it’s horrid”. 🙂

  2. integgy Says:

    Oh my goodness, that looks just ridiculously comfortable. I might have to plan a project like that, even though I’ll risk my father calling me a humongous hippie. xD

  3. wellroundedmama Says:

    Hey Meowser,

    Fellow tie-dye lover here. I agree, Dharma is a great company. I’m not that crafty but I have a friend who is, and when she has tie-dye parties, we always order from Dharma. Great selection generally. And tie-dying is SUCH fun. Messy fun, best done outside, but fun.

    Caftan looks lovely, esp with the sash. And just so you know, I wear all my skirts “aspie” length too! I’m all about long and comfy and practical. Definitely the way to go.

  4. buttercup Says:

    I LOVE it. I love big flowy dresses and bright colors and that is an awesome one.

  5. April D Says:

    That just makes me yearn for Spring even more with those awesome colors. The entire thing looks fabulously comfy and with the sash I think it could be dressy enough for a semi-fancy summer evening out! Then again I’m certainly no fatshionista over here ^^

  6. Lori Says:

    You have no idea how much I love you for that caftan.

    I tend to think I’d either trip or set myself on fire if I had on that much fabric, but if I wasn’t such a klutz, I’d be all over it.

  7. Godless Heathen Says:

    I love caftans. I have some patterns for sewing my own, but I haven’t had any space to lay them out since I moved. Yours is so pretty, the tie dye effect is too cute!

  8. Twistie Says:

    That’s pretty spectacular, Meowser!

    Dharma Trading Company is great. I’ve used them for a number of crafty purposes over the years.

    Count me among those who wear their skirts on the long side. I’m a complete klutz and have my not-terribly-ladylike moments, no matter how hard I try to remember not to sprawl.

    Oh, and as someone who has always lived where temperatures climb over the century mark at least a couple weeks out of the year and has never had regular access to air conditioning, sod anyone who tries to tell me to wear tight, constricting clothes on those days.

    More options are superfantastic. Courting dehydration and heatstroke is not. Looking awesome while not courting dehydration and heatstroke is best of all.

  9. fillyjonk Says:

    I actually need a caftan, to go over a belly dance costume! I would kiss you for linking to cheap ones but sadly I am a lazy ass (and I have to make hair falls, coin bra, etc. for the show) so I wonder if I would actually bother to dye it. A white caftan does not really fit the tribal dance image. Anyway, muumuu schmuumuu — you look comfy and cheerful, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from Leslie Hall it’s that wearing stereotypical fat lady clothes can be just as political as wearing chic clothes on a fat body.

  10. angrygrayrainbows Says:

    Love it!!! Hmmm… you’re giving me ideas for summer.

  11. JeanC Says:

    I adore caftans of all types. I have one I need to repair as it has ripped out under the arms and I need to find some complementary material and put in gussets so I can wear it again. I’ve owned it since 1976 and because of the way it is cut, I can still wear it with very little problems, even tho I bought it 150 lbs ago 😀

    I still have a lot of fabric sitting around in my closet, I should see if I have any that would be suitable for a few flowy caftans for when it finally warms up around here.

  12. meowser Says:

    Thanks, everybody!

    (Sorry it took a couple of days to fish a few of you out of the spamtrap. Sometimes your IP address can renew without your knowing it and then you’ll wind up in modville.)

  13. Lori Says:

    There’s nothing like a big flowy dress — especially if it’s cotton — for comfort + style. Thanks for the Dharma link. I had forgotten that they exist! Great place for yoga pants, too.

  14. Val Says:

    That looks absolutely FABULOUS – I just requested a copy of their catalog; looks like a great messy crafty project to dive into w/my boy!
    I also love the casual, hippie-style natural fiber clothes that Deva makes (although they are admittedly sparse in the plus-plus sizes… I ordered a caftan from them last year which is a little too tight across the bosom to be truly comfortable.)

  15. Val Says:

    Oops meant to throw in a link: http://www.devalifewear.com/
    I have a couple of their Deva shirts (a basic tunic style) which have proven to be practically indestructible…

  16. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    LOVE IT!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  17. Randall Kidd Says:

    I especially like the black accents: you don’t see that often enough in batik…and it’s fabulous on you, especially with the sash tied.


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