At London’s Victoria and Albert museum a few years ago Michael and I were standing in front of a 1960s fashion exhibition when two teenage girls joined us. They examined the outfits closely.
“Wow,” one said. “My grandma wore stuff like this when she was our age.”
Michael and I looked at each other–it was an aha moment of recognition– the clothes we once believed were the height of fashion were now vintage. Part of history. It seemed like just yesterday that we saw those clothes in stores, wore outfits like them and were among groups of others dressed like that. But it was a long time ago. Some 50 years, to be exact.
The fashions I’m about to show you were part of the De Young Museum’s Summer of Love exhibition, celebrating the 50 years that had passed since the famous summer in San Francisco. You’re going to recognize some of the styles—today they’re called Boho chic but they hearken back to the Swinging 60s, when they were unlike anything that had ever appeared on a runway.
Loose, free and easy. Like the 60s. These pretty dresses wouldn’t be all that out of place today. Still very wearable.
These, maybe not so much today. The frock on the far right was a staple hippie style and reminds me of the days when the back-to-the-earth movement was new. I can imagine a long haired woman with a naked baby slung on her hip standing in front of a cabin.
These are a little Heidi-ish, and I don’t mean Heidi Klum. But velvet and lace were very much a part of feminine fashion during the Summer of Love.
We all had shoes like these. Clogs became fashionable, and platforms, and this worked leather was very much a part of the era.
Color and a bit of distorted reality. This was very Peter Max-ish. He was a well-known pop artist of the era. Pretty, isn’t it? I bought my own Peter Max painting more than 15 years ago, but it’s an abstract, not one of his more famous paintings. But I’m digressing. This piece reminded me of the artist.
Now the rubber has hit the road. This look epitomizes fashion of the 1960s…the tunic, the bell bottoms, the wedge shoe.
Let’s talk fringe: big back then and still big. I love fringe. On the left, note the red bandana inset on the bell bottoms.
And more. This one is very rock-star-ish, no? Leather.
Suede also a big thing back then.
Janis Joplin loved those sleeves. Today, many Boomer women don’t need a blouse to sport wings like this; they’re the bane of senior women.
Still something you cuuld see in a store today, sort of a psychedelic paisley. These are joyful fashions with color and psychedelics–it’s the lens through which we viewed the world.
The hat and the maxi coat bring me back to that era. This screams 1960s fashion.
The peace symbol came of age during the Vietnam War’s anti-war movement. The peace movement. We would sit in our dorm rooms with a black Magic Marker and white fabric and make arm bands, then draw black peace symbols on them.
Another big part of the movement was buttons. You’ll still see people wearing buttons on their denim jackets. Not this many, though. The more the merrier was very much part of 60s fashion.
The boots. Dramatic, psychedelic, out there.
More fringe, this time with denim and in the background you’ll see the stripes from the flag.
In this era, the flag was a statement. It’s still a statement.
More Peter Max-ish designs. I love these pants and yes, men wore them. But not most men. Certainly not frat boys.
The hat, the bell-bottoms, the whole look took me back to my college years. Again, not most men, but a few.
More platforms. They weren’t as comfortable as today’s platforms and of course, we seniors are too afraid of falling to wear them now.
The empire waist was big, tunics were big, purple was a staple color and velvet a staple fabric…and those high collars–what we called Nehru collars– were a big part of fashion.
I can’t say I ever saw anyone wearing anything like this, but it reflects the drama of the time, when we were no longer interested in Peter Pan collars, ankle sox and surf shorts but in being “in your face” with what we wore. The other side of the fashion continuum from the Beach Boys.
The exhibit itself had much more than fashion and I’ll be showing you more in the coming weeks. But for me, fashion is art and helped bring back so many memories of that time. I’d love your thoughts.