60s Fashion History
The 1960s was without question, the decade that changed everything we know about popular culture. The youth were rising, and breaking through in ways they never had before. There was a real sense of freedom and expression and that was represented in fashion as well as music, art and film.
There was a new generation, with more wages in their pockets than ever before. And they wanted fashion and freedom of choice. There was also the birth of what is now a worldwide phenomenon of inspiration, and that was street wear. For the very first time, the designers of Paris were having to sit up and listen to the active youth of cities all over the world; and non more so than London. A veritable melting pot of musicians, performers, artists, photographers and graduates of the British art school system; famed for it's unique teaching styles. The working classes were now seen as the cool kids and if you couldn't afford the couture catwalk fashions you were now able to simply imitate them.
60s Fashion | 60s Clothing
This new fusion of art, music and fashion created a unique modern culture that was represented perfectly by boutique shopping experiences from the likes of Mary Quant and Biba. These popular and informal shop stayed open late, with a party atmosphere filled with music and laughter. Popular celebrities would mingle with other shoppers as they all looked for the next big trend or forward thinking styles that broke with convention and offered individuality. This freedom and push for unique style was also a catalyst for vintage clothing becoming another choice in fashion. The trendy fashion boutiques of Carnaby Street stood side by side with antique, vintage, handmade and customised clothing, jewellery and accessory stores. Much like the eclectic mix we yearn for as shoppers in the 21st Century, the sixties was the first time this level of choice and diversity was available on the high street and thank goodness for that!
By the same token, fashion shows that were once quite austere and serious events, started to become really fun and theatrical in the sixties. Huge design icons of the time including Mary Quant and Ossie Clark, sent their models dancing down the catwalk in their beautiful collections. Ossie Clark's catwalk shows were frequented by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and David Hockney and he also refused to let the press sit on the front row, very rock and roll!
The iconic designers of the 1960s were those who paved the way for a futuristic style that was emulated by fashion house worldwide. Namely Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin, André Courréges, Louis Féraud and Paco Rabanne. These collections consisted of geometric shapes, boxy style cuts, double breasted jackets and coats, colour blocking, a-line and shift dresses, mini skirts, bold colours with stark white, silvers and metallics, plastics and cut out details. This was the decade of the sci-fi and space race film, such as Barbarella, and many of these on-screen costumes were designed by the brilliant Paco Rabanne who shaped fashion in both metal and plastic to create a swinging sixties version of the future.
It wasn't long before celebrities and public figures such as Grace Kelly and Jackie O, started to wear less formal styles in response to the new attitudes towards fashion. A great example of this was Jackie Kennedy's influence in popularising the handmade and brightly coloured shift dresses of Lilly Puitzer. She has first created these design to help hide spill stains from her juice bar in California. It's no coincidence that around the same time, 'fruit' shades became a huge international trend in both fashion and makeup. There was a huge surge in popularity for lemon yellow, strawberry pink, lime green and blueberry blue!
Arguably the most iconic look of the sixties was the mini skirt. The actual invention of this super short garment has been attributed to several designers, but there cannot be any doubt that it's surge popularity is thanks to Mary Quant, even if you don't think she invented it!
Quant was also known for her amazing use of monochrome, another distinctly iconic feature of the sixties style. That simple, cute look with mini skirts, peter pan collars, over knee socks and dark black eye makeup was never pulled better than it was by the infamous Twiggy. Dubbed as 'The Face of '66' by the Daily Express, Twiggy was accredited with the prestige of being the world's first supermodel at the tender age of 16. Born and bred in London, Twiggy went on to become a successful actress winning Golden Globes for her role in 'The Boyfriend' Twiggy also had a music career and recorded many albums in various genres. In the 1960s, Twiggy was best known for her big thick babydoll lashes and cute pixie cropped haircut. She is still an instantly recognised face of the decade and has been immortalised on many things from Andy Warhol prints to M&S shopping bags!
And we couldn't possible mention sixties icons without mentioning the wonderful Audrey Hepburn. Her appearance as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's has got to be one of the most famous looks in cinema history! Her LBD with tiara, pearls and diamonds is still an iconic fashion image around the world. Hepburn was also the queen of off-duty style and created the simple and stylish ensemble that we still wear and love today - cigarette trousers with flat pumps. Tres chic!
It was this slick and simple style that was loved and perfected by the mods of the mid sixties. Mods were about style, sophistication and individuality. It didn't take long for the rest of the fashion world to take a leaf out of their book and emulate the mod style on a mainstream level. So popular is this style that even now. four decades later, there is a booming mod scene both in Europe and the USA. There is still no question that the cool and kooky mod look is most definitely British. And you can forget about the fashion houses of Paris when it comes to mods - Chanel, Dior, YSL? They aren't ever going to interest this gang Ossie Clarke’s Quorum, Lee Bender’s Bustop, Mary Quant’s Bazaar, and Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba which attracted 100,000 visitors a week in it’s heyday.
So nobody did it better than the Brits in the 60s, and I think this quote from 1965 Vogue puts it perfectly... “ In New York it’s the ‘London Look’, in Paris it’s ‘le style anglais’ ”
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