1960s Fashion

Who doesn’t like 1960s fashion? What’s to not like? During the same decade we had the highest hemlines, the lowest hemlines. We had a kaleidoscopic riot of colors. We had the coolest mod design and we had a choice of unlimited fabrics, to say nothing about the lowest upkeep and maintainance on clothes EVER.  Fashion idols shifted from a First Lady to everyday fashion novices like students, hippies, housewives and just about every level of the middle class. The Sixties were a decade of incredible fashion choices and no doubt one of the most important fashion decades of the entire 20th century. Even kids born in the 1990s, 30 years after the 1960s ended, say that  the 1960s fashion decade is  their favorite.

The 1960s were a time of fast paced fashion changes. There were times when it seemed more chaotic than designed and many 1960s fashion fads did not survive into the 1970s. One change that did endure throughout the century and in to the next was in the field of fashion fabrics where every  decade since the 1950s and 1960s saw the full acceptance of man-made fibers which enabled the United States, at least, to simulate every known natural material, including leather and fur, and to come up with such previously unknown improvements as fabrics that need no ironing.

 Whether or not you were a fan of the fashion ideas of the Sixties you cannot deny they produced a major entertainment for a decade sorely in need of something to take its mind off war, assassination, racial-strife, and urban pollution.

When the 1960s began, there were few signs of fashion upheaval. Balenciaga and Givenchy, often dubbed "the Heavenly Twins," were two of the most popular during that time though there were many other fashion designers who left an impoortant indelible mark on the decade.

During the early years of the sixties fashions were generally characterized by hemlines just below the knees, a silhouette that mostly ignored the body, and a cleanly tailored look. "Accessorizing" was restrained, and the entire effect aimed at a ladylike, conservative appearance.


Jacqueline Kennedy's reign as a fashion idol signaled the first great change of the decade. TV had replaced the movies, which had previously supplied the feminine idols (with the notable exception of Audrey Hepburn) and the new First Lady came along just in time to fill the new gap. Yet by the end of the Sixties, she had lost her public power, largely through her second marriage, and fashion was taking its cues from the everyday unknown and unheralded women on the street.

But before that happened, Coco Chanel,who had returned to fashion in 1954 after retiring from an illustrous career in fashion, reached the peak of her new influence-around 1965-and a new designer in Paris had created a stir with what proved to be the only original couture look of the decade. Andre Courreges, who for years had been an assistant to Balenciaga, took the tailoring of his master and used it to create a space-age look. Working almost entirely in white, he gave his clothes the look of modern architecture, raised hemlines well above the knee, cut pants in a totally new way, and substituted slim white boots for shoes and in effect creating the ultra mod look.

But even Courreges wasn't entirely alone. Over in London, the "Mod" look had already been getting attention, especially in the clothes of a fashion designer named Mary Quant. She had ' already been selling her clothes through her own shop, Bazaar, and in the first years of the Sixties, she branched into manufacturing, and, through fashion magazine promotions, brought her short skirts, pants and boots to the United States. She was of course is credited with one of the iconic fashions of the 1960s, the miniskirt.

 Not all fashion in the early Sixties came from abroad. In the United States, Norman Norell also launched pants in a culotte style for wear as a suit in the city. The sensation was great, but brief. It was to be a few more years before pants for women became accepted, and there was lots of controversy whether classy restaurants would let a woman in wearing pants. I guess we've come a long way, baby

Pucci may, in the end, turn out to be the most important designer of them all. He was the only one to concentrate on fabric innovations. Every collection brought forth a new fabric In a stretch version, and his pioneering of stretch fabrics sparked the entire Sixties interest in fabric innovations.

As if the fashion designer scene weren't already sufficiently varied, along came the youth rebellion. It took the form of opposing any kind of designer fashion. The young went into army-navy stores for antique costumes and old military clothes (even while they participated in the anti-war movement). Barbara Streisand brought the "thrift-shop" look to national attention, and what with long hair, all kinds of odd pants, bits and pieces of anitques and a cult of the body they created a real fashion buzz.

Part of the youth rebellion was the black rebellion. Seeking a past to identify with, the black young went all the way back to Africa, and with their dashikis and jellabas, launched an "ethnic" fashion trend which has included ponchos, gypsy and peasant clothes, Indian costumes and other gear from every corner of the globe and era of the past.

As the Seventies began; in fact, the violent confusion of the times was thoroughly reflected in the fashion world. For the first time in history, hem lengths are wearable from the shortest to the longest. Legs revealed in fancy tights and hosiery, or covered up in boots. Pants got to go out for the  evening, while long coats are worn for day.

Here is a summary of the 1960s decade in fashion:

1960 started with a bang when Norman Norell introduced the divided pant suit also known as a Cullotte. Women generally accepted it’s vast improvement in sense of freedom and movement and it eventually became a great success. Norell didn’t stop there and he soon after introduced another male influenced garment called a jump suit but in soft luxurious fabrics for evening wear.


1960 Dress

Meanwhle, the sportswear trend launched by Chanel grew steadily. In this country, Rudi Gernreich, an Austrian-born designer who had already changed the swimsuit look from a fancy, corselet look to a soft, stretchy maillot, and was already showing colorful, limp dresses with colored tights and matching flat-heeled shoes. He was to go on revolutionizing every fashion field he touched. When he won his third Coty Fashion Critics Award, which put him in the permanent Fashion Hall of Fame, he was cited as "the most influential fashion designer of the twenty years since World War II."

In the early Sixties, all the innovations were already present or being hinted at, but the general public held back. By 1963, for example, Jacqueline Kennedy had hiked her skirts only to the kneecap, and for her, pants and sportswear were things to wear only in private.

 Society women, who were beginning to be photographed in place of all those vanished movie stars, followed her lead. But they played an important role in the Sixties by becoming highly designer-conscious. It was these women who made Valentino of Rome and Yves St. Laurent of Paris the new couture kings, who brought to public attention such American names as Bill Blass, Oscar de La Renta, Geoffrey ' Beene, Chester Weinberg and Jacques Tiffeau. Other fashion designers carved out special niches for themselves, such as Emilio Pucci, whose widely printed jersey dresses became an international status symbol.

















Jackie  Kennedy - 1961 Fashion Icon




Fabric.On the sportswear scene, coeds, teen agers, and tots went  in for stretch pants in a big way. Fashioned of nylon, or combinations  of a synthetic fabric and elastic, they fit like ski pants and were  worn with sweaters or long, loose cotton-knit tops that drooped well  below the waistline. Stretch fabrics seemed to be headed for big  things. Stretch skirts were introduced late in 1961, and many fashion  authorities predicted that entire stretch wardrobes would soon be on the  market.

The year women’s fashion became more feminine.

Fashion was swept along on a great wave of youth in 1963, to the delight  of teen-agers and grandmothers alike. The "young look" took the form of  knee-high skirts, sleeveless dressed, lower heels, and  close-cropped, natural hair.

"Ye Ye" and Discotheque.Significant Parisian trends were  side-buttoning dresses and coats, first introduced by Cristobal  Balenciaga. The trim military-looking coat, in crisp hard-surfaced  fabrics, was also inspired by Balenciaga and bcame the most important  new-look coat in fall-winter collections.

Fashion headlines were  made when Paris fall collections includedplants designs by several  respected members of the couture. "Coco"Chanel's status slacks were  styled with wide legs and a flatsailor-type panel across the stomach;  Andre Courreges designed pantssuits with thigh-length jackets for  daytime city wear; Jacques Heimand the House of Dior showed harem pants  for at-home entertaining.

The mood of fashion was young in 1965. Andre Courreges, theyoung  French designer of the bare knee, the square cut white dress,and flat  white boots, offered the freshest and boldest look. He borrowedthe  cowboy hat--chin strap and all--to top the geometric looksof his  clothes. White textured stockings epitomized the trend. Hisideas  influenced every facet of fashion.

A fashion revolution broke out  in London, and for the first time aBritish fashion invasion stormed New  York City to entice millionsof dollars from U.S. store buyers. Four  fashion shows of 17 Britishready-to-wear manufacturers presented young  girls in short hairdosand even shorter skirts, adding to the young look  of fashion in 1965.

Pop and Op.In the United States, Pop  Art popped into style. Then along came OpArt, which opened up a whole  new area. Women dressed to match Op Artpaintings, with their stripes,  checks, and wavy line prints. Designswere also based on the work of the  famed Dutch painter Mondrian. Dresseswere divided geometrically by  intersecting bands and brightened bycontrasting blocks of color. They  came out of Paris couture and offthe drawing board of Yves St. Laurent.  The Mondrian look was a success.It was adapted at all price levels,  appearing even on a Mondrian bootof four bright colors.

Fashiondesigners revolted against tradition in 1966. The thunder was  firstheard in England, where a youth rebellion resulted in world-wide  recognitionand profits for designers and manufacturers of the Mod look  in clothes.Although the fashion rebellion began in London in 1965, it  becamemore intense and widespread elsewhere during 1966.

Throughout the world, girls enjoyed the Mod look. The look requiredabbreviated  skirts, or miniskirts, and pale colored fishnet or lacytextured hosiery, cut-out, low-heeled "little girl" shoes,mannish jackets, and ties or  French "undershirt" tops. Accessoriesincluded over-the-shoulder handbags and gaudy jewelry, which rangedfrom antique pins and necklaces to  modern styled geometric earrings.

Young men also went Mod via low  slung, wide belted, skinny, fittedpants, to which they added extra-wide, flashy printed ties that contrastedwith the wallpaper floral prints of  their shirts. Boots, vests, Londoncaps, and narrow Carnaby jackets were  also worn by the young men whotook part in the rebellion against  traditional men's clothesand conservative ways.

Youth's Uniform.In the United States, the Mod look became one of the clothing  industry'sbiggest promotions. Both young men and women picked up the  look. Americanyouth became infatuated with the exotic, offbeat image,  using it asa means of differentiating themselves from the adult  generation. Miniskirts,associated with Mod fashions, were adapted to  more conservative styleswith the length modified to two inches above the knee.

The new short-short skirt fashion resulted in mixed  emotions everywhere.In the United States, some schools found it  necessary to regulatepermissible skirt lengths. In Iran, the education  minister labeledthe miniskirt "improper and indecent" and said any  girlwho insisted on wearing it would be denied admission to  educationalinstitutions.

The Cone Shape.The uplifted  hemlines were also a part of Paris' haute couturefashions, but these  were less radical, yet still very youthful. Parisdesigners Yves St.  Laurent and Cardin not only raised hems to abovethe knees but also  uplifted entire silhouettes of dresses for styleswith high cuts, narrow  shoulders, and gliding but controlled coneshapes. Revolting against the  short skirt trend was designer MarcBohan of the House of Dior, who  lengthened his coats to midcalf, buthad his models wear them over  shorter skirted dresses.

A look that was a combination of Mod and  haute couture was the most popular fashion for women past their teens.  Cone shape dresses, often with halter necklines, came with above-the-knee hemlines. Women living active lives chose them not only for their  fashion interest but also for their relaxed, mobile silhouettes. The look of glittering silver was a popular, young, and swinging look for  evening. The metallic mood was completed with silver shoes and shiny,  wet-looking lipstick.

Mannish and Military Styles.Women  borrowed suit styles from men. They wore straight legged pantsuits, often of men's fabrics, for day wear. For evening and at-home, they wore them  in more elaborate fabrics and in wide, fluid shapes. Pant suits provided a fashionable means of comfort. They were worn and accepted everywhere.

The military look was also popular. Army pockets, brass buttons,  epaulets, and trench coat treatments were featured on coats, suits, and  sportswear.

Paper dresses came to the fore in 1966. They were  initiated by such offbeat designers as Californian Judy Brewer. Women  purchased the paper garments for ease, amusement, and as conversation  pieces.

Fashion focused on the look of the leg in 1967. Short skirts worn  still higher above the knee gave legs exposure they had not had in years. Women took advantage of this fashionable trend by cloaking their legs  ina wild assortment of textured and colored hose, both sheer and  opaque. Showing from beneath flippy, brief skirts, the stockings gave  fashions a mod mood of youthful spirit. Mini-skirts made pantie hose, in  complexion sheerness as well as color and texture, increasingly popular  because they not only gave the leg a hip-to-toe smoothness, but  eliminated the possibility of garter-show.

Women showed off their  legs in peekaboo fishnets, wide windowpane effects, spidery weaves, and  delicate lacy looks. As the year progressed, stockings tended toward bold zigzag and striped patterns and whimsical floral designs. The nurses'  "white leg" look was popular in the spring, but black and dark shades of  brown and gray became predominant for fall. The entire color spectrum,  hot to pale, including blue, lime, orange, pink, and yellow, were worn to match or clash with dresses and suits. For evenings, legs sparkled in  glittery copper, gold, and silver, completing the metallic mood of  dazzling evening costumes

Women also fancied high boots as a  fashionable means of covering their new length of leg. High-rise stretch  vinyl or patent leather provided glove like sleekness to complement winter fashions. Women donned boots in shiny black and brown as well as other  high-gloss colors. Boots stretched to the knees, to the thighs, or even  to cover the entire leg like fisherman's hip boots.

Fashion was stripped of its dictatorial powers in 1968 by a  revolutionary assertion of individuality. Stylish women throughout the  world put the catch phrase "do your own thing" into practice by  replacing the safe couture-approved dress with costumey, role-playing  clothes that were outward projections of their inner selves. The trend  posed several challenges. To the designer, a reassessment of his  function;t o the woman, a happy burden of doing her own "designing." She  had to assemble her look from a dizzying variety of separates and an even more complicated choice of accessories--barbershop armbands, chains,  cords, earrings, folklore trinkets, jingling pendants ,ribbons, rings,  and other found objects. Sometimes the actual garment was of less  importance than the accessory.

The new attitude was a reaction to  the sparse, streamlined mini dress of past years. Its leg-oriented brevity forbade touches of self-expression, lest they ruin the proportion.

Fashion stretched, softened, became more body-conscious, and fell head over heels in love with all the L-words in 1969. The most innovative  way a woman could look was Long, Lean, and Linear, or Lissome, Limpid, and Languorous.

The sometimes humorous, frequently hard-edged, and  nearly always mini skirted girl of recent years grew up in 1969. Her  fashion image became more feminine, more sensuous, and more  sophisticated. She wore softer, clingier clothes. Sweaters and sweater  dresses newly hugged every part of her figure, particularly emphasizing  her ribs, her waist, and her hips. But above all, she had an adult's  freedom of choice to pick from a never-before variety of  hemlines--whatever was most appropriate for her life style and  environment. She became a selector rather than a collector of clothes.

A Wardrobe of Lengthswas the anarchistic answer of designers to the yearly query on whereto  settle the hemline. Both in Paris and in the United States,  couturiers showed maxi lengths (almost floor-sweeping) but were  commercially cautious and kept enough of their styles short. Many  entrants were represented in both lengths. While Yves Saint Laurent made  news with his "lowdowns" and their 12-inches-from-the-ground proportions, the skirts at Courreges barely covered the torso. Ladylike knee-length  hems continued at Chanel and were endorsed by numerous American  designers.

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1950s & 1960s

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1950s Fashion

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