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West of CenterArt and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977$
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Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677252

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677252.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MINNESOTA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.minnesota.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MNSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Handmade Genders: Queer Costuming in San Francisco Circa 1970

Handmade Genders: Queer Costuming in San Francisco Circa 1970

Chapter 5 Handmade Genders: Queer Costuming in San Francisco Circa 1970
West of Center

Julia Bryan-Wilson

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter focuses on the costumes of gender-bending performers affiliated with the San Francisco-based groups the Cockettes and its offshoot the Angels of Light, in the 1970s. These collectives were equal parts experiments in communal living, theater troupes, and active promoters of radical new modes of queer and feminist self-fashioning. Category-defying in every sense, the Cockettes and the Angels of Light were known for their outrageous performances wearing handmade outfits both in the theater and in the street. The chapter investigates the handmade costumes of the Cockettes and the Angels of Light to propose that the upsurge in crafting in the late 1960s and early 1970s overlapped in provocative ways with a simultaneous emergence of gay and feminist culture in northern California in the post-Stonewall era. It examines the historical moment when the actual outfits were part and parcel of a utopian vision in which smashing normative gender conventions seemed entirely possible. It focuses on the specific material practices that went into constructing these garments and ornamentations, and how the Cockettes and Angels of Light aligned handmaking with countercultural world-making—both as an individualist practice of differentiation and a larger, if somewhat inchoate, communalist project.

Keywords:   traditional craft, hippie subculture, counterculture, collectives, Cockettes, Angels of Light, gay culture, feminist culture, gender conventions, countercultural movement

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