Man wearing a hoodie standing in front of a mosaic background. Man wearing a hoodie standing in front of a mosaic background.

What is Garment Dye?

January 17, 2020

Your weekend is about to get an upgrade. Our new sweatshirts and tees are made with a special technique called garment dye, which gives them a vintage look and super-soft feel — so they’re already broken-in on day one. Below, we’ll explain the garment-dyeing process and why you’ll love the effect.

Woman wearing a red sweatshirt snd jeans.
GIF of garment-dyed sweatshirts.

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.  

Man wearing a bucket hat, salmon colored sweatshirt, and jeans with a shirt tied around his waist.

WHAT MAKES GARMENT-DYED CLOTHES LOOK DISTRESSED?

Since the finished piece of clothing is washed in dye all at once, you’ll see some variation where the color collects differently. Jennifer Carlin, our Director of Women’s Tops, explains that 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. “We like that garment dye washes down over time just like denim. It gives pieces an authentic, heritage look,” says Todd Shapiro our Global Design Director of Men’s Tops.

Man wearing hoodie and jeans in front of mosaic background smiling.
Portrait of a man wearing a Levi's hoodie in front of a mosaic background.

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF SOMETHING’S BEEN GARMENT-DYED?

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.

Side-by-side images of a woman and a man wearing Levi's.
Woman smiling wearing Levi's outside a cafe.

HOW DO I CARE FOR GARMENT-DYED CLOTHING?

A good rule of thumb is to care for your garment-dyed items just as you would your denim. We recommend washing on the cold cycle and hanging to dry, since it’s better for the environment and protects your clothes. 

Shop our new line of garment-dyed sweatshirts and tees for men and women. Interested in taking a deeper dive on how things are made? Check out the Inside Levi’s® section of the blog.

Close-up of garment-dyed sweatshirts.
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