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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That expression, of course, was about many things — among them embracing earthiness and DIY style — and while the labels might not have shed a light on any particular Seventh Avenue star, the clothes turned a generation of twentysomethings onto the joys of casual dressing. The annals of fashion are full of hippie-inflected collections (not to mention shownotes and reviews peppered with Woodstock references), from Yves Saint Laurent’s late Seventies haute-hippie “gypsy” line, with its loose beaded gowns, to Marc Jacobs’ spring 2005 collection for Marc by Marc, which featured patchwork knee-grazing dresses and cuffed patched jeans, on over to Anna Sui, whose fall 2002 outing was replete with crocheted babydolls and shoulder bags.

Even those designers whose aesthetics don’t exactly sing flower power felt touched by event. Betsey Johnson, who says she was “too chicken” to attend Woodstock, nevertheless designed clothes at one point for headliner Janis Joplin — velvet bellbottoms and silver tunics — and recalls the do-it-yourself attitude about dressing for the occasion, an approach she considers apt for these economic times. “I think it’s very relatable to right now because it’s doing what you want to do with the stuff you have,” Johnson says.

For the Elmira, N.Y.-raised Tommy Hilfiger, “Woodstock solidified the fusion of music and fashion. It was the moment when I began to look at musicians not only for their music, but also for their style.” Hilfiger was 18 that summer. “[I] vividly remember,” he says, “how the music inspired me to create clothes that embraced this freedom of expression.”

It would seem as though that freedom, an enticing mix of rebellion against sexual norms, military power, and, if one goes by pictures alone, tailoring, are the enduring influence on a contemporary crop of designers, too — those who weren’t even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes while Jimi Hendrix was rocking out. Lyn Devon, a designer known best for her tailored Uptown-girl creations, remembers “watching the footage, girls in loose flowing dresses, tanned and barefoot, a seat of prints and colors.” To Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, Woodstock, with its challenge of the “status quo,” is a reminder of the importance of approaching every collection “with freedom in terms of ideas and execution.”

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