Seditious Joy (blog): DIY Gaurdians of the Galaxy Dress

Posted on August 1, 2014

From my personal blog, Seditious Joy, where I write about various interests which include crafting, geek/nerd subjects, current events and some of my adventures in fiction:

DIY Gaurdians of the Galaxy Dress

Galaxy FabricThere’s nothing quite like making a special outfit for a special occasion – and this one was a crazy good time. I speak, of course, of my new Guardians of the Galaxy-inspired little black dress.

As fate would have it, the group I was planning to see Guardians of the Galaxy with had to re-schedule. After I bought my ticket. Now, I love people, but the prospect of seeing the movie alone… sitting wherever I wanted, horking down snacks without sharing, and no comments on my weird crush on Groot? Uh, Yes please!

But the fact remained – what to wear? Enter the nebula/galaxy bleach-on-black dress. I had a plain old black cotton dress that I transformed into this awesomeness with a few easy steps.

IMG_1982Here’s my basic guide to creating this weirdly-simple effect, and you can use it on anything black and cotton (probably on other natural fibers too, but I haven’t tried it on them).

Gather your materials:

  • Black Cotton Fabric, Dress, Shirt, Pants, Whatever.
  • 1/8 Cup Bleach
  • 1/8 Cup Water
  • Clean Spray Bottle
  • (Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle of bathroom cleaner with a high concentration of bleach in a pinch)
  • RIT Dye in Assorted Colors
  • Dish and Water for Mixing Dye
  • Large Brush or Sponge
  • Small Bristle Brush or Toothbrush
  • White Paint
  • Plastic Bags, Tarp, Newspaper, etc.
  • Black Permanent Marker (for Mistakes)

Here’s how you put it all together

  • Clean and prep your work surface and fabric. Bleach and dye can damage surfaces, so be careful. If you only want to bleach the front of a garment, slide plastic bags or a tarp inside to protect the back from the bleach.

Pro-tip: I chose to spritz the dress with water first. This helps the bleach move via capillary action and feather out in in the fabric – and looks to me a lot more like the Hubble shots of nebulas. If you want it spotty, streaky, or stenciled, leave your fabric dry – that way you’ll get a stark contrast.


Heh. Stark contrast. Moving on.

  • Spritz a dilute bleach solution onto your fabric. One part bleach to one part water should do it. For this project I actually used a bottle of bathroom cleaner that specifically contained bleach, and it worked perfectly.

Spritz with your bleach solutionPro-tip: If you’ve ever bleached your hair you know that it’s potent stuff, smells awful, can burn your skin, etc. Do not mess around. Once it gets on your fabric it doesn’t behave like dye. Dye does its thing and then becomes inert. Bleach just keeps on bleaching. If you forget about it, too much bleach could make your fabric go white and/or burn little holes in it. A little goes a long way – just keep eye on your project.

  • Once the bleach has worked to your satisfaction, rinse thoroughly and allow your fabric to dry. Mine looked like this after rinsing and allowing it to dry:

Bleached Fabric

  • Prep and add your colors! I used small amounts of RIT dye mixes with hot water to add color to my bleached galaxy. Some I blotted on with a rag, and some I dribbled on with a brush. Allow these to dry and rinse. You can repeat this step several times to get the look you want, just rinse and allow it to try between dye applications.

First Dye Application

At left, the bleached dress. At right, the first dye application.

Pro-tip: I wanted dappled color in my galaxy, so I looked at images like these from the Hubble Space Telescope and chose teal, magenta and amber. In keeping with the structure of real galaxies and nebulas, I tried to clump my colors as they would gather in space – the teal blues in the denser areas, magenta and amber blending in the extremities (the amber color is the result of the bleach itself, not dye).

Second Dye Application

I wanted the colors a little darker, so I added a second application of dye.

  • Once you are satisfied with the color, add your stars. Dip a stiff brush (a small paint brush or tooth brush works fine) in white paint. Run your thumb nail over the bristles to flick paint of the brush and onto your fabric. You can test this on a piece of paper first – and remember, a little goes a long way. Galaxies are mostly dust and gas, not stars!

It's Fulla Stars!

Tricky to photograph, but crazy easy to do.

Pro-tip: You can also add some of those gorgeous brilliant stars with a very sender brush by making a cross or lower-case t. You want to apply these VERY sparingly, and make them only about as thick as a strand or two of hair!

Seriously, these are tiny (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch high) and there are only 5 on this design. Less is more!

Seriously, these are tiny (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch high) and there are only 5 on this design. Less is more!

  • Check for bleach stains on the back of your garment. Even folks that prepare sometimes have this problem – a little black permanent marker on the offending area should do the trick.
  • Clean your fabric or dress before wearing, and you’re ready for a night that’s out of this world. In evening wear that’s simply stellar. You’ll be the star of the show. Look hot like an inter-stellar nuclear furnace. I could go on.

Finished DressI love this dress! This project transformed a boring sack dress into something I love to wear. To make it fit really well I ran a seam up the back, taking it from “Cool Galaxy Dress” to “Hot Like a Multistage Cascading Nuclear Reaction.”

At least that’s what Groot told me. I’m paraphrasing.

At the TheaterUpdate: OMG I have now seen the movie. Get your butt to a theater and see this movie. DO IT NOW. Want to know more about how Nicole Perlman and the writing of the movie (along with the smashing of gender bias in writing sci-fi/action/comedy)? Check out this article.

And as it happens, I did take a date to the movie. Two, to be specific. Repainted them myself!

Guardians of my soda, that is.

Guardians of my soda, that is.

Have you ever used this technique?
Have any questions?
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