Photo byTony Bravo
It was a rockin’ time last Thursday evening for the attendees of the multimedia panel, Stylin’: Bay Area Rock Fashion 1963-73 at San Francisco’s Museum of Performance & Design. Designer Jeanne Rose, boutique owner Helene Robertson, and musicians Peter Kaukonen and George Hunter each spoke about their personal experiences with 60s fashions influenced by Rock and Roll music and the youth culture in San Francisco.
The multimedia panel was a special event in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition, Somethin’s Happening Here: Bay Area Rock ‘n’ Roll 1963-1973. Attendees, outfitted in their finest retro duds, perused the exhibit which includes stage costumes worn by Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone and Peter Albin as well as photos, posters, and other artifacts from the era. Moderated by exhibition co-curator Melissa Leventon, the lively discussion provided a glimpse into the importance of clothing in the San Francisco rock music scene.
Designer Jeanne Rose was a young mother making clothes for herself and her daughter on a 1910 treadle sewing machine back in 1965. “Some guy in a band asked me to make a shirt for him,” explained Jeanne. “I did and he wore it onstage and the next day I started getting calls.” In short order Jeanne had a business creating stage clothes for Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, and the Young Rascals. She was featured in Rolling Stone and Women’s Wear Daily. Still stylish and youthful in a hand knit sweater coat, Jeannie said she designed comfortable clothing, all handmade with high quality fabrics such as plush velvet, cotton, linen, and silk. “We were taking a lot of LSD in 65 and I wanted clothes that felt natural,” she explained.
In 1961 Helene Robertson (pictured right with Sonny & Cher in the 60s) opened a shop in Sausalito called Anastasia’s. The first weekend, she sold out of every stitch of her handmade designs. “My mother and I quickly started sewing again,” said Helene, sporting a similar chic haircut as she did in the 60s. A regular visitor to the Carnaby Street scene in London, Helene was influenced by both Mod and Hippie. “One week I’d be a Mod, the next a Hippie.” Her shop stocked hip-huggers, poor boy tees, mini-skirts, and knit sweaters and was a regular shopping stop for local musicians.
George Hunter was the style guru behind rock band, The Charlatans (pictured left with George at the far left). Drawing on his interest in all things old, George put together stage costumes with vintage clothing from thrift shops. The band became known for their unique Western, Edwardian, and 1920s collegiate looks. George says it was the way he put together the outfits that made them appear period. “We always wore vests, ties and hats,” shared George, who now goes for the tweedy look.
Guitarist Peter Kaukonen has been collecting textiles from around the world for years. A Native American suede jacket embellished with hand beading is part of the exhibit. Peter believes stage clothing became a necessary part of the concert experience for the audience. “People were paying huge sums, like $3.50, to see a band,” said Peter, who rocked a black leather jacket and long hair. “They didn’t necessarily want to see just jeans and a t-shirt.”
Enhancing the discussion were slides of the speakers back in the day and a clip from a KQED documentary called Come up the Years, Spirit of ’67, in which Helene was interviewed about the styles of the day.
Somethin’s Happening Here: Bay Area Rock ‘n’ Roll 1963-1973 is running now through August 28, 2010 at the Museum of Performance & Design, 401 Van Ness Avenue, 4th Floor, San Francisco. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5. Admission is free, with a suggested $5 donation.