Tie-dyes have constantly been popping in and out of the world of fashion. This year, the classic print made a comeback on the runways and became a pandemic fashion fave for many Hollywood celebs, inspiring us to style the retro trend into our modern outfits, too. It has practically become a staple for fashionistas at this point — we can all agree that embracing tie-dye fashion is one great way to give life to our wardrobes. The question, though, is what makes this trend so appealing and cool that it keeps returning to our closets every few years? Let's take a step back and look at the history of tie-dye fashion and how it keeps enduring the test of time.
Tracing the roots
Though tie-dye fashion shot into popularity in the latter half of the 20th century, it actually traces its history way long before that. Tie-dyeing is a form of resist-dyeing that often entails one to twist, tie, pleat, or crumple sections of a garment prior to dyeing to create unique patterns. The flexible technique has long been present in different cultures since ancient times. According to Vox, some of the earliest examples of tie-dye were found in Peru, but it also seemed to have originated independently across the world, in China, India, Nigeria, among others.
However, its rise in mainstream fashion only began in the '60s. LA Times reported that when US dye company Rit was on the brink of closure, a marketer decided to go door-to-door at artists' homes in New York's Greenwich Village to use their Rit Dyes to tie-dye their clothes.
Rit Dye's marketing plan was a success and this then generated an interest among the free-spirited folks, making their dye and the crafty look a commonplace in music festivals. It has a DIY look that was easy and cheap to achieve, and it was an appealing contrast to the polished, preppy fashion that dominated the lookbooks of the decade — a rebellion against strict social norms. It was the anti-fashion aesthetic.
But with fashion designers like Halston creating their own interpretations of the aesthetic, soon, tie-dye fashion permeated the mainstream, appearing in magazines such as Vogue, thereby making its ever-enduring mark in history.
Since then, as you may know, the presence of tie-dye fashion waxed and waned but it never really went away until finally, in recent years it returned to its trending status. WGSN, in a 2016 lifestyle report, observed the return of the psychedelic draw. People began seeking escapist experiences, including hallucinatory ones, through their physical manifestations. This was why rainbow-coloured food weirdly became a trend despite its vibrant artificiality. And with it came distorted sounds in music and vivid and bold makeup palettes in beauty. And the kaleidoscopic tie-dyes? They made a comeback too.
Three years later, in 2019, tie-dye, once again returned. Since, it has become a defining piece of Gen Z's scrum bae aesthetic, a carefree style that evolved from festival looks in the 70s and 90s. And finally, when we all thought all that that was going to be over once we entered a new decade, tie-dye fashion takes over yet again, as if reminding us that it's here to stay.
Coping with every hue
With all of the world basically spending the first half of the year in quarantine, we were all in search of DIY projects that can take time and problems off our hands and minds. Around the same time, by a stroke of fate, tie-dye became a staple of our everyday wear again. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Alone Together actress Esther Povitsky, who recently launched her own tie-dye homewear line Sleepover by Esther, noted how the act of tie-dyeing and wearing these vivid pieces is comforting in an interview with Elle. Likewise, it can be assumed that the psychedelic shirts of Chris Gibbs of streetwear brand Union helped him cope with his frustration at the current events.
How does it help us through these times, exactly? We believe it's more to do with how the print sparks our penchant for our carefree past. In a previous interview with Clozette, millennial marketer Victoria Kovalan mentioned how nostalgic trends allow us to tap into our feel-good memories.
And sure enough, as we style rainbow-hued pieces into our outfits, we're reminded of the days when we could all just freely attend music events and other fun gatherings. Tie-dye fashion literally and figuratively adds colour to our days in these uncertain times and it makes sense that the once anti-fashion becomes the vogue piece of print we cling to for escape.
(Cover photo from: @toni.solano)
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