Sporting pink flowers in an up-swept hairdo, Dede Wilsey, San Francisco Arts Museums Board Chair shared her memories of The Summer of Love in opening remarks to the press for the preview of The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll.
“I was an infant at the time but extremely sophisticated,” she said with a wink in her voice. Mrs. Wilsey arrived in San Francisco as a young adult in 1965, when, she says, Haight-Ashbuy was more pure in spirit with no homeless and no crime. Young people gathered “… sitting in the sun with flowers in their hair soaking it all up.” You could go to the famous corner and get your picture taken to send home, perhaps to rather worried parents.
San Francisco is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the de young Museum is offering an exhibition that gives us a peek back to that magical time unique to our city.
In the mid-1960s, artists, activists, writers, and musicians were heading to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood attracted by cheap rents. In 1967 the area was home to over 100,000 young people from all around the country. They began to form their own community using nearby Golden Gate Park as their hangout spot. This was a time of developing changes in politics, art, fashion, and music with hippies, as they were called, working together on their shared beliefs and aesthetics.
The Summer of Love Experience exhibits more than 300 cultural artifacts of the time, including Rock & Roll posters, photographs of people in the neighborhood, and fashion, much of which is from the museum’s permanent collection but there are also key pieces on loan from private collectors.
Hippies were interested in all things anti-establishment, particularly in how they dressed. The look was about natural and hand-made with influences from Native America, the Wild West, and vintage. Jill D’Alessandro, curator of textile and costume at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, pointed out that during that time the Western Addition neighborhood was getting redeveloped; long-time residents of aging Victorian buildings were forced to move and that resulted in piles and piles of vintage clothing showing up at thrift stores selling for next to nothing.
This dubious serendipity contributed to the unique fashions we see in this exhibit, many of which I can imagine wearing today. Local designers of the era included Jeanne Rose, Birgitta Bjerke, Mickey McGowan, and Burray Olson. Their approach was hand-made and re-purposed working with denim, leather, embroidery, beading, knit, crochet, and tie-dye. Designers and non-designers alike were influenced by, and reusing, the Victorian and Edwardian treasures they were collecting from establishments such as The Third Hand Shop, which was one of the first to embrace the vintage resale market.
Jeanne Rose, who has lived in the Haight since 1964, put together costumes for local bands, designed her own clothing, and hung out with Janis Joplin. Several of her creations are part of this exhibit including a knit pair of pants and a silk blouse she calls Morning Glory. I ran into Jeanne while we walked the exhibit and she told me that she wore this one herself and it is among her favorites, pointing out the beauty and grace of the sleeves on the blouse. She exclaimed, “I love it.”
Most of the galleries include displays of both men’s and women’s clothing making this a wonderland for fashionables, particularly those interested in fashion history. Added bonus – in some cases the mannequins are close enough to get a good view of construction.
Groovy music from Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and other Bay Area bands play in the background to set the mood. If you’re up for trippin’ head to the room with psychedelic lighting and beanbag chairs.
The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll is on now through August 20th, 2017 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
Wait there’s more! Each day this week I’m posting a different photo from this exhibit to take a closer look at some of my favorite fashion pieces. So, check back … better yet, subscribe (button top right) and get an e-mail alert with every new post on OverDressedforLife. Ooh man, that’s far out!