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"Hippie" Dress or Shirt

"Hippie" Dress or Shirt

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During the 1960s and 1970s, as waves of cultural and political change swept through American society, hippies, feminists, religious seekers, ethnic nationalists, and antiwar and civil rights activists rejected the symbols of the “Establishment.” These reformers and nonconformists traveled to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. They made religious pilgrimages, seeking new truths, and volunteered to serve the poor in developing countries and in America. They sampled the communal life in cities and farms, and served in civil rights and peace marches and boycotts. They came home (or left home) to create alternative economic, social, and cultural expressions.
Their new interests were expressed in the food they grew and ate, clothes they wore, the music they listened to, and the religious or spiritual interests they adopted from those worlds. India was a major center of inspiration for new foods and foodways, music, and design, reflected in this Indian paisleycloth dress, a so-called “hippie” dress. Ruth, a member of a farm commune in the early 1970’s, bought it at an alternative store in Florida before she and her husband and friends moved to the farm commune in New York. The design on the dress is the typical tear-drop or kidney shaped plant design (probably of Persian and possibly Indian origin), called Paisley for the Scottish center of textile production and design in the 19th century.
In this generation, hippies and aficionados of the new international styles got the fabrics (and foodstuffs) from India on their travels or purchased them from the increasingly popular sources of such goods in the United States. They dressed in Indian calicoes and paisleys, cover their beds with them, or used the larger cloths as tablecloths. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Indian hand-printed paisleys (introduced in the 19th century) were a decorative sign of the countercultures. The same textiles were marketed elsewhere, in France, for example, from the 17th century onward, where they became absolutely idiomatic of a Provencal style, still, in 2012, sold and marketed as French country style.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Physical Description
cotton (overall material)
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
ink (overall material)
dye (overall material)
elastic (overall material)
overall: torso: 33 in x 25 in; 83.82 cm x 63.5 cm
overall: sleeves: 8 in x 24 in; 20.32 cm x 60.96 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
gift of Ruth McCully
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Clothing & Accessories
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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