Peace, love, happiness--and tie-dye? The resurgence of the late '60s – early '70s badge of hippiedom is beckoning from the racks of mainstream retailers. And it’s a long way from the DIY variety that included some very messy dye and rubber bands that folks of a certain age remember all too well. While today’s tie-dye may conjure its groovy ancestors, something feels fresh and sophisticated about the eye-catching treatment, which works like a print.
“It’s like a new version of camo and in some ways part of a youth quake movement with people moving away from a very structured way of dress,” says celebrity stylist Jacqui Stafford.
The crafty, unisex print (yes, Justin Bieber did wear a tie-dye hoodie to church) can be surprisingly pricey and has infiltrated the highest echelons of the fashion world. Prabal Gurung has a sweet, wrap dress in bright colors for $1,795; Proenza Schouler is offering a small tie-dyed clutch for $1,195 and Oscar de la Renta did a knockout tie-dye-ish ball gown for almost $7,000. Good thing fast fashion marketers have caught the flashback fever and there’s plenty to choose from at affordable prices.
“I’m a big believer in not spending a lot of money on a trend,” says Stafford, who recommends buying just a few tie-dye items. How to work it?
“You want to make the print the eye-catching part of your outfit and keep it as the focus,” she says. And even though there’s a youthful heritage to tie-dye, anybody can wear it. “If you’re nervous about wearing it, try a black and white version – a T-shirt under a dark blazer," she suggests. "If you’re wearing tie-dye on the bottom keep it muted on the top.”
Of course, there may be more to the tie-dye comeback than meets the eye. Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at the NPD Group, the market research company in Port Washington says the movement can't fully shed its activist roots.
“Tie-dye means you have a point of view,” he says. “It refers back to the younger generation of the '60s. Fashion always goes back in time to be an influence and in this case, it’s a direct relationship to the movement of being heard, being vocal about certain positions and being politically motivated,” he says. “It isn’t as political as some of the slogan wear around today, but people who wear tie-dye are looking to make a statement and in some cases, it’s anti-establishment.”
Stafford sees it a little differently. “It may be a reaction to today’s divisiveness, and it does hearken back to when the world was changing. But I think it’s a nod to when life was easier and everything was about love. People are searching for a more peaceful time and tie-dye is a manifestation of that. It’s such an easy way to bring peace and harmony back into the wardrobe.”