There is a myriad of methods with which we’ve attempted to adopt to fend off the boredom while under house arrest.
From baking to boxset binging to burying our heads in books, we have tried it all. But there’s one trend emerging from lockdown which endeavours to give all of us the chance to flex our creative muscles: tie-dye.
The psychedelic swirls have ebbed and flowed in favour since they rose to prominence in the sixties and seventies when they served as an emblem of the rejection of strict social norms which were imposed on society in the fifties. While it’s often assumed that tie-dye originated with the acid trips and hippies often associated with this period, the art form has in fact been practised throughout the world from as early as 4000 B.C.
The print, which has oscillated in and out of vogue, certainly cast a hallucinatory haze over the spring/summer 2019 catwalks, as it infiltrated the collections of Prada, Michael Kors and Stella McCartney.
And now the haphazard swirls have found themselves as fashion’s newfound darling once again, in part thanks to Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Victoria Beckham, who have all taken to their Instagram accounts to showcase them DIY dying their own clothes while in lockdown.
It’s perhaps due to this publicity that searches for ‘tie-dye sweats’ and ‘tie-dye sweatsuits’ have collectively risen 42 per cent over the last seven days, according to fashion platform Lyst. Searches for tie-dye sweats alone are up 104 per cent on this time last month.
“People are stuck at home and thinking about ways to pass the time and express themselves creatively,” says Shabd Simon-Alexander, Brooklyn-based author of Tie Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It. “Tie-dye seems to spring up in times of uncertainty and unrest. We associate it with the Vietnam War era in America and saw a resurgence around the time of the global economic meltdown in 2008, which was when I established my tie-dye label. I believe the freedom and expression in it is needed in these moments.”
Her sentiment is one echoed by Heather Gramston, Head of Womenswear Buying for Browns who says, “Tie-dye is a craft you can explore at home which explains the increase in recent popularity. Tie-dye print is a fun, vibrant way to inject some colour into your wardrobe.”
Brands such as Collina Strada, the Elder Statesman and Kanye West-approved London label ASAI have all weaved tie-dye into their brand’s DNA, while during its Métiers d’Art show in December, Chanel also introduced accents of tie-dye into a handful of its pieces. The print has also been championed by the perennially stylish A$AP Rocky – he sported a dashing tie-dye jumper during Paris Fashion Week last summer and Justin Bieber as part of his Drew House label.
Dana Thomas is the author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes and advocates tie-dying as a great way of upcycling old clothes: “Tie-dye is a great way to rejuvenate a faded old t-shirt and to keep clothing useful. If you’ve spilt coffee on a t-shirt, tie-dying it can mask the damage and give it a longer life.”
But for all its free-loving connotations, tie-dying with synthetic dyes can pose a potential environmental risk, a fact Thomas stresses, “Tie-dying can be eco-friendly, if you use plant-based dyes, such as woad, natural indigo, beetroot or walnut.”
So if, like Jenner, Hadid and Beckham, you’re in the house bored, then it may well be time for you to give your wardrobe a good Marie Kondo-ing and elevate those ropey tee’s and mismatched socks with a bit of tie-dye. And in the spirit of looking after the planet here’s how to tie-dye using what you already have at home.
- Vegetables of your choice (depending on the colour you’d like)
- Some rubber bands (you’ll need a few)
- A big saucepan
- White vinegar
- Some white clothes to decorate. Oh, and remember, you need to be wearing old clothes when attempting this. Unfortunately, you can’t reverse a tie-dye mishap.
Step 1: The Soak
Vinegar is a key ingredient for tie-dying as it helps the colours bind. To begin, you need to pour equal amounts of white vinegar and water into a large bowl or bucket, depending on the size of the item you’re dying.
Make sure your item is completely submerged and then leave it for an hour. You may want to crack open a window as the watery vinegar concoction is a pretty pungent smell.
Step 2: The Tie
Once the hour is up, wring the item of clothing you soaked and get started while it’s still damp.
There are various ways you can tie your clothing to create different patterns. You can take rocks or marbles and rubber band them around the item of clothing in a fun pattern, or just twist it up in a fun way and rubber band it.
It helps with this stage to have a visual aid; vlogger Emily Elizabeth created some super swirl patterns in her how-to video.
Step 3: The Dye
To make your own natural dyes, the number one rule is to follow the ratio that all fruit and veggies are 1:4. 1 cup of your chosen ingredients and 4 cups of water, with a splash of white vinegar.
To create a purple die, employ the use of blueberries (1 cup of water and white vinegar to a pan and ½ blueberries to a small saucepan.) For baby pink, opt for beetroot, red dye will need frozen cherries, while green dye can be created using spinach.
Step 4: The Dip
Bring your dye mixture to the boil, then simmer with the desired area of fabric in the pan. Depending on the colours or the look you’re going for, you may need to employ different strategies for this step. Whether you leave the whole item of clothing, or just dip corners or areas of your piece of clothing.
(To achieve deeper colours, simply leave your fabric in the dye for longer, you can even soak them overnight, just turn the heat off after 30 minutes, and let cool until the day.)
Step 5: The Reveal
Once you’ve finished colouring it, wear kitchen gloves, or use tongs to handle your piece of clothing and rinse with cold water. You may also do a cold-water salt bath at this step to really solidify the colours, or you can skip it and hang your shirt out in the sun to dry!
Simon-Alexander stresses that with tie-dye it’s important to “love the surprises.” She concedes, “Have fun, don’t stress, enjoy the happy accidents.”