Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Brief History of Tie Dye

When we think of tie dye and where it might have originated, the first image that often comes to mind is the freewheeling hippie lifestyle of the 1960's. Today, many of us who wear tie dye feel some connection with that peace-loving hippie spirit! You might be surprised to learn that the history of tie dye actually began long before those free-loving, music-grooving Woodstock-era days; the earliest mentions of tie dye in historical records were in ancient Japan and China.

In China they were using tie-dye from 618 to 906 C.E., during the T'ang dynasty. In Japan they used tie dye during the Nara period of 552 to 794 C.E. Their early methods of tie dye involved extracting the natural dyes from flowers, berries, roots and leaves by boiling them in hot water, dipping sections of cloth in the different colors made, and letting them steep.

Around the 15th century, a style of tie dye known as Tsujigahana (translated as "flowers at crossing") became fashionable. This process used intricate stitching to delineate the the sections of the fabric to be dyed separate colors, rather than the traditional dip-dying, which often allowed the colors to run together. This method also involved painting designs on the fabric with sumi ink, which would then darken more than the surrounding fabric when it was dyed.

Tie dye gained popularity in the United States during the Great Depression, when it was considered an economical way to add new color to old materials. Pamphlets were handed out describing how to tie dye and use old cotton, flour, coffee, and sugar sacks to create new clothing and home decorations.

Woodstock, 1969. Photo via flickr user hlthom4

Tie dye was embraced during the Vietnam War era when young people craved peace and freedom from the uptight generations that preceded them (particularly parents and authority figures). Tie dye was a form of artistic expression and protest for the free-spirited hippie generation; it was an easy and inexpensive way to express individuality while brightening up the world with unique and happy colors!

At Mexicali Blues, we see tie dye as an awesome way to express yourself with cool colors and patterns that will always stand out in a crowd! Here are a few of our favorites:

classic rainbow spiral tie dye

peace sign tie dye

butterfly batwing mudmee top

tie dye starburst tapestry

Check out our sweet collection of tie dye and mudmee tie dye on our website, and join us next week as we explore all the different types of tie dye!

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