KSU Museum Exhibit Shows How 60s/70s Styles Reflected the Country’s Cultural Divide

Through 9/6/20

By the end of the 1960s, fashion has undergone a revolution. Where once prominent designers such as Christian Dior and Coco Chanel had set trends with expensive runway collections first worn by society women and later filtering down to ordinary women through knockoffs, the dominant trends of the ’60s emerged from young people and street fashion, and prominent youthful designers such as Mary Quant and Betsy Johnson who reflected those trends and offered their clothes in boutiques for affordable prices. The average person over 30 simply ignored those trends.

By the late ’60s, however, some interesting things had happened in the fashion world, with a fracturing of style trends into numerous microtrends that continues to this day. Back then, there were two very distinct cultures, which are reflected in the new exhibit at the Kent State University Museum called Culture/Counterculture: Fashions of the 1960s and ’70s.

It’s part of programming leading into the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings on May 4 1070, which shone a glaring spotlight on the political, cultural and generational divides wracking the country. Those divides were reflected in fashion, as anyone knows who has ever chuckled at the ruffled, pioneer-woman dresses and big fussy hair on the covers of ’70s gospel or country albums. You could almost tell how a person would vote by how they dressed.

The exhibit contrasts the high-end high-fashion clothes worn by celebrities such as Miss America Bess Myerson and Diana Ross, a strength of the KSU fashion collection, with the creative and often homemade styles sported by hippies, peaceniks and self-dubbed “freeks,” which incorporated historical styles (a la early Grateful Dead), global and ethnic elements, tie-dye, add-ons such as beads, decorative buttons and patches and unusual and mismatched fabrics. Those of us old enough can recall watching the Miss America pageant in the late ’60s and early ’70s and seeing young women who appeared to be dressed and styled to look like their mothers with teased and sprayed bouffants at a time when every woman under 25 had long straight hair.

“For visitors who remember the 1960s and ’70s, this show should bring back memories,” says KSU museum curator Sara Hume. “For those too young to have lived through it, the show should expand some of the stereotypical ideas about the period.”

The museum is Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday @ 10am5pm; Thursday @ 10am-8pm; and Sunday @ noon-4pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children ages 5 to 17.

kent.edu/museum

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