Festival Fashion: How to Tie Dye

Learn how to tie-dye tops and get the boho-chic look on the cheap.
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Festival season is upon us, and I’m ready. I’ve already got BUKU and Hangout Festival under my belt and summer hasn’t even officially begun. My next festival was supposed to be Bonnaroo, but due to a series of unfortunate events last week, my ‘roo companion can’t go. So I’m not going.

I’m bummed, but I have Lollapalooza to look forward to and outfits to plan.

Yes, outfits. Obviously, I’m there for the music but so much of the festival experience is about the fusion of street style and couture. More and more fashion brands invest in festivals. Most designers now roll out a festival collection in addition to their summer line. And reporters are sent to festivals not to cover music but to capture the fashion. I love it.

Earlier this year I started pinning tie dye shirts and rompers to my Bonnaroo Pinterest board and fellow Made + Remade blogger Kelly Smith Trimble totally called me out! “Please don’t buy a tie dye shirt. Please let me teach you to make one.”

And so the first (maybe annual?) Made + Remade tie dye party began. I’m obsessed with this tie-dyed Free People top that retails for $128, so we set out to recreate the navy effect for much less. The result is almost identical to their dye design.

Here I am rocking it at the Hangout Festival on the beach in Gulf Shores, AL.

We also dyed a couple more shirts I brought, and I love how they turned out. I can’t believe how easy this is. And so cheap! On a scale of one to five, one being totally doable and five being not-so-much, I give this project a one — as long as you have the supplies to ensure you don’t make a total mess. Check out our steps below to tie dye your own shirt!

Step 1

Get your supplies. I found some cute white racerback tank tops for $8 at Target and you can find Rit dye for about $2 at the grocery store or craft store.

Step 2

Set up a work station. This is a messy project. If you don’t have a utility sink and are doing this in your kitchen, cover your countertops and floors. You can also try this project outdoors.

Step 3

Plan your pattern or try to have a strategy. Have an idea of what kind of pattern or colors you want to use before you dye something. Rit has great examples of tie dye designs. Or don’t plan anything and just go crazy. Sometimes those turn out the best. But sometimes they look heinous, so if you’re starting out, don’t use anything expensive.

Step 4

Make the dye. If you’re using a store-bought boxed dye like Rit, follow the instructions and make the dye in a large plastic tub inside your sink. Trust me. You do not want to move dyed stuff from a tub to the sink to ring it out. It’s much cleaner if you keep it in the sink.

Step 5

Rubberband your shirt. Before you dye your shirt, wrap rubberbands very tightly around various parts of the fabric. You can bunch up or fold parts of the fabric and then rubberband areas or even tie knots in the fabric and rubberband it. Remember: Whatever areas you rubberband or knot will not be dyed.

Step 6

Dye it. Submerge your fabric with rubberbands into the dye. Review the instructions for your specific dye, but you’ll probably want to hold it for about 5 minutes. Note: You’ll probably want to wear plastic gloves while dyeing. Unless you want to have purple hands for a day. (Speaking from experience.)

Step 7

Squeeze out any excess dye. Remove the fabric from the plastic tub and ring out remaining dye. Again —gloves, people. That was my rookie mistake. (And even after the dye fades from your skin, it stays in your cuticles for a week.)

Step 8

Rinse it. Hold the fabric under cold running water until the water from the fabric rinses out clear. Repeat steps 4-8 for additional colors but always rinse completely before moving on to a new color.

Step 9

Ring it out. Remove the rubberbands and check out your design. Hang to dry.

Step 10

Set dye. You don’t have to do this, but setting the dye helps the fabric retain the color so it won’t fade so much when you wash it. Fill your sink with a couple inches of cold water. Mix equal parts salt and vinegar and pour into the sink. Submerge your dyed fabric into the water and let soak for an hour. Rinse with cold water.

Step 11

Wash it. Hand wash with mild detergent or toss in the washing machine alone just in case the color bleeds in the wash. Hang to dry.

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