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Fashion | History and Culture

Fashion Throughout the Decades: the 1960’s

March 8, 2018
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What do you think of when you see 21st century fashion? The answer will be different for everyone because there are many different aspects of our world that make up fashion for us today. Fashion can be influenced by current events, music, art, and things from the past. In the early 2000’s, fashion, and the arts in general, looked to the past for inspiration. Vintage clothing, especially from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, became incredible popular and designers sought after the trends from those decades to influence their collections. This is especially true now. Fashion today is really a mashup of all the fashion over the past century, including sparkles of designs from hundreds of years ago.

In this series, Fashion Throughout the Decades, I will explore two things I love, fashion and history. If you really want to learn more about fashion, it's important to understand something about the history that gave birth to the different styles and trends. This series will cover how designers today are styling trends from the past, and incorporating them into their collections. It may not be obvious, but once you start looking for it, you are sure to see how styles from the past inform designers today. There will be an individual blog post for each of the decades over the 20th century. I'll include photos comparing the style in the past and the style in the present. This post, the first in my series, will be all about the 1960’s. I hope you enjoy this tour of history and learn something from it. Don’t forget to subscribe so you won’t miss the posts to come!

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The early 1960’s featured two main aspects to fashion. The first was the rise of trousers for women. Before then, women seldom wore pants. The exception of course was during World War II, when women were required to take on jobs normally held by men, in order to support the war effort. Dresses were very impractical on the assembly line, hence they started wearing what men wore. When the war ended, men returned home to resume the jobs they had left behind. Things had changed however. Women got accustom to having a professional life and were no no longer content having to stay home all day. For the most part, women returned to wearing “appropriate” attire, however the idea of women wearing pants entered the fashion designers imagination. When the sixties came rolling around, all women jumped at the opportunity to wear pants that were catered to them, and so we see nowadays, the trend stuck!

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Staud joyce cropped two-tone jumpsuit
Staud joyce cropped two-tone jumpsuit

The second major fashion aspect was the Space Age. The space age look was defined by boxy shapes, thigh length hemlines and bold accessories. Synthetic material was also popular with space age fashion designers. After the Second World War, fabrics like nylon, corfam, orlon, terylene, lurex and spandex were promoted as cheap, easy to dry, and wrinkle -free, thus they were easier to use and more popular in clothing. 

In the 60’s, everyone was buzzing with the first rocket launches and astronauts heading into space. As I mentioned earlier, trends in each decade are often influenced by the current events of the time. As such, the Space Age also had its own styles.

Go-go boots designed by Andre Courrege in 1965
Go-go boots designed by Andre Courrege in 1965

For perhaps the first time in history, the 1960's saw independent fashion styles for youth. These styles were not based on the conventions of an older age group, but were in stark contrast to their mature, very-feminine mothers. The young women of the 1960’s adopted a girlish, childlike style with short skirts and straightened curves, reminiscent of the 1920’s. It is interesting to note that while styles from the 1960's have affected present day designers, stylists working in the 1960's were in turn, influenced by their predecessors in the 1920's. Skirts were originally knee-high at the start of the decade, but gradually they became shorter until the mini-skirt emerged in 1965. The principal change in menswear was the weight of the fabric that was being used. In addition to this, the use of jeans were spreading and became a radical change in the male wardrobe.

Mary Quant minis, designed to be simple

By the end of the 60's the world saw the emergence of the Hippie subculture. With music taking the lead, the culture  began to shift away from the Mod styles of the mid sixties to a laid-back Bohemian style that reached its peak during the Summer of Love. This was called the Hippie Movement. Welsh fashion designer Mary Quant, combined “Flower Power” and Pop Art to create a new youthful style of dress that became identified with the youth movement. The major trends within this subculture were bell bottom jeans, loose, flowy tops, and less primed hair. All of these things however become more prominent by the end of the decade and all the rage in the one to follow.

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L'agence solana hight-rise falred jeans
L'agence solana hight-rise falred jeans

There are six main trends that run through the 1960s, mini skirts, culottes, colour, straight dresses, paisley prints, and pillbox hats. Young women were drawn to straight dresses, a stark contrast to the hourglass designs from the past decade that featured clinched waists and puffy skirts. The only other time where straight dresses were popular, were the 1920's, another rebellious era in history. Straight dresses are exactly what they’re called. They don’t hug your figure but instead hang straight down. They tend to have sharper, straighter edges.

Paisley prints are commonly seen at the end of the decade with the emergence of the Hippie Movement. The pattern is an ornamental design based on the buta, or boteh (a Persian design), a teardrop-shaped motif with a curved upper end.  

Finally, are the pillbox hats. A common way for certain fashion items to become trendy is when they're worn by famous people. The pillbox hat was made famous by none other than the iconic Jackie Kennedy. A pillbox hat is a small hat with a flat crown, straight, upright sides, and no brim. It resembles the small tins that pills were once sold in. 

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The 1960's was one of the most important decades in fashion history and continues to inspire designers today. Perhaps you have a fashion item in your closet inspired by these iconic styles? Feel free to add a comment below or let me know which decade you would like me to report on next. Have a great week lovelies!

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