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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, celebrates a revolution in fashion with styles influenced by Hippies
Hippie Chic exhibition. Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON, MASS.- Paisley, beads, and fringe will adorn the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston this summer, as the influence of hippie culture in the late 1960s and early ‘70s is celebrated with offerings ranging from groovy fashions to psychedelic music to a trippy online interactive. Taking visitors back in time to 1967 through 1972, Hippie Chic will showcase the colorful and fun spirit of “hippie” style that informed the beautifully made garments of “chic,” in 54 ensembles, including new acquisitions and loans from other museums and private collections. On view from July 16 to November 11, 2013, the exhibition will offer an immersive experience with shag rugs, spinning lights, and themed wallpaper throughout the gallery. Mannequins, (some atop turning platforms) are styled in fashions of the era, complete with far-out hair. Taking center stage will be innovative clothing by young designers and avant-garde boutiques that championed the new counterculture looks, as well as more established designers who drew inspiration from them. To set the mood for this fun trip down memory lane, a vintage jukebox will play music from the 1960s and ‘70s and visitors will be able show off their free-spirited style with an interactive, virtual makeover, Hippie Chic: Remix. Available on the Museum’s website and Facebook page, fans (of the era) can upload their photo and try on fashions featured in the exhibition (virtually), resulting in a groovy personalized album cover, which can be shared through social media and email.

As the Woodstock generation challenged the status quo, a cultural revolution was born and the world of fashion felt the reverberations. For the first time, haute couture designers weren’t dictating all the trends; instead, inspiration for many of the latest styles came from hippies and young people on the street. With their long hair and vibrant mix of ethnic and vintage clothing, hippies created a unique look that trickled up the fashion ladder, even to the runways of the world’s top fashion houses. The fun Model Pattie Boyd, then wife of George Harrison, is seen at top in this image of Fashions and Interior by The Fool at the Beatles’ Apple Boutique, 1967, Ronald Traeger and colorful fashions that emerged were popularized by iconic rock stars and celebrities of the era: the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Cher.

“Hippie Chic revisits a particular moment of the late 1960s and early 1970s, in America and Europe, to trace hippies’ revolutionary influence on fashion,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “Clothing became a canvas for personal expression. As a student at Oxford, I vividly recall being surrounded and inspired by the energy and cultural creativity of the hippie movement. The installation––with its rotating platforms, shag rugs, and jukebox–– transports our visitors back to this nostalgic era, so they can relive this unique period or experience it for the first time.”

In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, counterculture challenges to authority found expression in new ways of dressing. Hippies mixed vintage and ethnic garb with clothing inspired by psychedelic pop art, nature, fantasy, and ethnographic art. Mainstream designers quickly responded with their own designs and incorporated aspects of the hippie style. The exhibition will capture the energy and vibrancy of this stylistic period through works by a wide range of designers––from young hip designers and avant-garde boutiques such as Ossie Clark, Betsey Johnson, and “Granny Takes a Trip” to more established designers including Geoffrey Beene, Arnold Scaasi, and Yves Saint Laurent. To explore the different stylistic influences on fashion, Hippie Chic, on view in the MFA’s Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery, will be divided into five themed sections: Trippy Hippie, Retro Hippie, Fantasy Hippie, Ethnic Hippie, and Crafty Hippie.

“Innovative young designers and boutique owners, themselves part of the counterculture, translated anti-establishment individualism into artful garments. Their unique fantasy-driven styles in turn trickled up to influence designers of traditional ready-to-wear clothing and even Paris haute couture, resulting in the exuberant “hippie chic” fashions,” said curator Lauren Whitley.

Trippy Hippie
Psychedelic fashions opened the door to more expressive clothing in the late 1960s. As young people experimented with drug “trips,” graphic arts, music, and even fashion took on a trippy feel. Fashion designers created avant-garde garments with kaleidoscopic “acid” colors, contrasting patterns, and luxurious textured silks and velvets to stimulate the senses. Fashion embraced this new trend, which sought inspiration from the imagery of not only acid trips but also Art Nouveau. London, the epicenter of earlier “mod” fashions, embraced psychedelic style. One of the “grooviest” places to find innovative clothing was the hip boutique “Granny Takes a Trip,” where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were known to shop. A man’s three-piece purple velvet suit created around 1970 for “Granny” is one of the many ensembles for men on view in the exhibition. Psychedelic designs informed the Cosmic Couture look of incorporating celestial symbols, as can be seen in a woman’s tunic dress designed by Barry and Yosha Finch, which they sold at their Los Angeles boutique, The Chariot.

Nostalgia and fun fueled the hippies’ love of old clothes, plundered from vintage and antique shops. The result was an eclectic parade of Edwardian dandies, granny dresses, and gypsies. Designers also looked to historical inspiration for their fantasy creations incorporating Medieval, Renaissance, Victorian, Edwardian, American frontier, gypsy, and Romantic aesthetics. American designer Adolfo created a prairie dress in 1971 that features an updated 19th-century silhouette with leg-o-mutton sleeves, a peplum waist, and ruffles at the hem of the floor-length skirt. It was sold at Giorgio Beverly Hills, one of the most famous fashion emporiums on Rodeo Drive. Also drawing upon historical references is a man’s red velvet jacket from around 1969–70 with a longer cut to evoke an Edwardian dandy look. Fans of these flamboyant fantasy looks included John Bonham of the band Led Zeppelin, who wore an East West “Reni” (short for Renissance) leather suit, and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, who was known for her romantic floaty dresses.

Retro Hippie
Retro style delivered an edgier look, drawing on the glamour and camp of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. British fashion designer Ossie Clark was one of the most talented designers exploring Art Deco fashions, and frequently collaborated with his wife, textile designer Celia Birtwell. Clark cleverly manipulated a geometric print designed by Birtwell to create an elegant dress cut on the bias, typical of early 1930s fashions. The iconic 1960s model Twiggy wore an Ossie Clark retro-inspired “Lamborghini” suit identical to one on display in “Hippie Chic.” Men also went retro in suits with wide collars, layered window pane checks, and bow ties. This look was a hallmark of Savile Row-trained tailor Tommy Nutter who counted Mick Jagger among his many clients. Challenging the 1920s and ‘30s look was retro-1940s style, as wartime fashions––large shoulder pads, sweetheart necklines, turbans and platform shoes––were revived. The early 1970s Parisian couturier Yves Saint Laurent designed a blue feather jacket called a “chubby” that tapped styles of the early 1940s with a contemporary cheeky twist.

Ethnic Hippie
Inspired by idealized notions of exotic cultures and remote lands, hippies adopted aspects of non-Western clothing in their colorful garb—silks, velvets, leathers, rich embroidery, beads, fringe, gold, mirrors, and more. Designers and fashion boutiques joined in creating garments based on foreign silhouettes, techniques, motifs, and fabrics. This was the era of Nehru jackets, caftans, shaggy Afghani wool vests, Native American fringe, and Indian prints, which contributed to the vibrant bricolage of ethnic hippie fashion in the late 1960s and early ’70s, a look epitomized by rock stars Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. British designer Thea Porter opened a boutique in London where she sold her upscale ethnic hippie creations, which soon became a popular spot for pop stars and bohemian aristocrats. In the late 1960s, Porter created a brilliant yellow peasant-style silk dress using embroidered silk from Gujarat India. Hippie Chic will also showcase a maroon silk dress with gold brocade made with Indian sari fabric by American designer Arnold Scaasi, worn by singer/actress Barbara Streisand in 1970. One of the most iconic ethnic looks of the late 1960s and early ‘70s was the “American Indian” look, associated with fringed leather jackets, headbands, feathers, and suede pants and boots. Hippie Chic features an artfully designed suede jacket with long beaded fringe made by the East West Musical Instrument Company of San Francisco (from the collection of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles). Actress/singer Cher was one of many celebrities to popularize this Native American style.

Crafty Hippie
Making clothes, rather than buying them, was a hallmark of the counterculture’s rejection of consumerism. Hippies delighted in the personal creativity that making their own clothes allowed and exuberantly embraced tie-dye, embroidered and patchwork jeans, macramé, crochet, and leather tooling. This interest in hand-crafted, artful clothes trickled up to more mainstream designers, and even haute couture which already had its own long history of superb craftsmanship. Fashion designers incorporated, distilled, and honed elements of the populist hand crafts in their own fashions. The American designer Halston explored tie-dye in the late 1960s, creating a luxurious tie-dyed velvet pantsuit in 1969. Halston’s clients were the elite of New York society, including the singer/actress Liza Minnelli. Yves Saint Laurent’s colorful silk and velvet patchwork evening dress from his haute couture Fall-Winter 1969-70 collection is one of the most salient examples of “hippie chic.” Patchwork started on the streets with hippies, but quickly trickled up to be a look embraced by Gloria Vanderbilt and even Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the late 1960s.

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