Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture celebrates the handmade fashion and style of the 1960s and 1970s. Often referred to as the hippie movement, the Counterculture swept away the conformism of the previous decade and professed an alternative lifestyle whose effects still resonate today. Moved by the rejection of a materialist and consumerist interpretation of the American Dream, Counterculture youths embraced ideals of self-sufficiency and self-expression. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movements, hippies, flower children, and idealistic young people shunned the cultural standards of their parents, embraced the struggle for racial and gender equality, used drugs to explore altered states of consciousness, and cultivated a renewed dimension of spirituality.
The pursuit of a personal style proved a transcendental tool toward self-realization, enlightenment, and freedom from conventions. Counter-Couture exhibits garments, jewelry, and accessories by American makers who crafted the very reality that they craved, on the margins of society and yet at the center of an epochal shift. The works on display encompass the ethos of members of a generation who fought for change by sewing, embroidering, quilting, patch-working, and tie-dyeing their identity. Putting the handmade at the center of their daily revolution, they embraced and contributed to establishing a craft and folk sensibility in a seminal moment for the development of American Craft.
Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture was organized by Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington, and curated by Guest Curator Michael Cepress. It was secured for the Museum of Arts and Design by William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator Shannon R. Stratton with the support of Assistant Curator Barbara Paris Gifford.
Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture is part of The Art and Craft of Getting Dressed, a series of three exhibitions at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) this spring that embrace craftsmanship, cultural commentary, and critical thinking in fashion practices—from the couture to the conceptual—across multiple generations. In keeping with MAD’s dedication to investigating studio “process” in modern and contemporary art and craft, these exhibitions highlight how fashion, as an expanded field of craft, serves as a platform for artists and designers to explore ways of making that champion artistry, expressiveness, and social responsibility—from concept to product.
Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture is made possible by the generous support of Michele and Marty Cohen and the Chairmen’s Council, a leading Museum support group. Additional support is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.