‘Hippie Chic’ transports visitors to Woodstock era
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 01:09
The 1960s and 70s are characterized by the Woodstock generation pushing social and legal limits, rock ‘n’ roll’s golden age and, as the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) reveals, a time of funky and colorful fashion trends. “Hippie Chic,” located in the museum’s Torf Gallery for special exhibitions, is a testament to the fun and experimental fashions of that era. This exhibition caters to people of all ages and backgrounds, whether they are visiting the MFA on a whim or looking for a serious exploration of 1960s and 70s fashion.
Upon entering, the exhibition does more than just put vintage fashions on display; it transports you to another era. Viewers’ senses are overwhelmed with bright, colorful displays of mannequins and something else you won’t find in most art museums — music. The exhibit contains an old-fashioned jukebox, and visitors are encouraged to pick songs themselves. The choices include songs from the era’s trendsetting artists, including The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. By essentially giving the exhibit a soundtrack, the MFA emphasizes the cultural impact that music had on fashion during this period while simultaneously adding an unexpected, entertaining dynamic to the experience.
Music isn’t the only thing that makes the exhibit interactive. Some of the elevated mannequins are centered on rotating shag-rug platforms that allow viewers to enjoy all angles of the outfits. And these clothes are definitely worth a close look. An array of patterns, patchwork, prints, flowing pants, robes and dresses are all on display. The exhibit even presents old footwear, with a collection of heels and boots — some patent leather, others studded. The textures and embellishments of the pieces are truly remarkable: velvet, satin, beads, tie-dye and fringe leave viewers with an increased appreciation for the intricacies of fashion.
A diverse group of designers are represented throughout the exhibition. “Hippie Chic” includes designs from more avant-garde boutiques like Betsey Johnson and Ossie Clark, but it also showcases works by the well-known Yves Saint Laurent, Arnold Scaasi and Geoffrey Beene. Though some of the pieces seem humorously outdated, they also serve as a reminder of the innovation and spirit of their era. Don’t miss the Man’s Jacket from 1967 by Granny Takes a Trip, modeled by a male mannequin with a silvery white afro and sunglasses.
“Hippie Chic’s” use of space is innovative for a smaller, one-room exhibition. Beyond just the elevated rotating mannequin platforms, one figure is even suspended in the air on a swing-like structure, which adds to the room’s playful atmosphere. Even the floors are incorporated into the display, with bright lights that cast different shapes across the ground. Various backdrops add visual appeal with funky wallpaper and a purple and white wall that pop behind the mannequins. Aesthetically, “Hippie Chic” balances elements of nature and the psychedelic with patterns that have a jarring effect on the eye, visually creating a cohesive impression of the baby boomer generation as a whole.
Another impressive aspect of the exhibition is its ability to cater to such a wide-ranging audience. While fashion lovers will admire renowned designers represented in “Hippie Chic,” it’s also a great place to visit with kids. The bright colors and music contribute to a family-friendly environment without sacrificing the curatorial intent of the show. One display can catch the eye of both a fashion aficionado and a young child. For example, a high-end Yves Saint Laurent ensemble is offset by a light-hearted afro and sunglasses on its mannequin model, similar to the style of the aforementioned Granny Takes a Trip model, that can make any viewer smile.
Striking a perfect balance between groovy and elegant, fun and educational, this is an exhibition that everyone should see. With over 54 ensembles, “Hippie Chic” allows viewers to become fully immersed in the sights, sounds and culture that influenced the fashion of this alluring age.