Tie Dye History

Tie dye history is the story of Bandhani, Shibori, and Adire tie and dye traditions from India, Japan, and Africa. These traditions survived and thrive today.

When was tie dye invented is uncertain because artifacts are rare. Unlike stone, fabric disintegrates.

The history of tie dye runs parallel to the history of clothing and dyes. For more on those topics see History of Clothing and the Evolution of Textile Dyes.

Tie Dye as Art

Art may have started as designs on cave walls, but eventually it included designs on clothing. For most of human history, art and clothing has been produced locally using local materials and traditions.

Transportation and communication extended local traditions. Who invented tie dye is uncertain, but India, Japan and Africa are most prominent in written tie dye histories.

Indian BandhaniTie_Dye History Bandhani Fabrics

Bandhani is the oldest known tie dye tradition. Its designs are dots made by plucking and tying many small points with thread before dyeing. It’s also known as Bandhni, Bandhej, and Plangi.

Bandhani dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization in the Bronze age (3300 BC-1200 BC). The earliest illustrations are paintings on Ajanta Cave walls depicting the life of Buddha.

Japanese Shibori

Japanese ShiboriShibori is the second oldest known tie dye tradition still practiced.

There are four Shibori techniques

  1. Arashi is a pole wrap resist technique.
  2. Kumo is a pleated and bound resist technique.
  3. Itajime is a shaped resist technique.
  4. Kanoko is a modern tie dye technique.

Shibori dates back to the Edo period in Japan (1603 AD-1868 AD)

African Adire 

African Adire Adire is the third oldest known tie dye tradition still practiced.

Google Arts and Culture has a pictorial Adire: the Art of Tie and Dye that is beautiful.

LoveToKnow has the best  Adire Fashion History summary I've seen.

Other Cultures

Most cultures experimented with art and bindings to create designs with dyes on clothing. Some say the earliest surviving examples of tie dye are pre-Columbian alpaca from Peru and silk from China.