Tie dye is back: Time to dig out your Jewish summer camp tees

So I hope you haven’t gone full Marie Kondo yet, because you know all those sleep-away camp tees you couldn’t quite bear to throw away? They’re back. For spring/summer 2019, the fashion world is heading back to the Summer of Love (or, possibly, a shared cabin in Northern California sometime around the mid-80s). Tie-dye is now officially the quickest way to update your wardrobe.

1What we wore

Camp Merriwood

Jewish summer camp style is an enduring look, and generations of campers have embraced it. Think piles of friendship bracelets, unruly hair that will come back to haunt you when one of your friends posts some nostalgic pics on Facebook in 20 years’ time, and, of course, tie-dye everything.

It’s a look that crosses decades and continents: my daughter spent summers in Wales wearing tie-dyed bandanas and baggy cotton Israeli trousers, known in the UK as “Israelis.” And Jewish teens are not just wearing tie-dye — they’re busy dyeing everything in sight, too. There’s no more popular summer camp activity than donning a pair of gloves, twisting a plain white tee, applying some rubber bands and then going crazy with the “squeezy” color (at least, that’s the process according to the handy guide on the Reform Judaism website).

2Another summer of love

Stella McCartney SS19

Just in time for the return of the Woodstock festival on its 50th anniversary, there’s definitely something in the air. Vibrant tie-dyed tees went down the R13 runway, and brands including Stella McCartney, Dior, and Calvin Klein got in on the act too. You’ll find kaleidoscopic sweats and tees bearing the Polo Ralph Lauren logo this season and beautiful tie-dyed skirts at Prada. Dior was at it too, elevating the print to couture level with its diaphanous dresses — think diamonds rather than friendship bracelets to go with this one.

And it’s not just womenswear either: Louis Vuitton and Todd Snyder were among the designers championing the look for men. Off the runway, Jeff Goldblum (who else?) got himself on the best-dressed lists again when he turned up at the Sundance film festival in a cashmere tie-dyed sweater by The Elder Statesman, the LA-based brand that has been producing luxe tie-dyed knits for years, and now finds itself at the epicenter of the zeitgeist.

3Where to buy it

What’s behind the resurgence of this summer camp fave? A ton of reasons are being floated, from a new era of counter-cultural protest in the age of Trump to the trend for personalization, and our current mania for sustainability — tie-dying is an easy way to give a garment a new lease on life, after all. But whatever is behind it, there’s no avoiding this one — so here’s how to get the look.

UO Boston Oversized Washed-Dye Tee
$44 at Urban Outfitters


Tie Dye Sweatshirt
$39.90 at Zara


Proenza Schouler Belted Tie-Dye Cotton Midi Dress
$1,390.00 at Neiman Marcus


Men’s Lightweight Drop Shoulder Crew Neck Pullover Sweatshirt – Original Use™
$18 at Target


The Elder Statesman Tie-Dyed Intarsia Cashmere Sweater
$1,980 at Mr Porter

Susannah Cohen
Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.