Allow us to voice a seemingly out-there but soon-to-be popular opinion: tie-dye, the style signature of your Deadhead cousin and sleepaway camp attendees, is in. We’ve spotted it on models (Bella Hadid), on influencers across industries (style maven Jeanette Friis Madsen, rapper and grime artist Skepta) and on several high-fashion runways (this season, it appeared in Roberto Cavalli, Proenza Schouler and Eckhaus Latta’s Fall 2018 collections, last September in Chanel, Michael Kors and Lemaire’s Spring 2018 outings).
Color us unsurprised. Not only is the psychedelic pattern a perpetual runway regular, but nothing says summer quite like a tie-dye shirt and some cutoffs. “There’s something so uplifting about tie-dye,” says Vogue staffer Steff Yotka. “It reminds me of summertime, of childhood, of freedom. It can be ladylike, like Prada’s 2004 twinsets; rebellious, like Rodarte’s 2013 gowns; artful and inspired, like Raquel Allegra’s velvets and silks; and, of course, stoner-friendly, in the case of Grateful Dead tees.” (It’s also a nice break from the monochrome looks we’ve been seeing ad nauseam.)
Of course, the DIY print has been a hallmark of fashion since long before Prada or even the Grateful Dead picked it up. Though the term “tie-dye” wasn’t invented until the mid-60s, the technique itself dates back to prehistoric times. “While tie-dye has its roots in ancient forms of ‘resist-dyeing’ (see: traditional West African textiles, pre-Columbian Peruvian fabrics, and Japanese shibori), Woodstock made it a countercultural icon and a lifestyle choice — specifically, one that involved drugs, free love, and music parents hated,” writes ID’s Alice Newell-Hanson. (Fashion nerds, you can read her complete — and fascinating — history of tie-dye here.)
Over the years, various pop culture figures have co-signed the look: Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker and John Sebastian circa the Summer of Love, Chelsea Clinton in her well-documented teen years, Destiny’s Child at the 2000 CFDA Awards, Kanye West in the much-parodied “Bound 2” music video.
As for how to wear it now, take a cue from the runways. Find pieces with modern tailoring. Layer breezier items (tie-dresses, ombré silk pants) under coordinating, structured outerwear. Pair horizontal orange swirls with thin black-and-white vertical stripes. Incorporate luxe materials — velvet, chiffon and leather, for example — into your look. Generally speaking, you want to balance out tie-dye’s hippie-dippie feel with items that give off a put-together, business-y vibe. (Unless you’re a flower child at heart, in which case, see above.)
Ready to give the trend a spin? (Har, har.) Ahead, 21 stylish tie-dye items perfect for summer (and whatever weather it brings).