Everyone is a little tie-dye obsessed right now. I even had a girlfriend text me a few weeks ago asking if it was making a comeback. My answer was, “it is here and it is more modern, beautiful and cooler than ever!” It has been a while since tie-dye last had its day in the sun. When its popularity was at its highest in the United States in the ’60s and ’70s. Although 2020 and 2021 might just surpass those groovy decades as people of all ages yearn for wardrobe expressions that make them feel happier and more alive. How can you not smile and feel brighter when you see the artistic, fun, and recklessness that tie-dye fashion evokes.
History of Tie-Dye
It might surprise you that tie-dye was not invented in the United States. The earliest surviving examples of the “tied-and-dyed” technique dates back to Peru from around 500 to 810 AD. Their designs incorporated small circles and lines, with bright colors including red, yellow, blue, and green. Many cultures throughout the world have adopted versions of the technique for thousands of years. Yet the term ‘tie-dye’ was coined in the U.S. just before I was born in the late ’60s, and it has stuck ever since.
Do you recognize Rit’s dye? I can remember attending multiple summer camps each year as a child. An activity with Rit was always a highlight. It seemed like it was a right of passage that some form of tie-dye apparel was made during the week-long adventure away from home. The tie-dye process typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dye or, in my case, multiple colors of dye.
From socks to t-shirts, whatever I brought with me to camp that was initially white made its way home in bright technicolor. If I had not been such a shy ten-year-old girl, I would have dyed even my white panties. But I did not have enough confidence at such a young age to pin my no longer tighty-whities to the makeshift clothesline to dry. I was too terrified all the boys would see—especially the cute teenage camp counselors that I drooled over all summer long. At least I was smart enough to save myself from the ridicule and embarrassment that would have stuck with me through years of adult therapy.
Celebrities Wearing Tie-Die
For decades the reputation and association of tie-dye have been overshadowed by the hippie generation. Move over Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia. From Taylor Swift’s outfits, her new album and merchandise, to Heidi Klum, Reese Witherspoon, and almost every notable celebrity are sporting tie-dye in some form or fashion this year. Tie-dye is typically characterized by bright colors and bold patterns with spirals, mandalas, and peace signs. This look has become a cliche of the tie-dye appearance. The vast majority of currently produced tie-dyes use these designs for mass distribution. However, a new interest in a more sophisticated tie-dye is emerging in the fashion industry. It is characterized by simple motifs, monochromatic color schemes, and a focus on fashionable garments and fabrics other than cotton.
Enjoy my curated selection of this season’s tie-dye to die over. You will notice a sprinkling of many different looks, from loungewear, activewear, and swimwear to beautiful daywear, and accessories. Do not feel like you need to go full-on head-to-toe tie-dye. As a hint of this happier pattern is all you need to add a spark of brightness into your wardrobe. As always, my options within each category go from least to luxe.
In The Shade of Tie-Dye
Swimming In Tie-Dye
Dressed in Tie-Dye
Summary of 2020 Tie-Dyes to Die For
I am associated with fashion colors of white, black, taupe, and shades of grey with little to no pattern for those of you who know me. So what happened to that little girl in the technicolor tie-dye? She put her big girl tighty-whities on and made her way to ‘adulting’ like most everyone else. Yet luckily for all of us, the tie-dye fashions in 2020 are more wearable, muted, and refined for all of us to pick something from this playful category.
I want to hear from you. What is your favorite tie-dye item? Is it new, or have you been wearing it since your first Grateful Dead concert? For those not keeping up with the times, the band is now called, The Dead and is fronted by John Mayer. From the Grateful Dead’s original Truckin’ song, “Lately, it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.” Yes, it has been, but let us keep the positivity alive by looking toward a brighter future. Drop me some groovy vibes below.