In the 1960s, for the first time, fashion looked to London instead of Paris. Think of Carnaby Street and the Kings Road – there were loads of little boutiques which got new styles in every week, with young people being the main customers, of course. The 1960s saw fashion become an integral part of young people’s identities for the first time, and they had the disposable income to buy all the new fashions – and labels like ‘casual’ and ‘formal’ dressing no longer mattered.
The early 60s were all about simple lines and clean shapes. The shift dress was king, moving away from the extreme waist definition of the 50s, started by The New Look. Mary Quant was an early queen of the shift, but it was widely adopted, with design details like large pockets and cut outs adding design details which were missing from the shape of the dress.
Colouring was another way to add design details to the simple shift.
It was in the 60s that trousers first took off like never before – they had obviously been around in the 20s (wide, pyjama-style) and women like Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn wore suits in the 30s and 40s – but the 60s was where they became more main-stream than they’d ever been before. They especially took off when in 1963 Cathy McGowan wore a pair to host the music tv show Ready Steady Go.
I was slightly struggling to find good photos for this post – there are so many amazing clothes from the 60s and great designers who started in that era that I couldn’t work out how to narrow down my search, so I decided to look up Twiggy, whose style I LOVE! I definitely kinda want these massive earrings! Are they discoballs or baubles!?
I think this dress could be easily recreated with the Megan Dress from Love At First Stitch. The one above could maybe be made with the Megan too, if I could work out how to do the ties on the front.
Technology advances meant fabrics became more easy to wear and care for, as polyester was blended with other fibres. This led to the more avant-garde designers using slightly less conventional materials, like paper, plastic and metal. PVC was also invented in the 60s and was available in black and white. Designers also used traditional evening fabrics, such as velvet, lace, and brocade, for daywear.
This is Audrey Hepburn in a Paco Rabanne dress made of I think giant sequins, from the film Two For The Road.
Andres Courreges was also known for his extreme cut outs and space-age-y use to unconventional fabrics and materials. The 2 white ones are clearly not wearable really, but I still love them! Digging these giant sleeves too!
In 1960 24-year-old Yves Saint Laurent showed his final collection for Christian Dior, then set off on his own to create a cooler Beat collection including leather suits and knitted caps. With this he signalled the beginning of the end for French Haute Couture. In 1962 he launched his ready to wear label, Rive Gauche.
1960 Yves Saint Laurent, 24 years old, showed final collection for Christian Dior, sent out a cool Beat collection of black leather suits and knitted caps to an astonished and bewildered audience, sounded death knell of haute couture. 1962 invented his ready-to-wear label Rive Gauche. I love the 2 dresses on the left!
In 1966 YSL launched the first classic tuxedo suit for women, ‘Le Smoking’, which paved the way for androgynous fashion and 80s power suits.
Catherine Deneuve wore one too.
This YSL suit is AMAZING! I definitely would love to copy it, even though I may not have anywhere to wear it! Maybe I should make it and then just wear it on a random Wednesday or something.
Laurent took inspiration from pop art in his designs too, most famously his Mondrian dresses.
I love the Mondrian dresses, and also the one with the lips below, left.
Although the ‘youthquake’ meant young people were moving away from more tailored, formal styles, I still love 60s suits, like these 2.
This evening gown is fairly fab!
Of course, I couldn’t round up fashion from the early 60s without looking at the amazing sewing patterns available at the time. All the major designers, whose names we still know now, released patterns:
Yves Saint Laurent
and Pierre Cardin.
The big pattern companies were no different, so here’s a little selection of my favourites.
Do you like the 60s? Who’s your favourite designer/ style icon?