BOSTON — 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.
Hanae Mori creates a psychedelic version of a 1950s or ‘60s party frock with the bright orange fabrics and profile of a face printed across this late ‘60s chiffon evening jumpsuit ensemble. (Greg Cook)
Carl Schimel’s circa 1969 base metal “Chastity Belt”—displayed here atop a black bodystocking—imitates medieval designs in its erotic chains and medallion (“a container meant to hold birth control pills,” according to the MFA). (Greg Cook)
A psychedelic 1970 tunic jacket by Yosha Leeger, who was involved in the Beatles’ short-lived retail shop, the Apple Boutique, before opening The Chariot, and its label “Cosmic Couture,” in Los Angeles with Barry Simon. (Greg Cook)
Betsey Johnson’s 1969 printed cotton dress (foreground) imitated “Gone with the Wind” fashions but enlarges the usual calico flower print to give it a ‘60s kick. Designers also took inspiration from gypsies (left) and the knights and ladies of the 1967 film “Camelot” (center background). (Greg Cook)
Thea Porer added a fur collar and cuffs to a traditional nomadic Iraqi embroidered textile to create this 1969 woman’s coat. (Greg Cook)
Ossie Clark helped revive the 1940s look with designs like this circa 1970 black button-down dress with a jacket (note the keyhole tie neckline) printed with an Art Deco pattern by Celia Birtwell. (Greg Cook)
A psychedelic pattern of waves and dots electrifies Ottavio and Rosita Missoni’s machine-knit 1972 women’s ensemble (foreground). Like Geoffrey Beene’s 1972 quilted silk dress (background), it’s an example of how high fashion reinterpreted homespun hippie crafts. (Greg Cook)
Halston dabbled with tie-dye in this circa 1969 silk velvet woman’s ensemble. (Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Giorgio di Sant’Angelo’s 1970 sapphire blue rayon velvet dress incorporated the puffed sleeves and long skirt of the “prairie hippie” look with horizontal ribbons that evoke 19th century Native American dresses. (Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Thea Porter’s 1969 chiffon, silk and sequined woman’s caftan—traditional Middle Eastern garb newly incorporated into Western fashion in the 1960s. (Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Rock bassist Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was one of the celebrity clients of the London boutique Granny Takes a Trip, for which John Pearse designed this circa 1967 cotton man’s jacket printed with an 1892 William Morris Arts and Crafts pattern. (Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)