The 1960s: meteoric rise of hemlines
1960s style clothing is a fashion treat for those with a discerning taste. It stayed on par with social tumults and broke many fashion traditions, especially in women’s wear. The decade ushered in bikinis, miniskirts, pillbox hats, drainpipe jeans, as well as polyvinyl carbonate (PVC) and paper dresses, go-go boots, paisley prints, and tie-dye.
The decade has also fostered a slew of stalwart couturier and fashion icons: Oscar de la Renta, Emilio Pucci, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint-Laurent, Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin, Oleg Cassini, Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Lee Radziwill, Vanessa Redgrave, Diana Ross, Jane Fonda, Anouk Aimee, Sophia Loren, and Catherine Deneuve to name a few. The sub-niches of 1960s clothing styles include the city gent look brought into existence by the Modernists, the androgynous hippie look, the space look, and, in the late 1960s, the skinhead fashion.
Oscar de la Renta is one of the world best-known fashion powerhouses. Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Tina Fey, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway, among others, donned de la Renta’s designs. His ready to wear garments can always be told apart by their crisp lines, elegance, opulence and even splendor, especially in his evening wear. Daywear by de la Renta is always created with an unsurpassed attention to detail. The 1960s designs of the couturier include printed maxi dresses with folk motives, seen again in Chloe designs in the early 2000s, metallic lame dresses with bold geometric prints, garments constructed with elements of fur, as well as sheath dresses and formal wear designed for Jacqueline Kennedy.
Dresses and skirts got a lot of attention from other famous designers, not in the least due to the change in hemline. The concept of a mini, introduced by Mary Quant in the mid 1960s, galvanized fashion world like never before. Mini dresses and micro-mini skirts followed, usually worn with printed tights in bright colors or lace patterns. In addition to the revolution of the mini, Mary Quant was at the core of the Modernist fashion trend. Her designs were about fun, color, and dressing for one’s pleasure rather than to follow what was perceived as appropriate. Quant’s sweater dresses with plastic collars, balloon-style dresses, tight sweaters and stockings in bold patterns, plastic raincoats were popular outside the mod circles.
The Modernists were a trend-setting group of youth in the United Kingdom that chose clothes distinctive from 50s rock-n-roll fashion and preferred tailored suits, slim shirts, and anorak-style jackets. The Modernists have attracted the attention of the big fashion brands to the youth as an important part of their market, a shift that has been defining many areas of commercialized fashion ever since.
The French designer Andre Courreges pioneered ultra modern designs that came to be known as the ‘space look’ in mid-60s. His collection, Space Age was centered on geometric in shape garments, mostly squares, triangles, and trapezoids of primary colors. PVC and metal were used a lot throughout the entire collection. The hemlines of dresses and skirts were about three inches above the knees. The short hemlines of Space Age garments led to a dispute about the authorship behind the miniskirt. Low-heeled, knee-high go-go boots and goggles were used as accessories. The boots have since become a staple of the fashion wear and were taken to the extreme in Yves Saint-Laurent designs.
The androgynous hippie look is yet another legacy of the 60s style clothing. It gained popularity towards the close of the decade. The look was one of the first unisex trends, with both genders wearing bell-bottomed jeans, fringed vests, caftans, tie-dye shirts, sandals, and peasant blouses. Gypsy-inspired skirts, folk motives, paisley and batik fabrics were in style.
The whole gamut of 60s clothing styles has defined development of many fashion trends in the subsequent decades. Furthermore, the 60s style clothing has completely changed the way dressing is approached. Instead of shopping for an entire outfit for a specific occasion, the designs offered clothes that could be worn as separate items and mixed-and-matched as needed.