Tie-dye, like rompers, is something I didn’t initially have much of an interest in. As a young punk, I was a little disdainful of anything with a whiff of hippie to it (though inside I am a totally woo-woo hippie!) Tie-dye was sooooooo very Grateful Dead.
But then a few months ago I was looking for a baseball type of hat to wear while running. I was initially looking for a plain black one, but then a white-and-grey-ish tie-dyed one caught my eye. Something about the sporty, modern shape in a tie-dyed fabric read as interesting and even a bit more artful to me.
Since then, my tolerance for tie-dye has blossomed into, if not exactly true love, then a friendly flirtation. The trick, for me at least, is to use it in small doses like in accessories — or in more sophisticated shapes than a big shapeless t-shirt or flowy hippie dress. The homespun dye effect adds a bit of interest and even a sense of the artisanal to clean, minimalist shapes and accents. Proenza Schouler, for example, does this really beautifully, incorporating the pattern into their oddly romantic sci-fi silhouettes.
I also really like tie-dye in sporty shapes like hoodies, leggings and more. When used this way, tie-dye comes off more like Cali skate or surf punk — it’s laidback, cool and not too over-thought, tapping into the countercultural current inherent in West Coast cultural history.
Other tips I’ve figured out when it comes to a more sophisticated take on tie-dye: for me, I’ve found a muted or fairly neutral palette works best. (Multiple colors in tie-dye are a bit too Cherry Garcia in anything but the most avant-garde silhouettes.) And a good fit or cut helps immensely. The pattern of tie-dye can look a little unruly, in a good way, but sometimes if the design of the garment is too loose, it just turns into a big mess.
Of course, I break my own rules and ended up thrifting a tie-dyed shirt from Velvet in a cut that is very modern Cali-casual, something that Velvet (and similar companies like Splendid and Vince) do so well. I prefer shirts with a more defined armhole and shoulder — I have broad shoulders and the lack of structure makes me feel bigger than I am in that area — but it’s still a nice thing to wear on a moderate summer day and sometimes, honestly, I don’t really care if something is flattering as long as I’m comfortable, especially during prime heat season.
Below are some items I’ve picked out that are a fun take on tie-dye…some are a bit funkier and loose, some are sophisticated and polished. But I don’t think any of them will have you looking like a Deadhead. (Unless that is your jam, of course!)