Woodstock Fashion: Photos Of Hippie Chicks And What They Wore
A couple attending the Woodstock Music Festival smiles while standing outside the shelter they've built during the concert, Bethel, NY, August 1969. Source: (Ralph Ackerman/Getty Images)
"Three days of peace and music" -- that's how they billed the August 1969 festival known as Woodstock. Fashion was another of the themes, with the hippies flocking to Bethel, New York, in all manner of outrageous getups. Some were brief and comfortable, while others were ornate statements -- and all can make good outfits for a costume party. The flower-power spirit reached its peak at Woodstock; hippie fashion, as we remember it, was practically defined by this massive counterculture event. Five decades later, images of idealistic, free-spirited youths communing with one another persist, and the spirit of Woodstock isn't the only reason we find them so fascinating. That fashion -- that authentic Woostock hippie fashion -- we've come to love (and sometimes laugh at) was so much more than clothing: in all its variety it symbolized self-expression, freedom, peace, openness, individualism, rebellion, and love. The young generation felt they'd found a better way, a more harmonious vision for the future, and it was on full display at Woodstock. The fashion choices, like the ideals and the music, will never be forgotten.
Woodstock was a full 50 years ago. Though it seems like yesterday, it's actually more of a historical era for most people than a personal memory (and as they said of the '60s -- if you remember it, you weren't there). These days, a good Woodstock hippie costume works for Halloween and costume parties, so consider this research.
Musical acts such as Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Santana, Joe Cocker, Canned Heat, Country Joe & the Fish, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Janis Joplin, Ritchie Havens, Ravi Shankar, and Jimi Hendrix were rocking the stage. Drugs were plentiful (and the brown acid was to be avoided). People were getting together spiritually and sexually. And the fashion was unforgettable, in all its eclectic and disheveled glory.
Tie Dye Off The Highway
In the Woodstock era, folks didn’t buy tie-dye clothes -- they made them themselves. A little RIT dye, some rubber bands, and a plain white t-shirt (at that time, intended to no more than undershirts) was all they needed to make a colorful fashion statement. Hippies were all about shock value and breaking out of conventional molds, and the wild and colorful tie-dye shirts fit the bill. Once the tie-dying was complete, the garment could be worn any number of ways. Men often preferred to wear it as an over-sized tunic, but women knotted them under their breasts to show off their belly buttons.
Macramé And Crochet Kept It Soft And Earthy
Many of the hippie girls of the sixties put a creative twist on the crocheting and macramé skills that their mothers and grandmothers taught them. But instead of making doilies and placemats, they made vests and halter tops that some of them wore to Woodstock. Most of the time, the vests were worn over another shirt, but the halter tops were a whole different thing. They were worn solo, like bikini tops, and the holes between the stitching showed off enough skin to make macramé tops scandalous. This, of course, was exactly the reaction that the hippies at Woodstock wanted.
A Pattern Of Going Global
Hippies were all about living in peace and harmony as a way to be inclusive of all cultures. The '60s were also a time of spiritual awakening in which people made trips to faraway places like India and Africa in search of peace and enlightenment. Many of the Woodstock fashions reflected the cultural appropriation that was widely accepted at the time. In fact, many of the ethnic clothing pieces were mixed with others to create interesting juxtapositions. Buckskin and beadwork in a Native American style might be worn with a flowing Jamaican skirt, or an African dashiki could be seen under a South American poncho, or wide-legged Middle Eastern pants might be paired with an Indian tunic. For footwear, desert-chic sandals and furry tribal boots were popular choices, as was going barefoot. Mixing patterns and cultures was cool, man.
Blue Jean Babies
In the '60s, blue jeans were viewed as a form of rebellion. In fact, many places, such as schools, movie theatres, and restaurants, banned people from wearing blue jeans because the denim pants were a slap in the face to proper attire. Of course, the hippies embraced this and adopted the blue jeans as their signature fashion piece. At Woodstock, both men and women could be seen wearing blue jeans in a variety of styles. Hip-huggers for hippies were all the rage (and looked fantastic with a bit of bare midriff or buckskin vest), but just as many Woodstock fans wore cutoffs. It was August, after all.
Ring The Bells
Speaking of blue jeans -- bell bottoms didn't ring out with great force until the '70s, but in 1969 they were definitely a fashion trend that was flaring up.
The No-Bra Look Was About Freedom
The women’s liberation movement coupled with the sexual revolution meant that many hippie girls left their bras at home when they packed for Woodstock. In fact, it was more common to see unfettered breasts than it was to see a woman wearing a bra. Many women took it a step further and went topless at Woodstock. Women were pushing for gender equality and, they felt, if it was appropriate for a man to remove his shirt when he got too hot, a woman should have the same freedoms.
Getting in Touch With Their Feminine Side
The lines between genders had begun to blur in the late '60s, a trend on display at Woodstock. Men with long hair are commonplace today, but in the '60s it was considered a feminine look, and a form of rebellion. At Woodstock, many of the long-haired dudes added flowers to their hair, or lacy pastel headbands, or wreaths of flowers. No one questioned their masculinity -- instead, it was viewed as a gesture to peace and understanding.
Headbands For The Heads
Decades before "cultural appreciation" was even a thing, hippies were taking fashion cues from Native Americans, and nothing was quite as pervasive as the Native headband, usually (but not always) sans feather adornment.
Thrift Store Finds
Hippies embraced an eclectic fashion style that included a healthy dose of second-hand clothes. Cheap, used, thrift store finds, odds and ends from days gone by, were one way to punch up one’s style in an affordable way. Woodstock attracted fans from all over the country who road-tripped it to Bethel, New York, for the music festival. Along the way, the hippie vagabonds stopped at thrift stores to look for discounted treasures. That is why many of the Woodstock attendees were putting their own sixties twist on clothing pieces from the forties and fifties.
Today’s fashion designers recommend adding a statement piece to one’s wardrobe, but at Woodstock, those statement pieces were making a political statement. The counterculture was rebelling against traditions and trying to find their own voice. Often, that voice could be heard through their clothing choices. For example, peace activists were sometimes accused of burning the American flag and when the older generation demanded that the flag be treated with respect, the hippies responded by sewing pants and jackets out of American flags and parading them around in public. Another popular motif with political overtones was the peace symbol, worn as jewelry or emblazoned on garments.
Woodstock Fashions Were One-of-a-Kind
The fashions prevalent at Woodstock offer a glimpse into the hippie culture of the time, primarily because the outfits were authentic, not scripted. Some of today’s big music festivals, such as Coachella or Lollapalooza, have transformed from simply a music event to a fashion event, with high-end fashion designers creating expensive signature looks for fans and performers. When Woodstock happened, hippie fashion wasn't store-bought and hadn't (yet) been co-opted by fancy labels. Fans showed up looking fashionable by counterculture standards, but that didn't mean they'd blown their paychecks (if they had paychecks) on threads.
The Fringe Element Was Everywhere
Fringe jackets and tops were everywhere at Woodstock, one of those quintessentially American touches that was appealing for a number of reasons. Maybe you were working the Native American theme, maybe you were showing off your rugged individualism, maybe fringe just made you feel like a fashionable outdoorsy type. Maybe your heroes had always been cowboys -- like Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider and John Voight in Midnight Cowboy, both in theaters in the sumer of 1969. Whatever your reasons, one thing was obvious -- it sure was fun to shake your fringe this way and that while you danced.
Made In The Shades
Those large, circular sunglasses favored by Janis Joplin were having their moment in the summer of '69. Of all the Woodstock fashion flourishes, these shades, which just aren't that flattering, are the least likely to come back -- unless you're going to a hippie-themed costume party.
How To Rock A Wild Bikini
With all the rain, mud, traffic, technical issues and shortages of food and lavatories, you might think Woodstock was no day at the beach. But many intrepid and fashionable concert-goers treated it as such, and had the time of their lives in skimpy poolside attire. Bikini tops worn with jeans, skirts or shorts were another way of ensuring that Woodstock was the endless parade of bare flesh the squares it would be. Why, look at supermodel Veruschka getting down at the fest -- she's practically naked! And speaking of naked...
A Clothing Optional Event
While many people were practically naked at Woodstock, others were just plain naked. Nothing accessorizes the human body better than the body itself, in all its bare and hairy glory. If you were at Woodstock, you saw naked bodies, lots of 'em -- and maybe you even strutted your own stuff like Adam or Eve before the fall. It's cool man -- state of nature and all that.
Happiness Was A Warm Blanket
Don't forget that Bethel, NY is two hours north of New York City -- even though the festival happened in August, conditions weren't tropical at all times. The evenings and mornings up there can get a little chilly, especially when you're slightly soaked from the rain, and through the night many attendees found themselves huddling for warmth. Perhaps that's why the enduring image -- the picture that became the cover art for the famous soundtrack -- is of a couple draped in a mud-stained blanket, surrounded by other blanked-covered associates strewn about. Fringe and beads may have been hippie fashion essentials, but if you didn't have a blanket when the morning mist came rolling in off the Catskills, you were underdressed. Sometimes, even for flower children, fashion has to be functional.
Tags: Fashion In The 1960s | Free Love | Hippies | Janis Joplin | Jimi Hendrix | Joe Cocker | Rare Photos From... | Remember This?... | Tie-Dye | Woodstock
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