Counter-Couture: Fashioning Identity in the American Counter-Culture examines the American counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s through the lens of the era’s fashion and style. Often referred to as the hippie movement, this cultural force swept away the strictures and conformism of the previous decade by embracing a lifestyle defined by an alternative visual identity. The effects of the movement still resonate today.
From the beginning, the counter-culture rejected materialist and consumerist interpretations of the American Dream, embracing ideals of self-sufficiency and self-expression. With the Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement as a backdrop, counter-culture youth 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. Fashion—and more essentially, personal style—celebrated everyone’s hands, minds, and intuition, proving itself to be a means toward self-realization, enlightenment, and freedom from conventions.
The exhibition, opening in September at Bellevue Arts Museum, is curated by Seattle-based designer, Michael Cepress, whose practice has been largely inspired by his fascination for 1960s and 1970s style. Counter-Couture exhibits more than 100 works comprised of clothing, jewelry, accessories, and ephemera of American makers who crafted the very reality they craved, on the margin of society but yet at the center of epochal change. Featured in the exhibition are pieces by Alex & Lee, Kaisik Wong, and K. Lee Manuel, and selected loans from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH and the de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA
“Counter-Couture encompasses the ethos of a generation who achieved change by designing and crafting their own identity by sewing, embroidering, and tie-dyeing the fiber of their lives,” said Stefano Catalani, Bellevue Arts Museum’s Director of Art, Craft, & Design.
Counter-Couture captures the energy and character of the style and period through four lenses: Funk & Flash, Couture, Performance, and Transcendence. Each section tells us a piece of the greater American story and how clothing takes on different roles—creating social statements for political change, basking in freedom from trend, celebrating the body, and highlighting the true beauty of authentic personal style.