The 1960s was a decade that broke many fashion traditions and paved the way for many new trends, mirroring the social movements that were arising during this time. In the Swinging Sixties it was fashionable to simply be young. Street style had taken over to such an extent that Balenciaga retired in 1968 announcing that couture was dead. Teenagers no longer wanted to dress like their parents and therefore looked for new places to shop. The independent boutiques on Carnaby Street and Kings Road sold clothing with bold, innovative styles and became cool new hangout spots for young people. These shops helped turn London into the fashion capital of the world and mod style took over. Twiggy was the decade’s leading model. Her gawky, knock kneed androgynous look became a significant style element of the 60s.
Quant’s Ginger Group
Modern fashion owes a great deal to the trailblazing 1960s designer Mary Quant. In 1963 she established the Ginger Group to sell her mass produced clothes directly to people on the high street instead of launching in an exclusive boutique. Pinafores paired with sweaters were the building blocks of the Ginger Group, which promoted good-value, mix-and-match separates. Shortly afterwards, she introduced Quant cosmetics and underwear, marketed using the famous Quant daisy design. By that time, she had become the leading fashion designer outside of Paris. Quant was the figurehead of the jersey dress boom, producing thousands of designs in hundreds of different colours however she was probably best known for pioneering the mini skirt. Inspired by the fashions she saw on the streets, she raised the hemline of her skirts in 1964 to several inches above the knee and made fashion history. If you're looking for a vintage 60s dress, many of them will have been influenced by Mary Quant's designs. Towards the end of the sixties, Quant's popular range of trousers provided a practical alternative for those who felt uncomfortable wearing increasingly short skirts. Quant was a great advocate of wearing trousers for all occasions and was often photographed in masculine clothing, helping to popularise an increasingly informal, androgynous style.
One of the most iconic looks of the 1960s was mod clothing. Classic mod style was very clean-cut and smart. The way that mods dressed was about more than just looking well presented. They wanted to distance themselves from the way that their parents lived, which was reflected in the way they chose to dress. They rode around on scooters and listened to modern 60s bands like The Who, The Beatles and The Kinks. The key to mod style is to keep the silhouette slim and flattering. Men preferred sharp Italian suits and pointed winkle picker shoes. If you want to pull off a suited and booted mod look you can find many vintage mens suits from the 1960s in our shop. For a more casual look they wore Parka jackets with polo shirts and tailored trousers or jeans. Both men and women sported shorter hairstyles as mod fashion could be quite androgynous at times. Men had bowl cuts whilst many women opted for the layered bob, as introduced by Vidal Sassoon who styled hair to reflect the geometric shapes often seen in clothing. Mary Quant was very influential within mod fashion. Her mini skirts and dresses were worn with boots, coloured tights, large caps, short hair and heavy eye make-up. Women’s mod clothing used bright colours and fabric patterns taken from children's wear mixed with bold geometric prints. To achieve the boyish look, dresses had high waists and side darts, helping to flatten the bust. The black and white block print shift dresses seen above are emblematic of female mod style. Yves Saint Laurent took this use of shapes further with his Mondrian dresses which were decorated with the De Stijl artist’s colourful geometric abstractions to show his passion for modern art.
Space Age Fashion
The space race of the 1960s inspired a crop of young designers as they attempted to sartorially predict what the future held for society. In the 60s, Space age style revolved around the idea of exploration. Designers pushed the boundaries of fashion by using new materials and silhouettes in their clothing. Andre Courréges launched his space age collection, incorporating geometric shapes into his silhouettes and being the first designer to use plastic and PVC in his designs. His clothes epitomised the era’s affection for everything outer space. He even helped to popularise chin-strap space bonnets! Go-go boots were one of the items presented in the French designer’s collection and eventually became a fashion staple during the sixties. The boots were defined by their fluorescent colours, shiny material and sequins. Courréges used a lot of white in his designs as he preferred a restricted palette of monochromes and pastels. He championed the youthful mod aesthetic for his sophisticated 1960s couture clientele using bold, graphic styles such as checks and stripes.
Other big names in space age fashion were Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin. Paco Rabanne pushed space age fashion towards wearable art. He created his signature metallic chain-metal dresses which became very popular despite their impracticality. They were made from circular discs which were joined together with metal hoops. Rabanne also designed the costumes for Barbarella, a sci-fi film starring Jane Fonda. Pierre Cardin’s famous space age looks are the helmet, short tunics and goggles. His Cosmos collection included wool shift mini dresses with huge cutouts and colourful tights.
The Fab Four
The Beatles exploded in popularity during the sixties and 1960s mens clothing would have been completely different without their influence. The group were integral to the development of 60s counterculture as well as having a major impact on both popular music and fashion. They set the trend for sharp grey, collarless suits piped in black worn with Cuban-heeled Beatle boots. Their iconic suits were designed by the quartet's London tailor, Dougie Millings, who was probably inspired by Pierre Cardin’s Cylinder suit jackets. Later their style developed into wearing Carnaby Street mod fashions. However most people would probably associate them with their bright satin Sgt. Pepper suits. Inspired by the hippie movement of the era, the cover of their 1967 best-selling album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band featured the quartet in colourful embroidered band jackets. It was a time when menswear was entering a flamboyant phase with paisley patterns, floral shirts, beaded necklaces and velvet jackets, all in psychedelic colours. They wore both styles of suit in their music video for ‘Hello, Goodbye’.
Flower power reached it's height in 1967. The hippie movement grew from young radicals who didn’t want to conform to mainstream society and they developed their own distinctive lifestyle. Hippies exuded peace, love, freedom and sexual liberation, which was reflected in their flowing, relaxed wardrobes. The hippie movement encouraged a general fascination with the East which led to ethnically inspired designs. The key details in hippie fashion were free and flowy vintage style dresses, knee boots, anything native American themed, Indian patterns and everything that was associated with being open and peaceful, often showing quite a lot of skin. After all, the hippie movement declared free love for all! Hippie clothing was often loose and made of natural materials like cotton and hemp. They loved to wear anything handmade, whether it was sewn, knitted or woven. Gradually, this extended towards dyeing clothes and the colourful tie-dye style became popular.
The Swinging Sixties were a truly fashionable decade with lots of exciting new styles. Whether you prefer the clean lines of mod tailoring or loose, flowy hippie clothing, the influence of 60s fashion trends is still seen today and many people wear these styles without even realising it. If you are an enthusiast of 1960s vintage clothing we are always adding new pieces to our shop so that you can relive the decade through your wardrobe. For further 60s look inspiration, check out our guide Complete Your Look 1960s Style.