Tie-Dye, From Stylish to Traditional
In the middle of every tie-dye-and-scarf revival has sprung up: a new trend, to be sure, but one that’s often taken for granted and treated as a foregone conclusion. And yet, when you examine this fashion trend the minute it’s revealed, you are immediately struck by how much more difficult it is to wear this look today than when it burst onto the scene more than a century ago. No wonder—the designs are more creative and the materials more inventive than ever before.
Consider this fashion trend for a moment: When the art and science of tie-dye was first applied to clothing, it was not a fashionable accessory. Indeed, in some circles—the men’s fashion column in a magazine, say—the practice was frowned upon as an attempt to “steal” a woman’s natural coloring. And you have to agree with that assessment. For this reason, in the 1920s the fashion industry turned down the idea of incorporating tie-dye into clothing in favor of the more traditional approach of painting colors on the garments with a washable fabric.
At the same time, by 1930s, tie-dye was an established trend among young women as a way to distinguish a woman’s individuality from the “factory worker” look. This was also a time of the most visible public acceptance of the art of fashion—wearing a dress or skirt decorated with a monogram or other distinctive design became standard among American women of the upper class. Thus, this time period when tie-dye first became fashionable in America was also a time when fashion designers were most eager to experiment with this new trend.
The early 1930s were also the first time that a woman could choose to wear tie-dye in a style that was both fashionable and acceptable. The tie-dye look was available in any color, whether it was a pale gray that suggested freshness or the dark burgundy that was an unmistakable signal to men