I Didn’t Really Understand the Tie-Dye Trend…Until I Wore It for a Week Straight
When your day job involves tracking trends from inception to inevitable death, you realize that some fashion moments are, well, trickier to pull off than others. Consider cowboy boots, which I still can’t wear without feeling like I’m a character in Westworld. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that I can’t help but smile when I spot anything tie-dye on my Instagram feed. For some reason, the multi-colored pattern reminds me of crafting at my sister’s tenth birthday party…and also makes me think of hippies at Woodstock and stoners lighting up in SoCal. Apologies if you consider any of those boho-chic references to be your ultimate fashion inspiration, but they aren’t exactly my go-to for a sartorial mood board.
I typically stick to pretty simple styles—think classic slip dresses, easy straight-leg jeans and silk tanks—with only a few crazy prints thrown into the mix. But as someone who is always inclined to tackle a challenge, I decided to wear only tie-dye for seven days in a row. If the crafty print was going to show no signs of slowing down, I was going to jump in, dip-dyed headband-first.
My goal? I hoped to come out on the other side as a chic New Yorker with a tendency for bright colors and a newfound appreciation for anything related to the ’70s. Here’s how I fared.
I started off small, with a classic T-shirt. I skipped the rainbow swirls (the summer camp vibes were just too strong) in favor of Reformation’s sorbet-hued version with a more haphazard pattern. White jeans, pastel sneakers and a matching mini bag felt just simple enough to let the bright dye shine for an errand-packed Saturday (farmers’ markets, dry cleaning and shopping for wedding guest dresses, oh my!).
Final thoughts: I got more than a few compliments on this cutie, and by the end of the day, it felt no different from any other patterned top. Maybe this isn’t as stigmatizing a trend after all.
After test-driving a safe version of the trend, I took a sharp turn and grabbed one of the most atypical pieces from the bunch: a pair of vertically dyed cargo shorts from Ganni. Maybe, I thought, an unexpected take on the print would feel less like tie-dye at all and instead feel more like a regular stripe, something I’m comfortable wearing on the daily.
Final thoughts: Perhaps it was the bright colors or the fact that everything else I wore was black or gray, but I felt like these shorts stood out like a sore thumb for an afternoon hanging in Central Park. Although I did receive a “cool shorts!” shout-out from a drive-by cyclist, I was more than ready to change into something a bit more subtle by the end of the day.
What better way to combat an aggressive tie-dye experience than with two printed pieces…the very next day? In the same way florals can easily be worn together, tie-dye looks pretty damn great with more tie-dye. That rings especially true when you pair Beat Back Rags’ take on the classic swirl (you know the one) with a more abstract interpretation of the trend, via a Topshop skirt. The mix of classic and edgy—plus the unexpected color scheme of pale purple and green—meant that even though I was doubling up, there was no way I was going to be confused for an extra in a local production of Hair.
Final thoughts: This outfit garnered more compliments than any other for the entire week. It felt equal parts dressed up enough for work and casual-cool, and I didn’t feel overdressed when I ran from the office to dinner with a friend. The muted colors felt much more approachable than the vivid hues of the day before. I didn’t know it at the time, but this became my favorite look of the week.
Dip-dye doesn’t need to take the form of colorful splotches, swirls or wavy stripes. In fact, it can look rather chic and intentional, as was the case with Tome’s two-tone silk blouse with a subdued tie-dye effect cutting right through the middle.
Final thoughts: I will admit it felt a bit like cheating, as I was wearing a shirt that had only the smallest hint of the trend. But everyone referred to it as a tie-dye top, proving that a little goes a long way here. And, because you only need a hint, it means tie-dye can be made to work for almost any scenario. Case in point? My sister, who’s a lawyer, said she’d happily wear this blouse to her office without hesitation. (Meanwhile I rocked this gorgeous top all the way from morning coffee with a colleague to evening cocktails.)
Just because you’re going to go small doesn’t mean you can’t make a big impact. A conservative black suit and simple white kicks provided the best backdrop for this amazing tie-dye handbag.
Final thoughts: This turned out to be another example of how something that feels pretty simple at first, can turn out to be absolutely fabulous. I wanted something that wouldn’t feel too aggressive for an evening at the ballet (a belated birthday present from my boyfriend) so I went with this sleek Amelie Pichard bag. It’s rather plain in design and features only two colors (pink and white), but hot damn, it was a huge hit. Multiple coworkers asked where this beauty was from and more than a few friends immediately DM’d me to ask if they could borrow it.
At this point I felt pretty confident that tie-dye does not automatically qualify me to become a Grateful Dead groupie. And while I was definitely getting the hang of wearing it to work or in a casual setting, I wasn’t sure if it would ever feel sexy enough for a Friday-night date or hitting up bars with my girlfriends. The short answer is: Of course it could.
Final thoughts: In the same way that stripes can be made to feel nautical, Parisian, edgy or mod, depending on how you style them, the same is true for tie-dye. It isn’t so much about the vibe of the pattern itself but in how you choose to wear it. If easy T-shirts and flowing skirts aren’t your vibe but you still want to rock one of the biggest prints of the summer, you really, really can. (It might even make a flirty minidress feel a bit less overtly sexy and a bit more wearable, as it did for me.)
Get the look: Quay Australia x Benefit sunglasses ($55); Glamorous earrings ($8 for set of two ); Zara jacket old, similar from Tibi ($850); Reformation dress ($198); River Island heels old, similar from M.Gemi ($248)
For the final day of my sartorial experiment it was time to break out the Rhode dress I was most intimidated by. Rainbow tie-dye in a billowy silhouette, reminiscent of an abbreviated prairie dress? That’s a combination I would have literally run away from, prior to this week.
Final thoughts: Turns out even a stereotypical multi-colored hippie version of tie-dye can look modern. All you need to do is add shoes with a little bling, a waist-defining belt and a pair of classically cool sunnies, and you’ll feel infinitely more like a 2019 fashionista. (Especially when you show up at your friend’s bridal shower and get peppered with questions about where your super chic dress is from.)
The final takeaway: Who would’ve guessed that by the end of this week, my favorite look would be the only one in which I wore multiple versions of the trend, all at once? Or that tiny taste of the trend in the form of a simple pink handbag would cause such a stir? It only took a week of forced outfit ideas, but I’m now fully on board with the trendiest print of the summer. I’m particularly excited to start embracing tie-dye as a sort of neutral print, akin to basic stripes.
To be honest, it still does seem a bit like a fleeting moment, one that will feel dated all over again sometime soon. Surely this isn’t something I plan to invest too much money in or wardrobe space to. But catch me this summer and there’s a good chance I’ll be sporting an easy tie-dye T-shirt or flirty sundress while I can.
Now, on to figuring out how to make cargo pants feel cool again. (Wish me luck…)