The Allentown Museum of Art is home to a groovy new exhibition, Fashion as an Experiment: The Sixties, on Saturday, May 6th.
The exhibition, which runs until Sunday, September 24, explores clothing as a tool for change, providing the youth of the era with a laboratory of imagination and play, and a heightened sense of activism. It focuses on the style of the mid-1960s.
The new exhibition will consist of two parts and feature over 100 garments and accessories from the museum’s vast collection. Some of it is by iconic designers like Jeffrey Biehn, Emilio Pucci, Bonnie Cassin and André Courrèges.
A special Preview Night event will be held on Friday, May 5th from 6-8pm. The event includes light refreshments and a disc jockey spinning his 1960s music. If you can’t make it on Friday, there’s a special members-only preview hour on Saturday, May 6th from 10am-11am. Attendees for the day can stop by museum curator Claire McCrea or the museum’s new fashion maker station for kids.
Visitors are encouraged to wear their own vintage-look clothing or bring an old piece of clothing and turn it into an iconic ’60s tie-dye fashion statement.
I recently spoke with museum curator Claire McCrea about upcoming exhibitions and more in this exclusive new interview.
Q: What was the inspiration for your new exhibition Fashion as Experiment: The Sixties?
Claire McCrea: Our fashion collection has a strong 1960s territory and lots of interesting garments with depth. That was the real inspiration. Then, as I thought about the issues and conversations that were happening in the 60s, I realized that many ideas about gender, race, the environment, etc. still resonate today. It felt like a great moment to see this important period in history up close.
Q: What can exhibition visitors expect to see?
McCree: This exhibition will be larger than previous fashion exhibitions, and will use the entire second floor of the museum. There are two main groups, and the larger group fits into the disruptive youth category. Includes mod, streamline, minimalist and avant-garde styles. Get a paper dress or pop art inspired dress. Florals, psychedelic prints and flashy menswear abound.
Another gallery explores countercultures and how those styles worked outside the fashion system. A kind of thrift and repair inspired by global and historical styles and the final merchandising of those grassroots fashion trends.The show will feature nearly 120 garments and accessories, with 46 Dress his mannequin is on display.
Q: How did the museum amass such a large collection?
McCree: In 2009, local collector Ellie Laubner gifted me thousands of pieces of clothing and accessories from her personal collection. Since then, we have created other gifts based on the area of that collection. We are very fortunate that our community has supported and made these projects possible.
Q: Why ‘fashion as an experiment’?
McCree: As someone who specializes in fashion history, I believe that clothes always have meaning. It’s an interesting lens into our culture. For example, in the mid-to-late 60s, there was a great emphasis on the new, the novelty, and being in the moment. With a focus on innovation and delivering new looks, designers were looking for ways to speed up production and consumption timelines. That was what young people really responded to. Subversive style was more youthful, exuberant, and carefree, with more fluorescent and vibrant color combinations that focused on the future.
The other is more grassroots, experimental counterculture styles such as refurbished clothing, patches, and embroidery. It was a change in Western history where styles from outside the design world had a great influence on designers.
Q: Do you have a personal favorite piece in your collection?
McCree: That’s always a difficult question to answer. She designed her clothing, but is also known for her scarves and home linen designs. Her focus was hand-painting the designs that would be printed onto the fabric, and her creative use of prints included a stunning floral dress in vibrant colors that embodied the spirit of the 1960s. It is included.
Q: Please give a message to those who have seen the exhibition.
McCree: Part of that includes getting people to think about the importance of the clothes and objects that surround us in our daily lives.what do they say about us
How does the society we live in represent certain values and perspectives?
It’s wonderful to look back on a time that is still in living memory. I think there are a lot of people who are excited to remember what they used to wear, or to see pictures of their loved ones wearing them. I hope it will surprise some people about the times when there is no.
Before the 1960s, fashion was all about introducing yourself and having good rules about how you dressed. In the ’60s, there was a greater emphasis on rebelling against these trends and claiming clothing as a tool of self-expression.
James Wood is a freelancer for The Morning Call.