Behind the seams

Fashion history | Sneakers | Fashion trends and news

Blog postFashion history

Exploring fashion of the 60 s

The 60’s was the decade when the fashion world changed to how we know it today. It no longer served only affluent, mature clients but started to embrace youth and street style. Consumptionism reached its peak in the 60 s, which was accentuated by art movements like pop art. Fashion of the 60 s welcomed mini dress, the most associated garment with this decade. Both cultural and fashion hotspots shifted to the United Kingdom. But this often superficially treated decade was much more diversified than most people think, so let’s take a closer look at fashion from 1960.

What influenced fashion in the 60s

The 1960’s style was influenced by pop culture, Vietnam war, Civil rights movement and landing on the moon. But above all it was centred on youth and nostalgia, which is a big change from conservative 50s. Clothes of the 1960s resembled that in the form of bright colours, silhouette and patterns. This change was a result of the growing prosperity, also among the youth, with savings ready to spend on fashion. But they blamed their parents for the misery in the world and wanted to detach themselves, by wearing clothes their parents never will. This style was embraced by the Mod subculture that derives from the UK.

First observed in London by designers like Mary Quant, who wanted to answer their needs. As a result the fashion cycle also changed. No longer designers dictated what men and women will be wearing, but the street and youth, which was a source of inspiration for designers. Of course there was still a place for sophisticated elegance, but the number of haute couture clientele was shrinking. As a result, ready to wear was a main source of profit for fashion houses. 

Andre Courreges 1960s designs
Andre Courreges 1960s designs
Source: Pinterest
Fashion of the 60s Emilio Pucci
Emilio Pucci 1960s fashion
Source: Pinterest

In the 1960s fashion and cultural centres moved to London, especially at Carnaby street, with boutiques like Biba by Barbara Hulanicki. Relatively inexpensive, vivid clothes encapsulated the spirit of 1960s style, referencing children’s garments. 

But fashion above all loves musicians and celebrities and during the 60s there was no other country as popular as England. Think of The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and I could go on and on with this list. Their influence was prominent not only in fashion in 1960s Britain, but also worldwide. It will be the most notable in the late 60s with a trend for Edwardian and Victorian, but also Indian and native American inspired clothing. 

The United Kingdom is also a place of origin of Pop art – the prevailing artistic movement in the 60’s. Works of artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein had stylistic influence on some of the designers.

What were fashion trends in the 60s

Speaking of the fashion of the 60 s it is hard one pinpoint only one particular style. The garment that symbolises the 1960s style is the mini skirt. However this trend, although very popular, was rather short lived. I also don’t want to be superficial on this topic, so I decided to split the decade into 3 parts, as which of them had its own aesthetic.

The early 1960s fashion style

Fashion idea of the early 60s wasn’t much different from fashion of the 50’s. Mainstream fashion was still dominated by elegant and sophisticated attire, targeted at mature men and women. Nevertheless people slowly started to be hungry for something new. For example Yves Saint Laurent in 1960 designed a collection for Dior, inspired by Beatniks and Bikers clothes. For this moment he was a bit ahead of his times, as it wasn’t welcomed very well, but it is a sign of what will emerge in upcoming years of the 60s fashion. Another designer who was an epitome of early fashion on 1960 was Hubert de Givenchy. He perfected a classic, refined style and amazed everyone with his black dress for Audrey Hepburn in a 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Fashion of the 60 s Jacqueline Kennedy in the 60s wearing pink suit
Jacqueline Kennedy in the 60s
Source: Vogue
Fashion of the 60 s Yves Saint Laurent 1962 dress 
with heavy embroidery
Yves Saint Laurent 1962 dress
Source: Pinterest

Fashion of the 60 s -The mini craze 

From 1964 to 1967-68 style of clothing was very colourful, bold and inspired by youth. It was a rejection of what we saw over the last 10-15 years. Clothes had to be playful and easy to wear and London understood it better than other places. Mary Quant saw that girls are shortening hems in their dresses and decided to sell so called mini dresses – the iconic piece of clothing in the 60s.

By the late 60’s the trend for minis started to slow down. In Europe no one wore them in the 70’s, but in the USA this trend lasted till the middle of the next decade. The 80’s, however, will see a revival of the mini skirts. Apart from that from 1966 to 1968 paper dresses were a short, but popular trend. Compared to Europe, especially London, the fashion idea in the USA was more conservative. A-line dresses inspired by Jacqualine Kennedy were popular.

Nostalgia and romanticism – Fashion of the 60 s 

The last years of 1960’s was a time of nostalgia and return to traditional clothing and nature. Mostly popularised by musicians, this style was warmly welcomed by youth and is now associated with fashion of the 60s hippies. The feeling of psychedelia, floating fabrics, and motifs like paisley, kaleidoscope and tie dye referenced eastarn asia style. Fringes and garments with ethnic flavour were inspired by native americans. In the UK men started to wear romantic clothes in Edwardian or Victorian flair. This whole aesthetic is clearly visible in the suit designed by Nudie Cohn for Gram Parson in 1969.

Colours and motifs of fashion of the 60 s

The Colour palette of the early 1960’s was a continuation of the fashion of the 1950’s. It started to change in 1964. Colour played an important role during this decade. The reason being a development of pop art – the art movement started in the mid 1950’s that reached its peak during the 1960’s. Additionally, the spread of colourful television played an important role. 1965 was even named a year of colour television revolution. 

In 60s fashion deep, strong colours prevailed. This palette was very loud, attention seeking and says that the wearer wants to be in the centre. It reflects the zeitgeist of the 60’s which was very youthful and even childish in a way. Popping primaries included bright orange, red, green, sky blue and dazzling yellow combined in a geometrical colour blocking with each other, or toned down with white as a secondary colour. 

Fashion of the 60 s style examples
Source: Pinterest
Fashion of the 60 s style examples
Source: Pinterest

The geometrical shapes separating each colour are most probably inspired by paintings of Mondrian. The most notable example of that is a dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent for his 1967 collection. Other ubiquitous motifs of the second half of the 1960’s clothing were paisley, kaleidoscope and tie dye. They are mostly associated with hippies, but high fashion designers like Emilio Pucci also used them.

In the later 1960’s soft, romantic antique tones with shades of brown emerged as a rejection to overly bold and saturated colours of the era. Clothes inspired by the Edwardian and Victorian era embraced nostalgia for the past.

Popular designers in the 1960s 

Before I will split this list by country of origin, one particular designer epitomised 60’s fashion and this was Mary Quant.  As I said before she is credited for inventing a mini dress. But she owes her success to understanding what people want and delivering it to them.  She took elements from mundane British classics and reworked them in a more playful style. Her clothes were easy to wear and often made of contemporary materials like PVC.

British Fashion designers of the 1960s 

Bill Gibbs

Although he established his eponymous label in the 70s, he already started to get recognition. Bill Gibbs represented the style of the late 60s by his romantic clothes. His designs were inspired by traditional english garments.

Zandra Rhodes

Rhodes produced her first collection in 1969. Abstract, loose, screen-printed, flowing forms in various sizes and colours are unifying factors of her designs.

French Fashion designers of the 1960s 

Yves Saint Laurent

After working for the house of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent established his eponymous mansion. When designing for his house, his style was a reverse from over the top aesthetic of Dior. Saint Laurent borrowed from work-wear and revived classic garments like trench coat, pea jacket or safari suit, by reinterpreting them in a contemporary way. As a result his collections were always diverse and stimulating.

Two designs by Yves Saint Laurent are particularly important for fashion of the 60 s. The first one is also the most known by him, namely le smoking. This feminine version of smoking paired with a pair of trousers served as an alternative for evening gown. The second one is the dress for his 1965 collection, heavily inspired by Mondrian and became an instantaneous hit. Symmetrical colorblocking presented on this dress was quickly copied at all price points, and was a very popular 1960s fashion style.

Pierre Cardin

Inspired by tailoring tradition, Pierre Cardin stood out by his understanding of form and shape. The signature feature of his style are often asymmetrical, huge face framing collars. He was also inspired by pop art, which was reflected in a series of sack dresses with geometric patterns and bright colours contrasted with black. 

Paco Rabanne

Mirroring the spirit of clothes of the 1960s Paco Rabanne created entire garments by linking together small plastic and metal pieces. This style was the opposite of other designers and became popular in the second half of the 60s. 

Fashion of the 60 s pierre cardin 1968 collection
Pierre Cardin 1968 collection
Source: Pinterest
Fashion of the 60 s Paco Rabanne 1967 silver dress
Paco Rabanne 1967
Source: Pinterest

Andre Courreges

As a protege of Cristobal Balenciaga, Andre’s Courreges style was initially similar to his mentor. His designs were very modern, even avant-garde, best known for short, flared shift dresses and skirts worn with cropped jackets. In the mid 60s Andre Courreges made modern, tailored trouser suits, often with striped that visually elongated legs. Although the 60s fashion is often associated with bright colours, his palette was rather muted. Andre Courreges preferred white or silver fabrics, against pastel hues or a strong bright orange.

Emanuel Ungaro 

Similar to Andre Courreges, Emanuel Ungaro also used to train Balenciaga. He stayed true to the know-how of Balenciaga and sculpted hard-edge clothes in heavy fabrics. Nevertheless he differed from the aforementioned designer by his use of loud colours and organic patterns.

Fashion of the 60 s – American designers

Rudi Gernreich 

Rudi Gernreich believed that clothes should be inexpensive and make a strong statement. It should already sound familiar to you, as this was exactly what style of 60s fashion was about. He focused on designing sportswear and swimwear, realising a topless bathing suit in 1964. To achieve the best performance of clothes, he was keen to experiment with plastic and synthetic materials. 

Oleg Cassini

Jacqueline Kennedy was the biggest American fashion icon of the early 60s and Oleg Cassini was her personal designer.


6 thoughts on “Exploring fashion of the 60 s

  • Make more fashion history post. I love your content and I’m learning so much. Can you do a post talking about the 70’s.Can you also go more into Japan fashion history.

    • I was quite busy in recent months but now I’m coming back 🙂 I will try to publish a post about the 70’s today or tomorrow. Japanese fashion history is also in my plans. But first I wanted to write something about the history of denim, which is heavily intertwined with Japan

  • Michele Cardneaux

    My FAVORITE decade for fashion!! Loved especially the bright colors and paisley prints!!

    • I couldn’t agree more. The 90’s are also one of my favorites, I will write about this decade in upcoming weeks 🙂

  • John sutherland

    Love the pics , as a young boy growing up in the 60,s I can remember alot of the fashions I also had an older sister taking the siscorrs to her skirts and shortening them lol and of course the infamous white boots to match absolutely fabulous, lol

  • Pingback: Looking back at the 70’s fashion | Behind the seams

Leave a Reply