Some fun facts about hippie fashion courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts’ eye-popping, psychedelic 1960s fashion showcase “Hippie Chic”: Secret compartments in your metal jewelry could conceal your birth control pills; secret pockets in the collar of your Native American-style fringed suede jacket could hide your “stash”; and around the time Neil Armstrong was making that first “one small step” on the moon, Halston was dabbling in tie-dye and Yves Saint Laurent was experimenting with crazy quilting.
“Hippie Chic” (465 Huntington Ave., Boston, through Nov. 11) rounds up 54 ensembles dating from about 1968 to ’76—mainly from the MFA’s collection, but augmented by some loans—to show how fabulous fashions from the Age of Aquarius were interpreted by the era’s high-end design houses.
MFA curator Lauren Whitley’s eye is on influences—how hippies, and their haute couture imitators, drew inspiration from Middle Eastern caftans; Native American fringe, leather and ribbons; homefront styles of World War II; 19th century gingham pioneer dresses; Renaissance jackets and breeches.
Recycling the past was part of how hippies sought to expand their minds, to find better ways of living, as they dreamed up a utopian future. The youth movement was, of course, a wellspring of the sexual revolution, feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, drug experimentation, anti-Vietnam War protests, personal computers, the Internet, and a general anti-establishment bent. Make love, not war, man.
“Fashion was at the heart of many of these struggles,” Whitley says. But this show isn’t about rocking boats. Whitley even overlooks how flowing hippie dresses that supplanted the highly structured, girdle-demanding cocktail dresses of the 1950s and “Mad Men” early ‘60s represented a literal loosening up, a physical liberation of women’s bodies that heralded the dawn of the era’s feminist movement.
But there’s no denying the bubbly, technicolor fun of “Hippie Chic” fashions—and that’s true to hippie-ness too. Though hippies frequently fought the power, a good deal of the appeal was that they were throwing the coolest, sexiest, rockingest party around.
This program aired on July 20, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.