Every summer, when she went to visit her father in California, Cindy Sheehan, then Cindy Arnold, bought a new back-to-school outfit.
In the summer of 1976, just before her senior year at James A. Garfield High School, it was a matching denim culotte and vest set decorated with colorful apliques at a store near a California beach.
Sheehan paraded her West Coast fashion around her school in Garrettsville, and nearly 50 years later the outfit, along with a puka shell necklace and shark tooth necklace from the same era, have remained. in his closet.
Now Sheehan’s items, along with items from other members of the community, are on display at the Kent State Museum “Culture / Counterculture: Fashions of the 1960s and 70s”, which will be on display until September 6, 2020 as part of of the 50th commemoration of the university of May 4, 1970.
The exhibition takes a look at the fashions of these two decades, with a particular focus on the generation gap and the dichotomy represented in the clothing of the establishment and student protesters. While the museum had several high-end couture garments to represent the establishment, it was lacking in its counter-culture sets. So the museum sent a request to people in the community asking for their clothes from the 1960s and 1970s.
“You also get their stories. You learn why they clung to things because people have a personal relationship with their clothes. They’ve had these things in their closets and haven’t worn them for at least 40 years, so what’s that personal connection to these items? Museum curator Sara Hume said.
Sheehan, for her part, doesn’t know why she kept this particular outfit.
“I’ve done a lot of movement, and now I’m wondering how I managed to keep these items. I do not know. It must have been my absolute favorite, ”said the 1991 Kent State graduate.
Sheryl Birkner, who grew up in Twin Lakes and graduated from Kent State in 1972, on the other hand, knows exactly why she kept her dress made up of four separate scarves imported from India.
“It’s all elastic, so it kept its size, even when I increased a size. It lasted because it was a good fabric, and it was so timeless. Other things went out of fashion, but it was a timeless design. I would have liked to have kept a lot of other clothes from the time, ”she said.
Birkner wore the dress for more upscale occasions, like going to the theater, and saw it as a way to show her support for a more united world.
“Wearing clothes from other countries with other designs was not just a fashion statement. It was about saying I believe in this bigger world, ”said Birkner, a May 4 witness who ran and dived to the ground when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on students.
Daniel Mainzer, a professional photographer whose photos are part of the exhibit, also has one item on display: a tie-dye t-shirt he has kept from the 1970s and made with an ex-girlfriend. . Mainzer, from Stow, had initially visited the museum to bring his photographs which capture the counterculture of the time, and when he told Hume what he was going to wear at the opening, she asked that he l ‘adds to the exhibition instead.
“I just liked it. I did and it’s something I still wear. I wore it to concerts, to Jimi Hendrix, Sly and Family Stone, ”he said.
Another piece, a woolen poncho, was donated by Diane Brown Rarick of Decorah, Iowa. Rarick’s mother Arletta Brown made the poncho for her in the late 1960s, and in 1998 Rarick’s daughter and Kent State alum Katie Rarick wore it to a church fashion show. of Springfield Missouri.
“The commissioner was interested in three items: the poncho, an embroidered work shirt and a tunic, all made and / or embroidered by my mom. She passed away in 2007, but she would have been so excited if some of the outfits she created were included in the show, ”said Rarick.
“That’s what’s so interesting about these things and why they’re so relevant to telling the story of the 1960s,” Hume said. “There is memory embedded in these clothes.”
Journalist Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, [email protected] or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.