How I Revived a Michael Kors Lilly Tote With Tarrago Dye

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

(I dyed this bag in May. It's now January. #oops)

In my hunt for fixer-uppers, I came across this Michael Kors bag. A little searching revealed its original (gorgeous!) color as well as the style name/original MSRP. No question about it—I wanted this bag in my life.

The seller felt guilty about the worn state of the bag and, in a lovely note included with the package, asked that I give this bag the life it deserves. I hope I've done it justice!

Image from seller's original listing

Here's what I did!

When fixing up purses, I always start with the lining. Because it isn't stitched into place at the bottom (phew!), I was able to pull the lining up and out of the bag to be washed. Both sets of pockets had interior/exterior stains, but I was able to remove all of them with some hand-scrubbing and Palmolive dish soap.

The interior leather became wet in the process of cleaning the bag, so I waited a day for everything to dry out before proceeding with the first round of dye.

To achieve a color similar to the bag's original shade, I mixed Tarrago #43 (mauve) and Tarrago #55 (lilac) in a separate glass container until the shade felt adequately purple-y.

My phone was out of storage space (#firstworldproblems), so this bag had a woeful lack of progress pictures. Suffice it to say the dyeing process was repetitive; the handles and leather chain links proved especially difficult. There are three sets of leather links on each of the four straps, and within those links are three separate pieces of leather. As you can imagine, applying 3+ coats of dye to these areas was tedious!

To get the color to take to the handles, I had to do a lot of "patting" with the brush. Rather than distributing the dye in circular motions, I used an aggressive technique resembling a feline fit of rage...

I did snap a picture after the first round of dye. Looking better already!

The scooter bag makes a special appearance

Two out of three dye sessions took place outside on the balcony during a massive windstorm, so for the sake of my sanity, I ended up settling for three coats of dye instead of four or five.

More Progress Pics:

• I used a combination of q-tips dipped in rubbing alcohol and wet wipes to clean excess dye from the hardware. I also removed excess dye from the dark edge-coatings of all the leather links. (Tedious, yet oddly relaxing as well!)

End Result:

Although I ultimately failed to replicate the bag's original mauve color, I think the transformation still looks pretty f**kin' great! If I sell this bag in the future, I'll probably add an extra coat or two to further even out the color (and might slap some fresh Edge Kote on the cracked handle edges)—for personal use, though, it's been wearable enough as-is.

See 'ya next time!


  1. Hi there after searching the net for days I've found your page and absolutely delighted! I'm trying to find something to change colour of a Chanel aged calfskin bag, it's white and I'm wanting to dye it dusky pink, firstlu I haven't found the right shade so I was thinking of mixing two colours, I'd like to know if the tarrago colours mix well? And what colours would you recommend for it, I personally see the light mauve 43 & rose 100 looks right? Realistically I'd like a deep penetrative dye, does tarrago look like a paint or dye when on? Your help mostly appreciated thank you Mary x

    1. The Tarrago colors mixed pretty well for me! #43 and #100 seem like they could work well to achieve a dusty rose color. Tarrago Self-Shine is marketed as a penetrative dye (based on Amazon description: "Guaranteed to penetrate and form a lasting color |
      Will not rub off, crack, peel or streak once dry") and hasn't looked painted on in my experience, but can potentially start to look that way if you apply too many thick layers (or don't leave enough drying time between layers)—be sure to prep the bag well so that the layers go on evenly! I haven't dyed any high-end bags like Chanel, so you may want to ask for advice in The Purse Forum's Chanel section (if you haven't already)—I wouldn't want to give you the wrong advice and ruin your bag! 😦

      A couple of links that might be useful:



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