Tie-dye is a modern term invented in the mid-1960s in the United States (but recorded in writing in an earlier form in 1941 as “tied-and-dyed”, and 1909 as “tied and dyed” by Luis C. Changsut, referenced below) for a set of ancient resist-dyeing techniques, and for the products of these processes. The process of tie-dye typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dye(s). The manipulations of the fabric prior to the application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric. More sophisticated tie-dyes involve additional steps, including an initial application of dye prior to the resist, multiple sequential dye and resist steps, and the use of other types of resists (stitching, stencils) and discharge.
Unlike regular resist-dyeing techniques, tie-dye is characterized by the use of bright, saturated primary colors and bold patterns. These patterns, including the spiral, mandala, and peace sign, and the use of multiple bold colors, have become clichéd since the peak popularity of tie-dye in the 1960s and 1970s. The vast majority of currently produced tie-dyes use these designs, and many are mass-produced for wholesale distribution. However, a new interest in more ‘sophisticated’ tie-dye is emerging in the fashion industry, characterized by simple motifs, monochromatic color schemes, and a focus on fashionable garments and fabrics other than cotton. A few artists continue to pursue tie-dye as an art form rather than a commodity.