Woodstock at 40: Fields of Fashion

Faded blues, crochet, love beads and fringe. Sixties-inspired fare makes for a festival of groovy style.

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A tie-dyed T-shirt, flared jeans, a jersey maxidress: Closets are filled with such whiffs of hippie, whether vintage or brand new. Either way, the fashion mood they represent hit the mainstream consciousness during those three dirty, sunny, music-soaked days in Bethel, N.Y., from Aug. 15 to 17, 1969, a reminder of the let-loose, come-as-you-are ethos of the era. Woodstock, in its tribal vibe and aesthetic, was the antifashion fashion event — no labels, clothing-optional, and a whole lot of style.

In fact, the unfolding of the hippie-chic look, so often attributed to Woodstock, the 40th anniversary of which is this coming weekend, dates more accurately to the Summer of Love and 1967 San Francisco, where Levi’s and peasant blouses spilled out of Haight Street storefronts and onto Dolores Park frolickers. By the time the look moved east, in 1969, it had been appropriated by a youth culture bent on upending the modest uniforms — knee-length skirts, sheaths, paneled suits — of the early Sixties. (Also, it was incredibly hot that summer, as revelers have attested, which accounts for some of that skin.) “[The hippie aesthetic] was more motivated by an idea that you were going to get away from the whole fashion system,” explains Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “And instead, you were going to express yourself. It’s just that everybody happened to be expressing themselves in very similar ways.”

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