Summer’s Tie-Dye Trend Is Really Just an Excuse to Unleash Your Inner Child

Kristen Bousquet
Summer’s Tie-Dye Trend Is Really Just an Excuse to Unleash Your Inner Child

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It’s the year 2019, but a glimpse at our wardrobes might suggest otherwise. We’ve seen so many retro revivals that my closet is starting to look a lot like it did in elementary school—and I’m not sure I’m mad about it. Nostalgic trends—like butterfly clips, lettuce hems and jelly sandals—tend to inspire one of two reactions in me: Either I’m delighted by the comeback, or I’m cringing at it hard. There are some regrettable movements I wasn’t able to avoid in my youth (you know, because I wasn’t dressing myself yet), and a lot of ’em are back, baby. The most notable example that comes to mind? 2019’s tie-dye trend.

I’m not sure I hated the tie-dye trend in its first iteration. Tie-dye clothes feel campy, and kitschy, and crafty, and fun. They’re the kind of thing you DIY in the backyard with friends (even if those DIYs never come out looking quite as great as store-bought options). But now that I’m a veritable adult, tie-dye clothes seem a little, well, juvenile?

This statement will likely come as a surprise to anyone who follows me on social media—my Instagram feed is full of colorful outfits. But it’s not the vibrant hues that are the problem, here. It’s the memories of vacationing at crappy local beaches and begging my parents to let me buy yet another rainbow shirt emblazoned with a slogan like “Beach, Sleep, Repeat,” or “Salty Soul,” or “Beach Mama,” or something. Whereas hair barrettes call to mind some of my most stylish kindergarten moments, tie-dye shirts simply remind me of too-expensive, tourist-trap clothing stands. And that, my friends, is basically never a good look.

But—as you likely know by now—one of my favorite things to do is tackle a trend I’m low-key skeptical of. Sometimes, it works out for the best, and I end up with a look I never expected to covet (shout-out to my cow print experiment for inspiring some surprisingly chic ensembles). And other times, my experiment fails miserably, and I immediately hit up Poshmark to sell off everything I just bought.

When I set out to figure out how to wear tie-dye clothes, I really wasn’t sure which direction things would head in. But here I am, in all my experimental glory, trying to style tie-dye outfits three different ways. It basically worked, and I’m thankful I finally convinced myself to give the pervasive trend a try. (I mean, seriously, if every mannequin at my local wall is wearing it—surely I could figure out how to, too.)

STYLECASTER | Summer's Tie-Dye Trend Is Really Just an Excuse to Unleash Your Inner Child
Shorts: The Beauty Studio Boutique | Shoes: DSW | Blazer + Shirt: vintage, writer’s own

I wanted to kick off my experiment by tipping my toes into the tie-dye waters—not by diving in headfirst. That meant starting with a subtle acid wash, rather than going all-tie-dye-everything right away.

These paper bag-waist shorts provided both a super flattering fit and serious comfort—two things I always look for when purchasing new items. I kept things simple with a vintage white tee, and added a pop of color with the blue blazer. The color in the blazer brought out some of the hues in the shorts, which I definitely appreciated. Still, they didn’t totally scream tie-dye. (And I didn’t necessarily hate that.)

STYLECASTER | Summer's Tie-Dye Trend Is Really Just an Excuse to Unleash Your Inner Child
Overalls: Primark | Shirt: Missguided | Shoes: Missguided | Sunglasses: Primark

Now that I’d taken a low-key approach to the tie-dye trend, I was ready to go all out and embrace the color I usually sport in my looks. I picked up this rainbow tie-dye (sheer!) top from Missguided, but didn’t want it to be too overpowering. (Which, frankly, seemed almost impossible considering it’s a rainbow shirt.) The overalls allowed me to cover up the shirt a tad while keeping it the focal point of the look, which was basically exactly what I was looking for.

To bring out a bit more color and keep the look feeling cohesive, I threw on a pair of orange neoprene sandals and some funky yellow cat-eye sunnies. The best thing about tie-dye—especially when it’s rainbow? You can accessorize with basically any color, because it’s sure to match just fine.

STYLECASTER | Summer's Tie-Dye Trend Is Really Just an Excuse to Unleash Your Inner Child
Shirt/Dress: Missguided | Sunnies: Forever 21 | Shoes: Lulus

For a more funky, comfortable, wear-it-all-summer-long look, I simply tossed on an oversized orange shirtdress and called it a day. Sometimes, looks like these end up being my favorite—because they require almost no thought or effort. (Who doesn’t want that?)

The maximalist shirt is essentially an all-in-one outfit; I didn’t need to add colorful shoes or even wonder what pants to wear with it. I just grabbed my favorite black sandals and a funky pair of sunnies to add some extra flair, and your girl was on her way. Who knew the process of styling tie-dye outfits would turn out the be so low-key?

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