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Hippie Chic at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

posted by Robert Clark

The collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, include more than 45,000 examples of textile and fashion arts. Once Lou and Lisa of the Adrian G. Marcuse Library made me aware of an exhibition there, I just had to go. It was amazing!

Ostensibly my reason for going was to take photographs for my online menswear course, and I was not disappointed.

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Hippies are primarily associated with the United States, but versions of what might be described as the hippie phenomenon appeared in the U.K, Europe and as far afield as Australia.

The exhibition itself was broken down into five ‘Hippie Sections,” Trippy, Fantasy, Retro, Ethnic and Craft. Funnily enough, most of the clothing being exhibited came from the U.K.  But what represented the U.S was incredible, for example the caftan shown below, by Rudi Gernreich, and the Swanbone suede-fringed jacket made by East West Musical Instruments Company depicted above and below. The garments were infamous for “stash” pockets sewn into the neckbands, which offered a convenient hiding place for illegal substances.

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Lauren D. Whitley did an amazing job of curating this exhibition, and my only criticism concerns the choice of background music.  What did “Bang a Gong,” by T. Rex, which was a “glam-rock” group,  have to do with the 1960s? Where was Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, or Quicksilver Messenger Service?  In reply to that question, Lauren emailed me:  “I agree about the music. I did not have the final call on that. Apparently the problem was with the rights and licensing of songs. We could only afford to pay one licensing agency, and the other, BMI, would have charged a fortune to the rights to play Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, or the Grateful Dead.” Apart from that, the exhibition was perfection. 

 Professor Derek W. Cockle M.A.(RCA)

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Topics: Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Hippie Fashion, Textiles, Jefferson Airplane, Music Licensing