A History of Tie Dye


First off let me just say how awesome tie dye is! I cannot express enough just how much I love it and to be fair, I am certain I am not alone in my love!
Mystical Mayhem Hippy Clothing loves tie dye too. Both Simon and I have loads of tie dye clothing which we wear all of the time. Literally all of the time. Sy pretty much always has a dyed t-shirt on!

There is something about the style that makes me smile. Perhaps because it reminds me of the summer and the warmth that it brings. The summer brings fellow hippy folk out – the bbq’s are lit and the fun times begin.

Come rain or shine I think the clothing looks great all year round. It is a style that suits absolutely everyone and can come in such a range of colours. From bright, trippy and psychedelic to nice gentle neutral and pastel colours. See, something for everyone!

What is Tie Dyeing?

In a nutshell, it is a process of tying and dyeing a piece of fabric or cloth, usually cotton; typically using nice bright colours. Tie dye is used traditionally throughout many cultures around the world. The effect is achieved by first by choosing the item that you want to hippy-fy. Next you folding the material into a pattern, and binding it, in that pattern, with string or rubber bands.  The reason that the material is tied is so that the dye only reaches the required pieces of the material. Dye is then applied to only certain parts of the material. Designs are formed by applying different colours of dyes to different sections of the wet fabric. Once complete, the material is rinsed, and the dye is set.
Once the dye is set and everything is dry, you have yourself an new amazing item of colourful hippie clothing.

We thought that we would give you a quick History of Tie Dye as we find it all very fascinating.

Tie Dye In The Western World

History of Tie Dye

Tie dye was introduced to the US in 1909 by Professor Charles E Pellew. He had been studying the different styles and managed to acquire some samples of muslin that had been dyed. He liked it so much that he decided to give a lecture and a live demonstration of the technique and how to make your own. It went down so well that he actually wrote a book about it in 1909 called “tied and dyed”.

The 1960’s were where we really saw it really come into its own in the western society. There were 2 main techniques that were occasionally used before then called Shibori and Batik.  But, to be honest, not much of this was seen until modern psychedelic tie-dying t become a fad in the late 1960s. The fashion began following the fantastic examples set by musicians such as Janis Joplin who was well known for her love of the art.

It became ever more popular after the after the introduction of affordable dyes. It became popular as it was a cheap way to invent your own creations or customise already owed clothing. Clothing such as t-shirts, dresses, jeans and anything else that people took a fancy to. It became the new way to make old tired clothing into something bright, new and funky. Keeping in with true hippy clothing.

For a while it also became a main stream fashion and was sold in stores throughout the UK and America. There were many companies in the late 60’s and early 70’s that were buying in on the trend and creating one of a kind items for the hippie folk. They were aiming their market at fashionable young men and women and sold their garments in high end department stores.

Tie Dye In Africa

History of Tie Dye - Batik
Batik Tie Dye

Research shows that similar dyeing techniques have also been used for centuries in West Africa in the region of Hausa . Hausa was well renowned for it’s indigo dye pits. The dye was coveted across the globe. The Indigo dye is use to dye clothing which is then embroidered in traditional African patterns. It has been suggested that these African techniques were one of many in the inspiration for the tie dyed clothing identified with hippie fashion.

Tie Dye In The Americas

The earliest surviving examples of tie-dye were found in beautiful Peru. These examples date back from 500 to 810 AD. The designs included small circles and lines, with lots of bright colours. Bright colours are just what we like.  Typical colours included red, yellow, blue, and green. The history of tie dye dates back way further than you would first think!

Tie Dye In Asia

History of Tie Dye - Mudmee
Mudmee Tie Dye

There have been many different styles and techniques born from Asia, many of which are still used today;

Batik – the word is Japanese in origin however developed in Indonesia. Batik uses wax in the dying process. A wax resistant die is applied to the fabric in any desired pattern and then the coloured dye is applied. The wax is then melted off using boiling water and the process is repeated all depending on how many colours and patterns are being used.

Ikat – this method dies the warp and the weft in the desired colours before the material is even woven. Also from Indonesia

Mudmee – this technique originates in Thailand and neighbouring part of Laos. It is a well used technique as it uses different aspects from other types of tie-dye which creates a multitude of different shapes and patterns. The colours, more often than not, are more subdued and a little more on the neutral side.  Not always though but often.

So, there you have a brief history of tie dye. As you can see, this funky method of dying clothing has been around for a very long time! We like all of the methods that are around and you will see a little of all of them in our hippy clothing. We like to mix things up and ensure that there is plenty of choice for you. Back when it all first came about, the colours used were not quite the psychedelic beauties that we see today, the colours were a lot more muted due to what was available. Us hippies love bold colours so trust us back in the 60’s to make it all so bright!