The 1960s were greatly transitional. The decade opened with a continuation of the 1950s silhouette but ten years later the look was the virtual opposite.
In the U.S. in 1961 John F. Kennedy took office as President, bringing with him a beautiful, young and fashion-inspiring wife as First Lady. Jackie Kennedy’s innate sense of style and dress soon made her ‘Queen’ of American fashion. The American designed short-jacketed sheath suits (at which U.S. based designer Oleg Cassini excelled) captured her passion for French couture style.
As the first wave of baby boomers came of age, the market shifted towards a more youthful silhouette. Teens dominated the fashion scene and in time adults adopted some of the looks of their offspring. The French ‘baby doll’ look personified by Brigitte Bardot comprised shorter skirts and big hair. Eventually this gave way to the ‘British Invasion’ or ‘Youthquake’ movement, with teens embracing the free and fun fashions of their London contemporaries. The “It” girl Twiggy was seen on the covers of most fashion magazines, slinking about in colorful shifts and space-age prints. This helped convince the majority of women in the mid 1960s to try the new styles.
The movement towards modernity was conscious and international. Italian designers like Pucci created psychedelic palettes of color, transforming wearers of simple silk knit gowns into walking works of art. American designers excelled in casual, uncomplicated sportswear chic. French couture (mostly under the influence of Yves Saint Laurent) explored other ideas; one of these borrowed pants and tuxedo jackets from menswear for the hip, liberated fashion-conscious woman. Some British designers even attempted to borrow the new mini skirt from women’s fashion for menswear. This met with considerably less success, if not a stony silence.
The times “they were a-changing” and fashion needed to follow suit. By 1967 the new fashion was scandalously baring more of the body than ever before – less is more, the modernist’s creed, was now true. Even the most conservative suits were cut above the knee. The old etiquette (remember gloves and hats?) was out the door. Balenciaga even gave up his house in 1967, proclaiming “Fashion is dead”.
Written by The Vintage Fashion Guild