With our summer festival season drawing to an end, it’s comforting to know that in light of the celebrations commemorating 40 years since one of the most defining moments in music history took place, Woodstock has sparked the hippy trend in art and fashion once more.
Billed as an ‘Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace & Music’ the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair saw more than 500,000 revelers descend on a 600-acre rural dairy farm in Bethel, New York in the summer of 1969. From the 15th-18th August music virtuosos performed sets that would become renowned for years to come including legends such as Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, Canned Heat, The Who, Santana and of course Jimi Hendrix.
Although it is known as a free concert, the original intentions behind the project were profit motivated. Approximately 186,000 tickets were sold beforehand and it was only when event organizers, faced with hundreds of thousands more people gathered at the perimetre, that they then tore down the fence and declared the festival free.
Documenting the event was the film Woodstock which provides an insightful look into youth culture at the time. Significant moments depicting the true spirit of the festival were captured when attendees came together to help each other out when they experienced a shortage of food, water, medical supplies and a fierce storm. Without violence or riots the sentiment behind three days of peace and music remained true. And now another movie has been made about the mammoth event, director Ang Lee takes a look at the motivation behind the concert in his light hearted take on how the festival came to be.
In cinemas now Taking Woodstock is based up on the autobiography of the same name. The film follows a real life account of Eliot Tiber (called Eliot Teichberg at the time) who was instrumental in the organisation of the festival. Tiber’s parents owned a motel upstate in the Catskills and at that time held the only musical festival permit in the town of Bethel.
At the time of Woodstock, the Vietnam War had been going on for ten years and so politics played a major part in the look of the time. The teenage generation of the late sixties were political protesters against the war and held anti-establishment views, creating their own principles. Illegal drugs were more appealing than the legal consumption of alcohol and chanting for peace and love was the antidote to the propagation of war and hate. In response to the well-groomed fifties, they were no longer concerned with looking or acting like their parents as previous generations had done. Not only did their choice in clothes reflect their political vote but their ‘uniforms’ of t-shirt and blue jeans were worn almost in rebellion because their fathers wore a shirt and tie.
Looking through archive pictures of Woodstock you can see it is almost an ocean of denim, so much so that Levi’s could have been the official sponsor. Jeans are durable and practical, so festival goers knew they could easily squeeze three days wear out them but this also marked the beginning of a new era in fashion. In keeping with their hippy philosophy and subversive ways, recycled clothing became more appealing too thus an anti-fashion trend was embraced. This meant uncoiffed hair, faded t-shirts and DIY clothing such as patchwork denim bell bottoms. Lifestyle aspirations also contributed to the style at the time and ethnic clothing such as ponchos, kaftans and folk embroidered shirts and accessories like beads were favoured as they denoted travel or a pilgrimage which was seen to be liberating.
There were many defining fashion moments in style on stage as well as the crowds, with many of the details currently resurfacing in fashion. Psychedelic prints and tie dye were prominent in the sixties and singers Joe Cocker and John Sebastian both wore tie-dye on stage. John’s denim jacket is currently in residence at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio as part of the Woodstock 40th anniversary exhibition. Tie dye was popular as it was in keeping with the anti-fashion movement because it was homemade and it was also a chance to express individualism. Matthew Williamson, a hippie at heart, featured many psychedelic print maxi dresses and tunics in his summer 09 collections as did fashion label Milly. The aesthetic is set to reappear for summer 2010 with designers such as Proenza Schouler using it on staple pieces including jumpsuits.
Native American details were found in headbands, feathers and fringing which was a big story for fashion this summer and some bright designers are smuggling it in for next season too. Designer Sophie Theallet was inspired by the native for her autumn Ready-to-Wear line with models wearing headbands and prairie dresses with fringed arm bands. White jumpsuits with elongated tassels were worn on stage by Hendrix, The Who’s Roger Daltry and Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. New York-based Lost Art leather crafters can provide the ultimate pair. Founder and designer Jordan Betten has made fringed leather trousers and accessories for many of our modern day artists wanting to recapture the style of 1969, including Sheryl Crow and Lenny Kravitz for their turn at Woodstock in 1999.
With the ongoing Vietnam War, patriotic references were in abundance in the sixties; army fatigues were worn with pride. Country Joe McDonald wore his as he sang on stage the anti-war song Feels like I’m Fixing to Die. Anti-war slogan badges stating ‘Free the P.O.W’ or ‘Make love not War’ were seen on many of the Woodstock concert goers and the American flag was emblazoned on just about anything from cars to denim and of course there was Jimi Hendrix’s famous rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Label William Rast had many Americana-inspired details for this season and next; simplified US flag motif t-shirts, lumberjack wraps and fringed dirty looking patchwork denim and army greens. Wunderkind also presented a military theme with their S/S 09 Ready-to-Wear collection featuring pre- and post-war style cargo jackets and trousers while Anna Sui’s line included traditional folk style peasant blouses and smock embroidered dresses mixed with her khaki jackets.
For those quintessential shapes only created by ponchos, check out Creatures of the Wind‘s trapeze shaped clothing or Mara Hoffman’s 2010 resort collection which had many vibrant, bohemian style print kaftans. However summing up the vibe perfectly with their summer Ready-to-Wear collection is Australian label Romance Was Born. The curiously titled ‘Yeti Magic’ line evokes a shaman-like feel and by wearing the pieces you’ll no doubt channel your inner spirit animal. Opt for key pieces such as the laser-slashed tasselled poncho, dip-dyed red, white and blue or one of the white crocheted dresses. And for visual trip back to the summer of love check out the latest photography from Neil Krug. His collection of images features a gun toting supermodel Joni Harbeck on horseback in collaboration for his upcoming art book, Pulp. Inspired by the rawness of the late 60’s, early 70’s Krug manages to capture the essence of that time by using an old expired Polaroid film to recreate this vintage look. Exploring alternative states of consciousness Krug’s visually stunning images show his muse Joni alongside hippies, natives or on a pilgrimage with new age travelers in a sunshine flooded representation of what could be the ‘dawning of the age of Aquarius.’ The summer may be over but let the love continue….