But dig it: Tie-dye is back, and, with designers including Proenza Schouler, Lela Rose, Tory Burch and Rodarte updating it for spring and summer, it's far more fashion-forward than flower power.
"Tie-dye has really become much more sophisticated than the tie-dye we remember from back in the '60s," says Gregg Andrews, fashion director at Nordstrom. "It's organic. It has an artisan look to it, it's very unique, which people are really attracted to."
Andrews says it's the new tie-dye colorations that are making the trend chic in 2010.
"A lot of the tie-dye is really more of a bleach effect," he tells StyleList. "It's about taking colored fabric and bleaching it to remove color, as opposed to the old tie-dye that was about taking white or light colored fabrics and adding dye. ... It's really more moody than groovy, and I think that's what's making it more sophisticated."
Tie-dye's appeal, says Edie of the Edie's Fashion Factory blog on the Rit Dye website, is that "it's never a cookie-cutter, off-the-rack feel because every piece is always slightly different and unique. What was the wild rainbow hippie look of the '60s has now been translated to classy cocktail dresses, subtle moody club wear and hip casual street wear."
But how to look gorgeous -- and not like an extra from a Grateful Dead tribute band? Here the experts offer their advice on how to bring peace, love and happiness to the tie-dye trend.
What are the best pieces to wear tie-dyed?
- "We're seeing everything being tie-dyed right now from shoes to handbags to jeans to tops and dresses," Andrews says. "If a woman really wants to start out with a piece of tie-dye, some of those very long scarves are a great way to get a piece of tie-dye into your wardrobe without having to commit on a bigger level."
- "I'll dye almost anything I can get my hands on," says Edie. "I've even dyed my own shoes, bags and jewelry. ... I get the biggest kick out of experimenting with non-traditional elements like crochet embellishments, buttons, beads, tights and refashioning cast-offs into fun, new up-cycled creations. It's not about just taking a white T-shirt and dunking it in dye anymore."
- "Tie-dye is like any trend; don't overdo it," says Kiran Rai, creative director of Satya Rai & Sir Alistair Rai, who has always used tie-dye in her collections. "Use it sparsely, one item at a time. If you wear a tie-dye dress, go neutral with everything else. If you use a tie-dye bag, make sure you are neutrally dressed."
- "Tie-dye makes a bold statement in most cases, even when it's very sophisticated and more subdued," Andrews says. "It's really about the print and the interesting organic nature of the print. You need to let that be the focal point. I also think it's important to think about a solid mixed in there -- it could be a belt, it could be a solid top or a solid bottom -- some place for your eye to rest. It creates a nice contrast against the pattern."
- "It looks more sophisticated in the darker hues or the very pale, watery, misty, almost ethereal colors," Andrews says. "If you want to go brighter, think about going more tonal. So, magenta, hot pink, pink, as opposed to magenta, turquoise, lime green."
- "Nudes, nudes, nudes," Rai says.
- "To get the chic look with tie-dye, stay away from rainbow effect," Rit's Edie says. "Instead, opt for a more elegant color palette like black and gray or black with just a pop of color. Pair this with a motorcycle jacket and caged heels and no one will ever accuse you of going hippie."
- "My motto for the DIY'ers out there is 'keep it simple'," Rit's Edie says. "Start with a garment that has a nice silhouette and go with a elegant overall pattern in one or two colors. An easy accordion fold pattern on a straight mini dress can be worn so many ways and can be endlessly embellished for new looks to get you from spring through fall."
- "Right now in denim there's a lot of very pale, washed, bleached denim going on," Andrews says, and tie-dye jeans are a part of that trend. "Tie-dye jeans do make a big statement without a doubt. If you want to go there, you might think about doing jeggings or leggings and layering them under a longer tunic-length top so you just get a little peek of the tie-dye. A little tie-dye can go a long way."
Looking for more style tips? Here's how to look slim in shorts for summer.