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Brief Published: 6 Mar 2017

Counter-Couture: DIY Fashion in US Counterculture

Counter-Couture at the Museum of Arts and Design

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York presents Counter-Couture – an exhibition highlighting handmade fashion in American counterculture.

Encompassing work from the 1960s and 70s, the show explores the relationship between fashion and subcultural movements in San Francisco and New York’s Greenwich Village. Hippy and beat culture – movements that blossomed in times of political unrest – serve as the primary influences in this dynamic presentation.

The exhibition is divided into five sections: Funk & Flash, Levi’s Denim Art Contest, Couture, Performance and Psychedelic Style. On one floor, Funk & Flash displays repurposed garments with tie-dye and patchwork details, while Levi’s Denim Art Contest focuses on a 1973 contest prompted by an increase in jean customisation. At the time, Levi’s customers were encouraged to send pictures of their embellished denim and the winning pieces were displayed at MAD, with the contest receiving over 2,000 entries.

The Couture section displays experimental jewellery and accessories associated with the Wearable Art Movement, and Performance showcases flashy stage outfits worn by singers, actors and civil activists. Lastly, Psychedelic Style reflects the curvilinear and distorted visual patterns associated with hallucinogenic drugs.

Focusing on the DIY ethos as a platform for community and dissent, Counter-Couture is a rich retrospective of clothing as a symbol of peaceful political resistance. The show runs until August 20 2017.

For more on the intersection of fashion and politics, see Politicising Fashion Month, Protest & Activism, Grunge Activist and Instagangs: Model Activists.