With the recent re-emergence of ‘90s fashion trends – first came chokers, then oversized hoop earrings, fanny packs and most recently track pants – it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, newsflash, tie-dye is back.
Originally founded on ancient resist-dyeing techniques – which consists of protecting certain parts of a fabric so the dye doesn’t reach it – tie-dye’s popularity first peaked in the 1960s and 1970s when swirling-coloured stains on clothes became emblems of the radical lifestyles of the period. From student protests to anti-war movements, the era’s freedom ideals were radically embodied through the display of untraditional, gaudy and ‘inappropriate’ clothing. Think the Grateful Dead playing in front of a rainbow tie-dyed backdrop, or Janis Joplin’s vibrantly dyed garments. By the ‘70s, tie-dye crossed over from being a symbol of radical leftist causes to a widespread fashion staple. The revolutionary legacy of the aesthetic declined in the ‘90s, when neon tie-dyed t-shirts were associated with a much more tamed youth, namely crafty suburban teenagers personified by Chelsea Clinton.
But tie-dye didn’t die with the twentieth century. Noted hype beast Jonah Hill has been wearing tie-dye t-shirts incessantly in the last few months, and Paris Jackson, Justin Bieber and Alessandra Ambrosio have been spotted donning the trend too. If you needed more proof that tie-dye is returning, few days ago Beyoncé wore a mini tie-dyed dress on a yacht in Italy.
A quick peek into runway archives unveils small tie-dye resurgences spread over the last decades: in 2009, Lela Rose enlivened her collection with softly dyed yellow loose tank tops; similarly, in 2012, Roberto Cavalli’s fall collection included muted grey dyed pants. But the spring and fall 2018 collections aren’t just sprinkled with tie-dye pieces, they are packed with them. Even if you’d prefer the trend to remained buried deep down in your parents’ basement, along with the camp t-shirts and butterfly hair clips, fashion is based on renewal cycles and it seems we can’t escape it any longer.
Chanel, for one, displayed an elevated approach to tie-dye by draping layers of dyed silk muslin fabric into a maxi dresses, whilst MSGM retained the grungy vibe of tie-dye with its ripped sweatshirt ensemble. Michael Kors adopted an elevated bohemian vibe by transforming the blue tie-dyed fabric into flowy dresses. And the Italian house Attico proved, with their rainbow coloured dress, that tie-dye isn’t restricted to oversized ugly t-shirts.
Definitively, tie-dyeing isn’t just a craft for bored teenagers anymore. It has infiltrated high fashion runways and celebrity street style, and can now be considered somewhat stylish…and sophisticated?