Joan Baez’s Weird and Wonderful Wardrobe -The Toast

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Joan Baez’s memoir, And A Voice To Sing With, is far more of a tell-all than most musicians’ memoirs. While Bob Dylan’s Chronicles is mostly about Woody Guthrie and antique shopping in the 1980s, And A Voice To Sing With tells you, if anything, too much about “The Queen of Folk’s” personal life: her teenage sexual fantasies about Marlon Brando; her complicated relationship with Bob Dylan; her sweet and short-lived romance with a woman, Kim; her stage fright and phobia of vomiting; her failed marriage to protestor David Harris and her strained relationship with her son, Gabe.

But mostly, And A Voice To Sing With tells you about Joan Baez’s clothes. You know how you have those flashbulb memories where you remember exactly what you were wearing when you got your first kiss, graduated college, or started high school? Joan has a hundred of those. Her memoir is filled with descriptions of what she’s wearing at notable moments in her life, and every time, what she’s wearing is amazing: A necklace made of ladles.  A black velvet wedding cape passed down through her family. Prison mascara made from toothpaste and charcoal. And every time, she describes what she’s wearing as if it’s perfectly ordinary for a woman to own a dress made out of ostrich feathers or pair knee-high socks with rainbow suspenders. Maybe, for Joan Baez, it is.

Here are some of Joan’s best outfits – take them as inspiration for your own wardrobe.

On how she dressed while dating Kim:

“Inspired by her wardrobe, I began dressing more and more outrageously. One day I showed up in group therapy wearing hiking boots, knee-high socks, cutoffs, several layers of T-shirts under a pair of rainbow-colored suspenders, and a headband. The doctor asked what they thought I looked like. One of them said ‘artistic,’ one said ‘happy,’ one said ‘like a hippie,’ and he said ‘I think she looks like a crazy person.’ They were all right.” (78)


On gifts from Bob Dylan that were actually stolen from his other girlfriend (later wife) Sara:

“Twelve years later, when I finally met and became friends with Sara, we talked for hours about those days when the Original Vagabond was two-timing us. I told Sara that I’d never found Bob to be much at giving gifts, but that he had once bought me a green corduroy coat, and told me to keep a lovely blue nightgown from the Woodstock house. ‘Oh!’ said Sara, ‘that’s where it went!” (93)


On her wardrobe for her 1967 tour of Japan:

“I had just been at home for a while and gone through one of my many attempts at purifying my spirit by throwing out all of the clothing and jewelry I owned and liked (except for my alexandrite ring and a bunch of crosses). I embarked on this tour without the typical entertainer’s truckloads of spangled clothing, T-shirts, boots, feathers, and offbeat coats. Instead I brought four plain dresses, made for me by [older sister] Pauline, identical except in color: one white, one dark blue, one light blue, and one grey herringbone.

“My hair was shoulder length, as was [younger sister] Mimi’s. Mimi was not feeling austere. In a hat and green suit, she looked like a Saint Laurent fashion model, traveling with a nun who’d just been told the habit was no longer compulsory but who could not adjust to civilian clothes.” (133)

JapanOn meeting her husband, David Harris, at the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center in 1967, where Joan was imprisoned for helping men resist the draft:

“Instead of a prison uniform, I was wearing my own dress which I had ironed inside the cage, and earrings made out of fresh red berries and broom straw. My eyes were painted up with mascara I’d made from charcoal and toothpaste. I was ready for something terrific.” (146)

On her wedding dress:

“I wore a Grecian-style, off-white, floor-length dress and bare feet. I gazed at David a lot. I also swallowed a lot of Kaopectate. We realized that we hadn’t bothered to get rings, so we ripped off ones we were wearing and hurled them at my secretary, and she went out and bought two gold bands. A little after the appointed hours, we piled into a limousine and headed for the church. I was wearing the black velvet cape my mother had worn to her own wedding.” (150) wedding

On an outfit from the 1975 “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour and “Renaldo & Clara” film with Bob Dylan:

“The old gypsy lady spotted me and said I must go up to her room. There she showed me the small embroidered smudgy pillow she slept with containing the ashes of her late husband. She told me she was never lonely. On the bed lay a faded, beaded white satin evening dress. It was ankle length and had lace straps over the satin bodice. Next to it were a little antique embroidered opera purse and a choke necklace of fake pearls and rhinestones.

“‘Put the dress on,’ she said cheerfully, and I did. It fit perfectly.” (239)

Renaldo and Clara

On a gift from her older sister, Pauline:

“One year I gave you all my unused embroidered Spanish scarves, over-used silk blouses, old velvet jackets, costly pendants, beaded purses, rhinestone belts and tassled stoles and asked you to make me a robe. You made a glorious, rich, bejeweled, hooded extravaganza which I wear to the opera and to masked balls, where it is coveted by everyone.” (324)

On what she wore to Live Aid:

“By three o’clock I have finally ironed a yellow parachute skirt and cobalt blue blouse, dug out the belt with the big silver circles and the necklace made of spoon ladles linked together, and the nineteen-dollar black sandals decked with rhinestones.” (355)

Live Aid

On a fantasy album and a favorite outfit:

“There will be a huge picture of me dressed in the black crepe evening gown I bought at Nordstrom, with its sequined Egyptian profile covering the left breast, and purple ostrich plumes extending at least a foot off the left shoulder, no right shoulder at all – only my tan slender arm, bent at the elbow, back of my hand to the camera, flipping a giant bird to all the major record companies in the United States of America.” (365)

Erika W. Smith is a writer. She uses the W. so she doesn’t get mistaken for the Indianapolis journalist or Marilyn Monroe impersonator who share her name. She’s on Twitter and has a website, too.

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