About the 1960s


The era of mass production and mass consumption was under way and influences on fashion extended beyond magazines pictures and film stars and became dominated by music, youth and politics. The 'Youthquake' movement had arrived.

Youngsters wished to separate themselves stylistically from the older generation and so more of the body shape was revealed and clothing became more an individual choice rather than parental idealism. The boyish silhouette was personified in the iconic 60's model Twiggy, she had the long thin figure necessary for the short dresses and her hair was styled in an asymmetrical cut, and she was photographed in typical locations for 'Swinging London'. Fashion design became more geometric and reflected emerging art movements such as Pop Art and Op Art.

New fabrics made from synthetic polymers meant a more easy care approach to fashion and the era of garments having a shorter fashion life had begun as fibre production became less expensive. A revolution in the use of innovative fabrics was underway; fashion designers could experiment in new ways with unusual materials that reflected art movements and pop culture.

The 'London Modernists' group were setting a style for themselves with smart haircuts, suits and riding scooters; they became known as 'Mods', and the popular press defined youngsters into two categories, a teenager was either a 'Mod' or a 'Rocker' the latter preferring longer hair, leather jackets and motorbikes.

London designer Mary Quant bought the 'mini' skirt into mainstream fashion when she opened her 'Bazaar' boutique and the new short hemline length became a talking point for the decade.


The Beatles invented a new look, their slim cut collarless suits , whip ties and pointed Chelsea boots showed a new freedom and style. Young girls dressed in shorter skirts much to their parents' annoyance and block colours with geometric patterns reflected the 'Op Art' movement of the time. Famous French fashion designers defined the trend, Correges, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne are all iconic names who designed just for the young and bold. Correges showed a pants suit evening outfit on his catwalk in 1964, and this gave rise to the trouser suit. These new designers showed collections using plastics, synthetic materials and construction techniques that were revolutionary for the time.

This was the decade for the 'hot pants', jeans, loon pants, hipsters and bell bottom trousers; the look became genderless and teenagers were more liberated and berated than ever before.

1963 saw the opening of a new boutique in London, Biba. Created by Barbara Hulanicki, this had a mail order catalogue that meant many more young girls could buy the latest fashions. The in-house colour was 'Mulberry purple' and that with smudgy browns and oranges in the new manmade drape fabrics featured in magazines such as 'Petticoat'. The Biba range extended to jewellery, makeup and perfume, so a whole look could be created.

In the late 1960s, a new romantic style emerged, the music of Jimi Hendrix, west coast USA bands and Bob Dylan created a look that was dreamy, reflected psychedelic iconography and the freedom of pop festivals. Tie Dye and Batik appeared in fashion magazines and quickly became a look that was achievable by teenagers at home. Fabric patterns for the young were a heady mixture of pinks, greens, purples and limes in swirls and floral 'hippie' style chic. Long romantic maxi dresses were worn alongside short mini skirts. Menswear became flamboyant, with frills on shirts, cravats; brightly coloured ties and shirts and velvet jackets.

Older women looked elsewhere for inspiration, Oleg Cassini had designed exclusively for President Kennedy's wife Jackie Kennedy and her simple but elegant style of matching dress, coat, pillbox hat and gloves in subdued pastel colours, with a simple handbag was copied onto the British high street. The advent of the new synthetic fabric 'Crimplene' was quickly a hit with the mature woman who wanted easy to make dresses and matching coats, and simple suits.

The end of the decade saw the first landing on the Moon by man, and this was reflected in fashion by new space age fabric prints and the use of PVC in boots, coats and mini dresses. White became a predominant colour and boxy shift style dresses were seen alongside the long floral hippie style fashions. A decade of real contrast.