My desire for tie-dye clothes hit me like a spring cold: abruptly and devoid of any identifiable source. I went to bed one night perfectly fine, and the next morning I woke up a tie-dye fiend. My brain had decided, seemingly of its own volition, that this style signature of sleepaway camp attendees and 70s hippies was just the thing my warm-weather outfits needed. Curious!
Compelled to do a bit of research, I learned that the actual method of tie-dying originated in prehistoric times and subsequently spread all over the world in various forms (traditional West African textiles, pre-Columbian Peruvian fabrics, Japanese shibori, to name a few). The term “tie-dye” wasn’t invented until the mid-1960s in the U.S when tie-dye became the unofficial uniform of artists like Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker and John Sebastian (who even tie-dyed his own underwear).
The trend lasted well beyond the Summer of Love, though, as evidenced by I-D‘s excellent history of tie-dye: Chelsea Clinton wore it on numerous occasions during her high-profile teenage years in the 90s. Rayanne Graff wore it on My So Called Life. Destiny’s Child wore it to the CFDA awards circa 2000. Kanye West wore it in the music video for “Bound 2.” More importantly though, beyond these numerous high-profile culture touch points, tie-dye has cemented its place as a timeless and affordable craft from camps to suburban backyards to urban bathtubs. Sure, it’s appeared in notable high-fashion scenarios (most recently this season in Michael Kors and Chanel’s respective Spring/Summer 2018 collections), but the most classic iteration of tie-dye is also the simplest: DIY.
Given this indelible (pun intended) association, I was a bit flummoxed over how to style it. I wanted to wear tie-dye in a way that looked elevated (i.e. not too sleepaway campy) and yet still retain its innate sense of fun, so I challenged myself to create three outfits that accomplished exactly that. Behold them below, and let me know what you think.
Outfit #1: For When You Want to Wear Tie-Dye on an Errand
I realize not every office environment is tie-dye-friendly, but for those that are, consider this: a tie-dye trench layered over a tie-dye jersey midi dress (this one is $36, which is especially neat) layered over a tie-dye T-shirt, complemented by a light sprinkling of accessories that, despite erring on the understated side, still decidedly mean business. The result is an outfit that says you know how to shop for granola bars and detergent but you also know how to have a good time, you know?
Outfit #2: For When You Want to Wear Tie-Dye to a Party
Some of life’s best things come in wedge form, including key-lime pie, MR by Man Repeller shoes, orange slices and your midriff when you happen to be wearing high-waist shorts and a dress buttoned just below the nipples. If said high-waist shorts and dress buttoned just below the nipples happen to be rendered in green tie-dye, the resulting wedge of midriff on display is ready to party whether you’ve imbibed a margarita or not.
Outfit #3: For When You Want to Wear Tie-Dye to Lounge Around
I may very well have bastardized the traditional combination of a white T-shirt, jeans and a sweatshirt by insisting the latter two items be showcased in psychedelic pastel, but I don’t care. I think I actually managed to concoct an outfit that is both “hippie” and “preppy” simultaneously, and if you’re not immediately overcome with the desire to get horizontal on a couch and watch Gilmore Girls in it, I quit!
JK, I don’t quit, but I might if you don’t meet me down in the comments immediately and tell me whether you hate or love tie-dye.
Photos by Edith Young (big Grateful Dead fan). Modeled by Juliet Johnstone.