A young woman with blonde, flowing hair, a crown of daisies, a floor-length skirt and a denim vest carefully climbed into the front seat of the 1974 Volkswagen bus. As she opened the door, the faces of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Jim Morrison stared ahead from the walls of the bus. Flashing a peace sign, the young hippie called out to her friends: “Put this on Instagram!”
This woman was one of many young “hippies” posing with the retro bus. With cameras and phones in hand, Boston’s young adults donned their brightest paisleys, widest bell bottoms and craziest psychedelic prints at the Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, when the museum opened its Hippie Chic exhibit to the college-aged flower children of Boston for a one-day event.
The event — dubbed “Throwback Thursday: A Hippie Chic College Welcome” — featured a variety of objects and activities, including two 1970s Volkswagen vans for photo opportunities, one of which was an art school project painted with ‘60s and ‘70s pop culture icons. The exhibit also provided free gelato, tie-dye tutorials and access to the Hippie Chic fashion exhibition in the museum’s contemporary wing.
The Hippie Chic exhibition, which first debuted at the museum on July 16, displayed pieces and outfits from both European and American designers, including notorious fashion icons Ossie Clark, Thea Porter and John Bates. Aside from these notable names, the curator also chose pieces from classic symbols in the fashion industry, including — but not limited to — Yves Saint Laurent and Granny Takes a Trip. While different names and styles are represented in the exhibit, all the displays have one major thing in common: all of the exhibit’s pieces and outfits first appeared in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
The Hippie Chic exhibit splits ensembles into five major sections: Retro Hippie, Ethnic Hippie, Fantasy Hippie, Craft Hippie and Trippie Hippie.
The Retro Hippie collection sported ‘40s silhouettes and ‘20s Art Deco prints, from halter jumpers to “chubbies” — a style of large fur coats — while the expected Trippie Hippie section involved more of the colorful and bizarre prints, flared bottoms and ascots.
The Ethnic Hippie and Craft Hippie displays incorporated more of the cultural context of the era in their designs. Both of these displays embodied influences of self-expression and newfound celebration of the world in their designs of the ‘60s and ‘70s era. Quilted skirts and Northern African djellabah — which is much like a floor-length poncho or cloak— stood out in the Craft Hippie and Ethnic Hippie subsections, respectively.
However, the greatest surprises surfaced in the Fantasy Hippie collection, which highlighted a variety of retro trends, including empire waists and dresses reminiscent of medieval fairytales. The Fantasy Hippie collection also contained one particularly provocative piece: a “chastity belt,” which appeared to comment on the emerging sexual revolution of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
One of the biggest hits of the night was found not within the exhibit, but rather outside of the museum itself, where two Volkswagen buses were parked. These buses —which were used primarily for photo opportunities — were constantly crawling with students who posed for photographs with the dated vehicles. MFA member Tom Krusinski, whose son originally purchased one of the Volkswagen buses on eBay, donated his painted bus for the museum’s throwback event.
The bus, an art school project from San Diego, Calif., dons the faces and written names of a variety of Monterrey Pop and Woodstock favorites, ranging from The Mamas and the Papas to Pink Floyd. Inside of the bus is a refrigerator, a stove, a pop-up tent and toilet, making the vehicle a predecessor to the modern RV with a hippie chic edge.
Krusinki said his son “re-‘hip’-bilitated” the van while driving the bus around the country this past summer, during which he sold jewelry at music festivals. Krusinski recalled a particular story, where an Aston-Martin driver in Omaha, Neb. pulled up next to the van, rolled down his window and shouted “Great f**kin’ car, kid.”
“It’s such a feel-good vehicle,” Krusinski said. “No one could get mad at you driving this.”
The bus has been parked outside the MFA at four other Hippie Chic events since the exhibition’s opening in July.
While students appeared to enjoy the exhibit, some said the collection was missing the overall culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“There was so much more to hippie culture – the anti-war sentiment, for instance,” said Northeastern student Joe Latina. “They got the image of it, but they didn’t get the philosophy.”
The museum exhibition was curated by Lauren Whitley, the MFA’s fashion and textile curator.
In the exhibition’s press release, Whitley claimed the fashion itself reflects the “anti-establishment individualism” of the hippie era.
“Their unique fantasy-driven styles in turn trickled up to influence designers of traditional ready-to-wear clothing and even Paris haute couture, resulting in the exuberant ‘hippie chic’ fashions,” Whitley said in the press release.
Regardless of the presence of political influences, the concept of inviting students to enjoy a few treasures of a not-so-old era seemed like a great concept, said Northeastern student Khaled Alsenan.
“For a museum like the MFA that’s not as contemporary, it’s a good idea to incorporate pop culture,” Alsenan said. “It helps to try to bridge the gap for college students between contemporary art and other forms of art.”
While the “Throwback Thursday: A Hippie Chic College Welcome” event ended last week, the Hippie Chic exhibition will remain open until Nov. 11.