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60s outfits - 1960s Fashion – The Sounds and Styles

1960s Fashion


Grace-Slick-60s-outfits_20140126-042243_1.jpg1960s Fashion – The Sounds and Styles

Music and passion were always the fashion..”  ~ but it was during the 1960s that music and fashion became forever entwined and redefined for a new generation who eagerly embraced the pop culture that marked out the Swinging Sixties as a decade unlike any that had gone before.


This was a time of upheaval in politics, fashion, attitudes and music and while the ‘teenager’ may have been 50s borne, the 60s delivered a new-found sense of freedom as society moved away from the conservative values of the previous decade and discovered colour, flamboyance, style and ownership that gave rise to a multitude of groundbreaking fashion trends. These new looks not only mirrored the social movements of the time, but were particularly influenced by the iconography of the popstars, music, dances and the burgeoning festival scene. Music led the way in ‘alternative’ fashion for the young and the restless, the ‘in’ crowd and the trendsetters, and designers began producing clothing suitable for those eager to find their own identities. The first major fashion movement of the 60s emerged from the ‘British Invasion’ ~ the Beatles phenomenon (and their much emulated ‘Liverpool Sound’), the Rolling Stones and many others who were enjoying immense popularity.


1960s-fashion.jpgIn the early to mid 60s, the London Modernists (the Mods) shaped a look for a British subculture of young women and men ~ a counter culture movement which became widely imitated and identified by their classy, tailored suits, Levis jeans and slim button-down shirts contrasted with their trademark anoraks. Both female and male Mods dressed very similarly and both had a sense of ‘alternative cool’ with their instantly recognisable customised scooters and mopeds  ~ and bands such as The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces were to emerge with a faithful following.  By contrast, the Rockers of the time were still heavily influenced by 50s rock and roll icons, bringing black leather again into 1960s fashion. The decade also gave birth to drainpipe jeans, for women and men, an item that has remained forever in fashion (having latterly evolved into the ‘skinny’ jeans trend we are seeing again today).


TV music shows of the time featured a plethora of groups and artists from the established crooners to the up and coming rebels that were ready to revolutionise the music scene. Boy Meets Girl, Juke Box Jury, Ready Steady Go! and Shindig! were among the latter, alongside the iconic juggernaut that was Top of the Pops (first aired in 1964), a show that would later become the nostalgia-laden popfest for millions. They showcased the main chart toppers and heart-throbs of the day, among them Cilla Black, Lulu and Sandie Shaw who all played their part in defining the fashion of the era ~ and the Beatles and the Stones whose definitive 60s outfits were to have a huge influence on fashion (and music) which still endures ~ from sharp suits and Nehru jackets to velvet, brocade and ‘jazz band’ chic, via leather drainpipes, billowing blouses, that white ‘dress’ and iconic pop-art logos.

60s-fashion-Jimi-Hendrix-01.jpgDance crazes such as the Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Swim, the Freddie, all demanded a new freedom of movement for women and evolving fashion styles reflected this ~ the 60s saw curve hugging satin sheath dresses to match the sultry sounds of Motown and R&B, and the cute swing shifts of the sophisticated Supremes and the Detroit sound. But one image that so often defines 60s outfits, almost more than any other, is the fabulous monochrome mini dress, quirky white boots, pale lips, false eyelashes on feline flicks and hair that was bobbed and bouffant or sleek and chic. Once Mary Quant had introduced the mini-skirt in 1965, everything changed and this embodiment of 1960s fashion was popularised by chanteuses such as Sandie Shaw, Petula Clark, Cilla 1960s-fashion-1960s-outfits-01.jpgBlack and Kathy Kirby. These young pop stars, who were becoming household names, wowed in sleeveless minis and groovy A-line and shift dresses with colour pop geometrics, big bright flower prints and patterned tights; and crop tops with hip-hugging trousers and bell bottoms (often embellished with sequins) were also seen on screen ~ while marvellous maxis and floaty frocks with billowing sleeves in velvet, chiffon and satin were modelled by the likes of Marianne Faithfull and Jane Birkin, hidden under floppy hats and layers of cool and sultry chic.


The achingly trendy style arenas of London’s Kings Road and Carnaby Street gave rise to an explosion of flamboyance, flair and ‘far out’ fashion in 60s outfits that saw A-lines, Angel dresses, bell-bottoms, boas, capri trousers, cravats, Cuban heels, culottes, Go-Go boots, kaftans, maxis, minis, shifts, space-age, stilettos, swing coats, tunics and winklepickers parade through the decade in a refreshing riot of batik, brocade, chiffon, crocheted lace, faux fur, frills, leather, neon, PVC, paisley, patent, psychedelic prints, stripes, suede, tie-dye and velvet. 1960s fashion continued its evolution into the later decade, influenced by the growing popularity of rock and its subgenres: surf, roots, hard, psychedelic, folk ~ and the boom in music festivals.


Festivals were flourishing and artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick shaped the Hippie movement. A sense of empowerment and liberation became apparent in 60s outfits of the time as a bohemian counterculture took hold: clothes became loose and relaxed with brightly coloured, clashing prints and patterns, bell bottoms, tunic tops and tie-dye, velvet waistcoats, flowers, frills, headbands and beads that reflected the mood and the music, while longer, looser, hair replaced the structured beehives and bouffants. This sense of idealism, freedom and optimism was captured at a moment in time which can never truly be recreated, but which will always evoke those sunny, carefree, heady days of 60s Summers and immutable music ~ represented by the gorgeously gregarious and bohemian fashions that freed the spirit and blazed a trail for generations to come.


Joni-Mitchell-60s-outfits.jpgThe politically charged decade also saw the emergence of folk artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell who lent their working class American values not just to their outspoken lyrics, but to their look ~ soon, fans were embracing denim, military style jackets and western-inspired shirts. Jeans became the indispensable, integral item in any self-respecting music fan’s wardrobe, a discipline and a ‘rock solid’ fashion staple that still prevails.


1960s FashionWith gender definition becoming less limiting, and with the resurgence of the Women’s Liberation Movement and a new wave of feminism, the androgynous look of 60s outfits
 became more pervasive: women blended the feminine and masculine and wore Nehru jackets with miniskirts and short sculpted haircuts; while men sported polo necks, billowing shirts, decorative scarves and skirted coats, and long flowing hairstyles. The ‘dandy’ look, celebrated by Brian Jones et al, became ‘de rigeur’ with bands who rocked the outlandish, the outré and the outrageous in tight fitting trousers and double-breasted suits of crushed velvet, brocade waistcoats and frilled shirts. This look was perfectly summed up at the Stones’ Hyde Park concert of July 1969 by the ‘King of Peacocks’, Mick Jagger ~ his white voile smock with bishop’s sleeves, ruffled neck and wrists, and bow-laced front is surely one of the outfits, alongside Mary Quant’s iconic mini skirts and dresses, most redolent of the exhilaration, the empowerment, the revolution and the zeitgeist of 1960s fashion.


For the first time in history, 1960s fashion was geared towards the youth market, a trend that set the mood for the rest of the century and beyond. Styles changed more frequently than ever before (and continued to do so throughout the decade), undeniably influenced by the pop and rock stars, the ever-changing music scene and the flourishing TV and media culture that portrayed them. The music scene was the voice of the 60s generation, heavily influencing style statements that continue to impact on modern fashion in a way that perhaps no other decade has done since.



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