Friday, April 14, 2017

Summer of Love, where everyone was part of the show

A few of the fashions from the Summer of Love Experience at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, April 8-August 20, 2017.
It was during the Summer of Love that I decided to move to San Francisco. I was 9 that summer, so my move had to wait until I was old enough to be on my own. But in June of 1967, my grandmother, Bootsie, and I took a jet plane from home in New Orleans to California. It was my first time to fly, the first of many firsts that summer. My mother had died eight months previous and I wanted to be with her sister and her husband, my cool California Aunt Caryl and my hip Uncle Don, more than anything. Anticipating the trip was my constant daydream.

The reality was far more exciting, entrancing and life-changing than I ever imagined. We took an eye-opening stroll down Haight street. The girls wore a mix of printed cotton prairie dresses, embroidered jeans and Mexican peasant blouses with desert boots or were barefoot. Even as a child,  I could see how cool and casual it all was. I loved it. Back home, I was still wearing ruffly dresses with matching shoes and purse to church on Sunday, which suddenly seemed very boring and not cool.

One night, my aunt and uncle had a party and the living room was lit only by a black light and the just released Sgt. Pepper's album was played over and over. I drew hearts and crazy daisy flowers on my arms and legs with glowing fluorescent chalk and danced to every song. The summer ended, I was bereft, but I knew I would be back. In my flowered canvas suitcase, I had psychedelic posters to redecorate my pastel yellow girly bedroom, a chambray shirt I'd embroidered with peace symbols and a tie-dyed T-shirt appliquéd with old lace. I was going back to the South, but I would never be the same.

Now, the de Young Museum, situated just a few blocks from Haight Ashbury, is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love with an exhibit of the fashion, posters, music, photos, film and ephemera of the time. As Dede Wilsey said on opening night, "It was a cultural revolt with major reverberations and a lasting affect on many aspects of modern life."

I love the hippie-dandy quality of the embroidered velvet, flowing sleeves and choker.

Leslie Rowan, Top, ca. 1970. Cotton velvet with sequin flower appliqués and ribbon trim. Collection of Peter Kaukonen. Jackie Sarti, Customized landlubber jeans, ca. 1970. Denim with cotton patches, ribbons, appliqué and reverse-appliqué San Blas Island (Panama) cotton "mola," and applied rhinestone studs. Collection of Peter Kaukonen. Jacki Sarti, Choker, ca. 1970. Leather with beads. Collection of Peter Kaukonen Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

It's surprising how wearable many of the outfits would be today. I would love to have this Betsey Johnson dress to wear now. Betsey Johnson, Dress, 1970–1972. Knitted wool. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of James Elliot, 1983.95 Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The colors and the graphic quality of this dress are striking and originally an expression of sexual freedom. But today, the hands are ironic and bring to mind Trump's pussy grabbing brag. Birgitta Bjerke (100% Birgitta), “Hands” dress, ca. 1967-1968. Crocheted wool. Collection of the artist Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I love this look, it reminds me of something my Aunt Caryl wore in the late '60's.

Judy Goldhaft of the Diggers

At the exhibit opening last week some of the originals were there. They were ones who made the Summer of Love with their art, passion and political activism, including Judy Goldhaft of the Diggers. When I asked Judy to pose for the photo, she happily responded with '60's sass and style: a huge smile and flash of her great lace tights.

Judy explains the Diggers: "The Diggers were performers. The Diggers had a sense of humor. The Diggers were open to flashes of fun, improvisation. What's the most outrageous thing you can think of to do? Let's do it! ...
And if you said you were a Digger then you were a Digger. Well, what could you do to be a Digger? You put 'free' in front of something, and then you do it. Free food. Free store."

I did make it back to California the following summer. These shorts are not from the exhibit. They're mine and I appliquéd the summer of 1968. I still have them and love them.