During ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’s April 2019 event at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, a guest named Jo Ann brought in a usual looking piece of clothing – a white long-sleeved dress with a heart-shaped cut-out at the top. She told Rugs & Textiles appraiser, Katy Kane, that the dress belonged to her late sister, but that she didn’t know much about it. After inspecting the dress, Kane told Jo Ann that there was more to it than meets the eye — it was supposed to light up!
According to Kane, the dress’s designer, Diana Dew, had studied fashion and engineering in order to combine the two fields and start a business creating electric clothing. Kane noted how Jo Ann’s dress came with a battery pack that would have allowed the fabric behind the heart-shaped cut-out of the dress to light-up for as a long as five hours and could be set to get, “more light, more flashing, more intensity.”
Dew’s unique fashion designs became popular in the 1960s, and she went on to design light-up outfits for different rock bands. One rock band that donned her flashy fashion was the Bronx-based group, the Blues Magoos, who are known for their hit song, (We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.
In February 2020, ROADSHOW got a pleasant surprise when one of the Blues Magoos members, Peppy Castro, sent us a photo of him and his band wearing Dew’s light-up creations.
Later that month, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's segment producer, Adam Monahan, sat down with Castro to hear about his experience wearing Dew's clothing and how his band became the first commercially successful "psychedelic" music group."
Castro told Adam that once the Blues Magoos gained popularity, they went on tour during the summer of 1967 with the Who and the English beat rock band, Herman's Hermits. For that tour they wore electric suits made by Diana Dew. Early on in his interview with Adam, Castro reflected on the novelty of the clothing:
"They were really way ahead of its [sic] time. From what I understand, one of them is in the Smithsonian, to be opened up in a centennial time capsule around the year of 2065. I still have probably the only one left, it's in terrible shape. But it was a groundbreaking suit and Diana Dew was way ahead of her time."
According to Castro Bob Wilde, a producer from the Blues Magoos management company, Long Hair Productions, was the one who introduced the group to Dew and hired her to design the electric suits.
"We met Diana, and we started to spend a lot of time for her...we all got measured...and she made these suits, and when we saw them we were flabbergasted. We were just blown away by them."
Castro explained how Dew included plasticine windows on the chest, arms, back, and pant legs that were not only designed to light up, but were painted in day-glow. This gave the band the option to shut the lights off in the auditorium and turn on black-light to make their outfits truly glow.
Just like Jo Ann's dress, the suits came with their own battery packs that allowed the plasticine to flash at various speeds. However, the mechanics of the suit did result in a few hiccups for Castro:
"One of the funniest things — after wearing these suits every single night and sweating so much...they had little metal clips in the collar. So, all of a sudden, one night I was playing, and I start getting these little pinches in my neck. And I'm going, 'what the hell is that?' There was like a little needle sticking me in the neck. I was getting shocked!"
Castro laughed at the memory, admitting that, "It was worth it because the effects were so good."
See the Blues Magoos in their light-up suits below!