Dressing Woodstock

Slide 1: Introduction

Woodstock was not just about peace, love, and music; there was also clothes. The gatherings of tribes brought together a cacophony of fashion sensibilities and statements. The most outrageous were the theatrical hippies from the Hog farm (as pictured above). But as Joseph G. Aulisi, Taking Woodstock’s costume designer, illustrates, the Sixties came in all sizes and colors. In the following article, the left slide highlights how that was realized in the film.

Slide 2: The Local Kids

For many, the word “Woodstock” conjures up hordes of mud-bathed freaks and bedraggled hippie chicks. But in truth, the majority of attendees were kids from local colleges and high schools. The local kids dressed somewhat conservatively with only a modicum of daring thrown in. According to Aulisi, “the crowd was about 75% male, and most kids wore jeans and T-shirts. Most jeans were Levis (with a few Wranglers and Lees), and unlike today’s jeans, they were all dark blue. Some kids wore chinos, or Bermuda shorts, or “wheat jeans” (which were a natural color denim that Levis produced at the time.” While the kids wore sneakers, they were a far cry from today’s high tech running shoes. “They wore Converse sneakers,” adds Aulisi, “or tan-colored ankle-length desert boots.” If a man was particularly adventuresome, he might wear beads about his neck.

Slide 3: The Activists

For the most part, Woodstock did not wear its politics on its sleeve (or any other piece of apparel for that matter). One section of the concert space called Groovy Way, however, provided a space for political groups from anti-war, to gay rights, to pro-ecology, to set up their rickety card tables, and hand out literature or just talk. Many of the politicos wore plain, unassuming outfits, especially wrinkled to denote the seriousness of their purpose.

Slide 4: The Locals

To be sure, the three days of Peace, Love and Music was a generally young affair, but a few older locals also came out to see what all the buzz was about. And others came out to protest the dirty hippies. Upstate fashions tended to be from the early Sixties since, Aulisi explains, "fashion tended to be several years behind upstate." There were plenty of polyester shirts and pants. But if they were to go to the concert, they were from a generation when men would wear suits and the women put on dresses and jewelry.

Slide 5: The Cops

Except for a few local officers and sheriffs, most of the police presence was in the form of state troopers. And their uniform has barely changed in the 40 years since.

Slide 6: The Eastern Influence

The influx of Eastern spiritual practices, from yoga to meditation, was manifested in the daily rites and rituals that individuals and groups observed. A guru would lead loose–robed disciples in one area, while elsewhere young hippies saluted Mother Earth in a ceremonies copied from Native American tribes. In addition, people wore lots of mystical accessories including beads, amulets, crystals, and feathers. Those from communes in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest would borrow blankets and clothing styles from the local indigenous populations. 

Slide 7: Vietnam Vets

Vietnam vets were not a large contingent, but those in attendance often wore their opposition to the war in the form of beat up and distressed uniform fatigues. For Billy (Emile Hirsch), the question of how long he had been back from combat and what he might wear was long considered. As was the fashion, he continued to wear both of his dog tags. Aulisi points out that the combat fatigues were so popular that many “protestors who never went to Vietnam would buy the outfit at Army Surplus store and wear it for anti-war demonstrations.”

Slide 8: Cut Off Jeans and Halter Tops

Many women, who were not exactly hippies, would adopt in their clothing and movement the free flowing rhythm of that group. Cut off jeans had recently become fashionable, and many simply turned the jeans they’d worn to the concert, now mud-caked and stained, into cut offs on the spot. Many women wore loose, free flowing shifts, especially for dancing in tribal movements. Likewise halter tops, especially handcrafted from macramé, home tie-dyed, or crocheted, were signifiers of being hip for a new generation. 

Slide 9: The Versatile Bedspread

Indian and Eastern patterns were everywhere, even, as the man on the right demonstrates, when they simply a bedspread. And many outfits and fashions were also unisex.

Slide 10: Nuns

The second Vatican Ecumenical Council in 1962 freed up many Catholics to shake off old conventions (and habits) and live more in the world. Nuns discarded the heavy black habits of old and took to looser and lighter outfits, forms that spoke to their desire to connect with the young.

Slide 11: Circus Style

For many, especially the more established hippies, dressing up was always a theatrical moment. Outfits, panchos, floppy hats, often in circus colors, added to the festivities, and could call attention to a particular issue.

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