Mid-March was icy-cold here in New York; the City was covered in snow. But spring was around the corner and summer a hop, skip and a jump away. And not just any summer – this year marked the 50th anniversary of the legendary San Francisco Summer of Love, in 1967. There would be a ton of events to celebrate it on West Coast later on but, here we were, in New York City, in full winter attire, off to see ”Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture”, an exhibition of handmade dresses and accessories made by those free-spirited crafts-men and women who, in their rejection of the establishment of conformism, materialism and consumerism, went on to create some of the most original, superbly crafted designs, examples of which you are about to see below. They were the Hippies, the Flower Children, those young, idealists who struggled for equality and peace but got lost in their quest to reach those higher – LSD infused – levels of consciousness. They were men and women of my generation and they helped shaped me – and others like me – into the characters we have become today. Imagine how the world would have been, had they not got lost on their way.
Images from the exhibition
Hand-embroidered and appliqué Army Coat, 1967
”Paisley”: Coat for Sylvia Bennett, c. 1970
Barbara Ramsey’s coat and jeans exemplify the Counterculture’s resourcefulness and need for self-expression. Each small patch bears a story or memory of its own and forms a scrapbook of life experiences – worn by the person who lived them.
In 1971 Ramsey was given a ragged, wool-lined coat that she patched with fabric. As time passed, she sewed layers of patches made from other worn-out clothes onto the coat. Ramsey applied a similar process to a pair of jeans and eventually completed the outfit.
Medical School Outfit, 1971-75
100% Birgitta (Birgitta Bjerke)’s crocheted coats for Roger Daltrey of The Who and his then wife Heather recall the psychedelic visual culture of the 1960s rock-and-roll scene. Displayed flat on the wall, the garments – constructed in fan shapes – vibrate with kaleidoscopic colours that suggest blossoming flowers, Tibetan mandalas, and patterns inspired by Indian textile traditions.
Dancepiece by Leslie Correll, 1971
Hammered brass, Turkish beads, African (Venetian) trade beads mounted on old Indonesia batik fabric
Kaisik Wong’s evening ensembles (above) and Yellow and Green Ray dress and headdress (below) from the ”Seven Ray” series, 1974.
Mama Cass Elliot Dress (below left) c. 1967.
Cass Elliot was a member of The Mamas & the Papas. The panne velvet dress she wore, with its gentle ombré gradient colour, brings to light the dreamy character of her stage presence. Celebrated as a sex symbol and role model for young women of her generation, Elliot donned theatrical styles that showcased her dynamic personality and held the attention of her audiences and fans. The appliqué sunburst on the front of the bodice depicts Virgo, Elliot’s astrological sign, while reflecting the Counterculture’s interest in self-exploration through the study of cosmology.
SAS Colby – Ruffle My Feathers, 1972
Fayette Hauser, Cosmic Gypsy Ensemble, 1970
Gretchen Fetchen (Paula Douglas). Acid Test Dress and Boots, 1965.
Gretchen Fetchen was one of the early participants in the San Francisco Acid Test happenings organized by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters in the mid-1960s. The events were designed as gatherings to promote consciousness expansion and creativity through the use of LSD which was then legal.
Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture was on show at
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
2, Columbus Circle
New York City
March 12th, 2017