Posts Tagged ‘1968’

Lorna Doone's patched jeans are part of the 1968 Exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California.

 1968 was a memorable year:

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are assassinated.
  • The Vietnam war rages on as more and more youth protest against it.
  • Feminists demonstrate at the Miss America Beauty Pageant.
  • Confrontations and riots close down the National Democratic Convention in Chicago.
  • African-American athletes give the Black Power arm symbol at the Summer Olympics in Mexico.

All of these events and more are explored in the current exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California. Using multimedia and artifacts from the period the exhibit dives into the social, political, and economic events of a pivotal year in American history.

Included in the exhibit is an array of clothing and accessories popular in the day. What people chose to wear plays an important role in the 1968 story. Baby Boomers are coming of age and rebelling against everything reeking of mainstream authority. Clothing quickly becomes a powerful and visible way for youth not just to rebel but to identify themselves. Hippies deck themselves out in long hair, patched jeans, and fringed vests. Liberated women go braless and sport miniskirts. Black Panthers show their determination in black leather jackets and black berets.

Back in 1968 teenager Lorna Doone sported a favorite pair of jeans (pictured above). Every time the jeans ripped or got a hole she’d add a patch until eventually the jeans were nothing but patches. In the exhibit she is quoted: Back in those days you could be considered weird and hippie if you wore, like moccasins, or if you wore a jean jacket. You didn’t have to look that much different to shock people.

McCarthy for President dress in the 1968 Exhibit.

Fashion even merges with politics in 1968. Eugene McCarthy challenges incumbent Lyndon Johnson for the democratic presidential nominee. As an anti-Vietnam War candidate he’s favored among college students. To show their support, young coeds attend campaign rallies donning McCarthy dresses, miniskirts, scarves and hats. Men “Get Clean for Gene” and shave off their beards.

In 1968 badges replace expensive jewelry as the latest must-have accessory. Rather than show off wealth, young people want to send a message: Ban the Bra, Get Out of Vietnam, Ringo for President, High as a Kite.

Among the fashions in the exhibit are costumes from the television show Laugh In, pieces worn by Janis Joplin and everyday clothing from hippies to college students to housewives.  

The 1968 Exhibit offers a great slice of fashion history and much more as it unfolds for us the events of 1968 month by month with audio interviews of Vietnam Vets, excerpts of popular television shows of the day, and select video of important speeches and news broadcasts. There’s also a related exhibit of posters – All of Us or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The 1968 Exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California now through August 19, 2012.

Be there or be square!

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