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A dominant theme of the festival was the sense that one could dress “locally” and don a mash-up of pieces, from a beaded necklace bought from a guy on East 4th Street to a blouse embroidered with daisies by one’s great aunt to a pair of crisp 501s suitably worn in after a few days of tent-dwelling. “There’s a mixing element, from all over — different ethnic pieces, with a pajama top, big jewelry, body paint,” says Vena Cava’s Sophie Buhai of the way she and partner Lisa Mayock have created traces of Woodstock in their collections.
Imperfection, another key part of rebellion, strikes a chord. “Mainly I think hippie style was the burst of having dirty hair and being grunge. We definitely love the idea that dirty things can be beautiful,” Buhai notes. And the Nepal-born Prabal Gurung, a designer who skews more ladylike than wash-’n’-go cotton, admits that “rather than the specific styles that they wore during this time, I draw the most inspiration from the underlying themes of women’s liberation and female empowerment. Woodstock is about being strong, standing up for what you believe in, taking risks, and not just accepting things at face value,” Gurung continues. “To me, that is how I see fashion could be and how I design.”
Back to the festival: It was a long three days, requiring comfort and durability, which the Costume Institute’s Andrew Bolton also attributes to the ushering in of recyclable, reusable duds. “Ecological fashion was something the hippies very much forefronted,” Bolton says, adding that Woodstock itself was the most visible upending of “clothing etiquettes.”
“The mid-Sixties were still pretty much bourgeois,” he says, “and recycling clothes, and the tactility of those clothes, the exposure of the body, made [Woodstock] one of the most visible forms of subcultural dressing.”