Woodstock festival was not just a music festival of hippies, it was an experience, a pilgrimage for the young and restless of the late 60s. Formally known as the Woodstock Music and Art fair it was advertised as “an Aquarian Exposition: 3 days of peace and music” which was attended by about 500,000 people and made to stretch for a fourth day.
Why is Woodstock Festival Important?
Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments that changed the history of Rock and Roll.
The event was captured in the academy award winning documentary movie Woodstock.
It brought exceptional fame and unparalleled career boosts for many artists like Jimi Hendrix, Santana, The who etc.
Despite the above mentioned factors, the importance of Woodstock festival surpasses such general tangible aspects.
- It was based on the message of Peace and love. None of the festival, till today, stood so singularly for a single cause. Even after being rain soaked and struggling to find the lavatory the people united and abided by the two finger peace symbol, a gesture that was borne of this festival.
- The performances stand tall as legendary even after 47 years! While we may recall David Gilmour performing Echoes or Michael Jackson virtually inventing moonwalk in Billie Jean. But 4 days of Woodstock festival was all about such memorable stage events.
- Defined a generation that strayed away from their uptight and conservative middle-class elders. It can be assumed that the principles of freedom and liberty were actually embraced after the realization of Woodstock festival.
- Brought natural drugs into limelight. There were drugs, mainly marijuana, LCD and mushrooms. Tripping onacid, smokingopium, snorting cocaine, using psychedelic mushrooms, and many other forms of getting high were frequently seen at Woodstock.
- It brought a sense of optimism. Author Joel Makower says, “It created a can-do spirit among the generation”. With the Vietnam War still raging on and anti war protests at home, Woodstock became a place to counter the gloom. Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stones magazine said,” In 1969 there were probably half a million soldiers in Vietnam and here we are at Woodstock with half a million people there.”
- Transformed the markets. DeCurtis adds “Woodstock became this symbolic event of ‘this is how we want to do things, It was non-violent. There was music, sex and drugs.” It garnered much media attention and opened public’s eyes to an entirely new consumer base. What happened at Woodstock reflected the changes that were already in place and made it more visible.
Role of Fashion to Create a Woodstock Era
Clothes are often regarded as a way to express one. As with any other cultural renaissance, fashion played a major role in defining the time that followed. It gave rise to a counter culture which transformed the notion of hairstyles and dressing sense. Though the classic accessories of Woodstock era are not easily available, but there are some online stores providing vintage clothes to revive the style of 60s.
The Woodstock festival season was about escapism from the continuous rat race and people’s usual attire. It was about being care-free in a floating maxi dress and embracing nature with a floral headband, it was about replacing your formal tucked in shirt and suit with a leather jacket and rugged pair of jeans, it was about kicking dirt in a pair of cowboy boots, donning a wide-brimmed hat and dancing all night in a psychedelic dyed t-shirt.
Woodstock, in its tribal vibe and aesthetics displayed more of an anti fashion statement instead of creating a dedicated trend. The clothes did not have any labels, a fixed style or even a mandate to wear any!
Clothes reflected the ideals and message of “peace and love” which the people embraced. Despite the hardships, battling rain, mud, lack of food or accommodation, people did not lose their sense of style. Though the fashion was usually related to a “hippie style” but it was too cool to miss by the masses. It hit the mainstream consciousness after those three days and became the clichéd style of high school and college students.
After the festival it had been appropriated by a youth culture bent on upending the modest uniforms — knee-length skirts, sheaths and paneled suits. It unfolded a hippie-chic look and made it look cool. The expression boasted of embracing nature and DIY style. The clothes turned a generation of twenty-something young adults onto the joys of casual dressing.
Some of our favorite vintage festival fashion moments include:
Janice Joplin’s flared jumpsuit and round sunglasses as she performed “Piece of my Heart”
Jimi Hendrix’s white fringe tassel cape swinging as he strummed his guitar
Joe Cocker’s inimitably gruff rendition of “with a little help from my friends” carrying a vividly printed t shirt on a denim jean.
Apart from performers’ classic dresses there were countless iconic moments in the Woodstock festival that created benchmark of fashion style for generations to come.
The impact was so profound that no movie or show based around the 70s can afford to drop the event’s impression on mainstream vogue.
NY raised Tommy Hilfiger said, “Woodstock solidified the fusion of music and fashion. It was the moment when I began to look at musicians not only for their music, but also for their style.”
Indeed, the Woodstock Festival was never intended to be a musical concert, it was an Art and Music fair and it unfolded to become a landmark, a milestone, a turning point in history of contemporary culture.