Charles Manson once possessed a biker style cut-off vest (a waistcoat), which has often been described more formally as his ceremonial vest.
It was literally a coat of many colors, made up from flowing multi-colored embroidery depicting scenes from the life, travels and adventures of the Family.
Across the shoulders were flowers on vines, and it included scenes from the Black Bus, Spahn Ranch and the desert.
It was begun in 1967 by Mary Brunner and Lynette Fromme, featured embroidery work by all female members of the group, and was eventually destroyed by Manson in 1975 shortly before Fromme's attempt on President Ford.
In addition to the detailed embroidery the vest also had tassels made up from locks of hair from the women members of the Family (reputedly from during the Tate-LaBianca trial when the women shaved their heads).
Much is made of Bruce Davis wearing it in scenes from the Merrick Manson documentary, but it was also worn by Paul Watkins before his fall from grace with the Family. Much later in the early 1970s Paul Krassner, then researching a book on the Tate-La Bianca trial, was also offered to try it on during a visit to Fromme's apartment in Melrose Avenue, LA.
Paul Watkins wrote that from the moment he began to associate with the Family until the end of his relationship with them that there was always someone working on the vest. He described it as follows: "there were scenes of making love, riding horses, smoking dope, dancing, making music, going to the desert. In time the vest became a vibrant, living chronicle of events within the Family, all the way through the period of Helter-Skelter, the murders and the trials."
According to Watkins, the vest was worn by Manson during music and/or therapy sessions with the Family before being removed to allow the embroidery work on it to continue.
Eventually the vest was mailed by Fromme to Manson at San Quentin Prison, but within two days it had been cut up into many pieces and distributed by Manson amongst the inmates. Realizing he could not prevent it being taken from him, and to quell any envy directed towards him because of his possession of it, he had decided to both prevent its loss and share it amongst all.
The detailed embroidery told the story of the Family. In a most brilliant display of intricate, multi-colored scenes, as Manson's prison counselor Edward George related, it detailed scenes of sex and murder, images of snakes, spiders, wounded bodies, swastikas, black magic symbols harmoniously balanced with clusters of flowers, birds, butterflies, dancing children, musical notes, and natural panoramas.
Edward George, when telling Fromme the news, recounts a tearful telephone conversation with her ending abruptly with sobs as she put down the phone to terminate the call. How could he do such a thing she questioned, when the vest had been made to signify the devotion of those who loved him.
Upon being told of this most unusual reaction (Fromme questioning Manson's reasoning), Manson immediately penned Fromme a short note and the matter was never raised again. He wrote "it will always live in my mind, where no one can destroy it or take it away from me".
The following is a detailed description of Miss Fromme's most recent vest and it's imagery intent:
"The vest evolved from two trees I wanted to keep so I put them on patches of material. Years later I was required to put these and other patches together to make of them a single "unfinished craft project", as that was my only chance of retaining the work during the Bureau of Prison's big sweep to reduce inmates' property.
"The two trees needed water so the river was a must, and putting it between them meant balance to me. A wildcat in the leaves, a deer in the rocks, a scorpion in the night, drawings, tracings and copies of photographs done by me and friends inside and out, were pieced together for about 10 years, and the work by me is sketchy because I never took the time to study art. My favorite figures and characters in all the embroidery I've seen are those that form themselves of abstracts and are different according to the viewer.
"The river reminds me of the Greenbrier in West Virginia where I went on my 'vacation' in l987. The rocks are like those where the roots of trees grow down its banks, exposed by erosion when the river floods. The river of embroidery leaps and eddies and the lady's feet are fish. She represents both air and water, for the living things of each need the other, but there is another lady at the bottom of the vest in a waterfall. She and all her offspring are the result of the mating of the sky and earth above her. So, of the four ladies she is Water, the other Air, another Trees and the other Animals, all necessary to the balance of Woman and of Earth".
Photo#1 found on Ebay:
Photos #2-13, and Fromme Quote Found Here: