The Victoria & Albert Museum in their “Introduction to 20th-Century Fashion” writes of this period:

“From 1960 to about 1967 fashion celebrated modernity and scientific progress. However, in spite of the use of new materials and space age imagery, the short shift shape of womenswear dominant at this time can be traced back to the 1920s. The surface patterning of this period also had historical sources: the swirling forms of psychedelia had roots in turn of the century Art Nouveau designs.

By the late 1960s optimism turned to concern as rising inflation, unemployment and environmental issues came to the fore.”

Of  1960s womenswear specifically they write:

“Young people’s income was at its highest since the end of the Second World War, creating the desire for a wardrobe which did more than simply copy adult dress. Designers like Mary Quant and Biba label provided clothes that were aimed specifically at young people, of which the mini-skirt was the most distinctive introduction. Women wore pale foundation and emphasised their eyes with kohl, mascara and false eyelashes. Hair was long and straight or worn in a shaped bob or wedge. Towards the end of the decade the hippy movement from the west coast of America emerged, experimenting with colours, patterns and textures borrowed from non-Western cultures. Older or more conservative women still tended to dress in skirts below the knee with tailored jackets, coats or cardigans.”

A Stylish Couple in the Rain in London

Fig. 1 - Photographer unknown. A Stylish Couple in the Rain in London, 1963. Source: Viralnova


Of 1960s menswear the V&A notes:

“Perhaps the most remarkable development in 1960s dress was the dramatic change in menswear. For the past 150 years, clothing for men had been tailor-made, and plain and sombre in appearance. Now, colourful new elements were introduced, such as the collarless jacket, worn with slim-fitting trousers and boots. During the mid-1960s frills and cravats were worn with vividly printed shirts. Finally, lapels and trousers took on exaggeratedly wide dimensions. Clothing became increasingly unisex as men and women shopped at the same boutiques for similar items.”



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1960-1969
  • 1961 – John F. Kennedy becomes president. His wife, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, soon becomes a fashion icon. Fur coats are much sought after because they are seen as a status symbol. Movements in the following decades protest vigorously against the wearing of fur.
  • 1962 – The Sidney Janis Gallery in New York exhibits works by contemporary American pop artists and the “Nouveau Realisme” movement in a groundbreaking show called the “International Exhibition of the New Realists.”
  • 1963 – The Beatles make their first national TV appearance. Their identical haircuts became a popular look among young men on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • 1964 – Young designers, including Mary Quant and Andre Courreges, introduce the miniskirt and minidress.
    Maija Isola designs the iconic Unikko (poppy) print for Finnish fashion firm Marimekko.
    The first Biba store, the inspiration of designer Barbara Hulanicki, opens in London, selling young, creative styles at budget prices.
  • 1965 – Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian- inspired color blocks sweeps through the international fashion world.
    Young fashion designers, including Foale and Tuffin and Mary Quant, go on the British “Youthquake” tours to the US arranged by the Puritan Fashion Corporation and J.C.Penney in New York.
  • 1966 – By early 1966 the waistline disappears, and designers like Norman Norell showcase loose-fitting dresses with loose sleeves. Twiggy, the “Face of 66” and one of the world’s first supermodels, shoots to fame. Jewelry designer Paco Rabanne causes a sensation when he launches his linked chain and plastic paillettes and minidresses in Paris.
  • 1967 – American fashion designer Geoffrey Beene presents his sequined football jersey evening gowns, following his ball gowns in gray flannel and wool jersey shown the previous year.
  • 1968 – The rock musical Hair opens on Broadway and in London’s West End, making Marsha Hunt a star and proclaiming “black is beautiful.”The first Ossie Clark for Radley collection is shown at Chelsea Town Hall.
  • 1969 – The Woodstock festival takes place in New York state, and is seen as a defining moment of the “hippie era” and the counterculture of the 1960s. The US lands the first men on the Moon, after space exploration earlier in the decade, which inspires space-age fashion looks.

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