Style Questions: When is tie-dye ok?

April 20, 2011 in Fashion, Style, Textile Addiction by alliemcc

A friend recently asked me my opinion on tie-dye.

I'd like your opinion on tie dye. Not like neon yellow and green and all, more subtle, black & white and I suppose more on the batik end of the spectrum than grateful dead, if that makes sense. 

Happy to oblige!

Tie-dye lost its charm for me immediately after the Woodstock commemoration in 1994, when I was in 7th grade.

Recent sightings on yoga wear and ladies’ casual clothes have provoked nothing but a violent gag reflex.

bad tie dye 2

Thou shalt not. Ever.

That is, until I saw the possibilities in grayscale and other subtle, monochromatic color schemes.

tie dye ok 2

Image via StyleAdmirer Chicago.

This is more reminiscent of traditional ethnic resist-dye techniques such as Japanese shibori and Indonesian batik.

In my opinion, this is the only way to wear tie-dye.

Tie-dye has an unfortunate, drug-addled past in the U.S. (did this ever catch on elsewhere in the world in the 60s?). Once you get more than 2 colors or shades in this type of print, it starts to look clownish, or just throw-back— not classy.

However, google "shibori", and some traditional, and very timelessly-chic, Japanese textiles will come up. The Grateful Dead's marketing team just had to go and vom all over it…

tie dye ok

Image via GlamChic

The third look, on the right here, is starting to veer into No-No-Land.

My rules for wearing tie-dye:

  • Go for neutrals only, not bright colors.
  • Better yet, choose a natural tone plus black or white, and no more. Black/white/gray are my #1 choice.
  • Treat it like the ethnic/tribal/traditional pattern that it is. That means choose a tailored garment, like a batik print jacket, or pair a more ethnic garment with a more reserved, Western style piece, like a solid color cardigan over a shibori print dress. The contrast is so sophisticated.

Got a clothing conundrum? Sock it to me to have your question answered here on my blog. It’ll be fun!