It-girl fashion and #OOTD mirror selfies might not come to mind when you think of tie-dye. You probably think of middle school summer camp, crunchy music festivals, or Woodstock and the 1960s. You might even have a couple of old T-shirts stored in the attic that you tie-dyed during a sleepover 10 thousand years ago. But I’m here to assure you that the coolest summer activity in grade school has been reimagined into chicer, trendier, and more grown-up styles beloved by your favorite Instagram bloggers and style stars (when Madewell gets on board, you know the trend is officially huge).
Tie-dye has truly become the biggest trend of the season, and found it’s way into all of our hearts and work-from-home uniforms. The best part about the trend? You can easily make it yourself for less than the cost of a salad at the cafe near your office. While we’re staying at home anyways, save money, improve your wardrobe, and DIY your own tie-dye uniform using one of the five methods below.
First, stock up on everything you need:
Pick a method for tie-dying based on what pattern you want:
1. Make a spiral
The most common way to tie-dye is to create a spiral. Lay the clothing flat, put your fingers in the center, and twist in circular motions until the entire clothing item is spiraled around the center. Wrap large rubber bands around the spiral (use at least three rubber bands, or more for a more intricate pattern), keeping the clothing in a rounded shape.
2. Create stripes
To make the colors come out in a stripy pattern, roll the item from the bottom hem to the top (so that you end up with a long tube) to create vertical stripes (or the opposite way to create horizontal stripes). Loop rubber bands around the rolled clothing, spaced depending on how many stripes you want. Where you place the rubber bands is where the white stripes will be, so space accordingly.
3. The crinkle technique
By far the easiest method to tie-dye is the crinkle technique. The outcome is a more randomized look and is best if you only want to use one color, or a few similar colors (like purple and blue). The technique is done exactly how it sounds: crumple the clothing item into a tight ball. Then, wrap rubber bands to keep the shape in place, and make sure the item is completely crumpled (not folded or neat).
4. Form rosettes
To give your tie-dye a polka-dotted effect, bunch up small parts of the clothing into a floral shape and wrap rubber bands around each bunch a few times to keep it in place. Make sure the bunches (or “rosettes,” if you want to be fancy) are spread out and form as many as you have room for.
5. Create pleats
The pleated technique is a great option if you want a “color-blocked” effect, or even ombré tie-dye (use one dye and make different formulas by adding more water to each to gradually lighten the color). Starting on one side, fold the clothing item like an accordion (fold a section to the front and then a section to the back). Wrap rubber bands around to hold the folds and to create the tie-dye effect.
6. The bleach method
If you don’t want to order dye, you can also try out the bleach method of tie-dying. For this, tie you shirt in whatever way you’d like (we’re partial to the crinkle method for this,) and secure it with rubber bands. Pour the bleach as you’d pour dye, and let it sit for 2-5 hours. After it’s soaked, rinse, wash, and dry it, and you’re ready to go.
Now that you have your preferred method, here’s how to dye:
1. Set up a work area where you can make a mess, like outside on grass, or covering the floor with a plastic tablecloth or garbage bags (you will make a mess, so make sure you won’t stain any carpet or nearby furniture if dye splatters or spills). Use disposable gloves to avoid staining your hands, and have extra rags or paper towels on hand to clean up messes.
2. If you want the dye to spread further on the shirt, soak your item of clothing in a bowl of water with soda ash solution (most tie-dye kits come with the solution) or just lukewarm water for about 20 minutes. If you want the colors to be isolated, skip this step and dye your clothing items when they’re dry.
3. Prepare your dyes by following the instructions on your tie-dye kit’s package. If you want more pastel or faded colors, use more water in the mixture and less dye. If you want bright colors, use mostly dye and just a splash of water.
4. Dye your clothing item using your preferred method (this is the fun part!).
5. Wrap the dyed item in a plastic grocery bag or Ziploc bag to keep it moist (my least favorite word, but it’s necessary here). Set the bag somewhere warm (like outside in the sun) to let the dye set, and leave it for about five hours (more or less, depending on how faded or vibrant you want the colors to be).
6. Take the item out of the bag, remove any rubber bands, and rinse with cold water in the sink. Don’t forget to wear your rubber gloves to prevent your hands from getting tie-dyed too (would be cool but in theory, not the best idea).
7. Wash the item of clothing in the washing machine on cold (by itself, so the leftover dye doesn’t stain any clothes), and either dry it in the machine by itself on the coldest setting or hang it out to dry. And voila! You just made spring’s biggest trend from the comfort of your own home.
…And if you’d rather just purchase the biggest spring trend from your favorite stores: