1960s Fashion Essay

Fashion In 60s Essay

If you look back through the past sixty years of fashion, you may notice a pattern.
People may say that the true years of fashion began in the late nineteen forties and went on through the early nineteen sixties. If you look at fashion today, its almost repeated the look from sixty years ago. In each generation fashion trends become based on history and/or important events. in the nineteen forties fashion was being modeled by the military wear. World War II caused a drastic change in the way clothes were being made and worn. In the nineteen fifties Americans admired the fashion of movie stars and music artists. Media had a strong influence on the wordly trend. The people of the sixties expressed there personalities and emotions through there clothing. They wanted to look independent. By looking at these three generations, we can reflect on how fashion today maybe repeating itself.

It is worthless to discuss fashion of the forties without first understanding the tremendous impact World War II had on everyday life during the early part of the decade. World War II changed the world of fashion forever. Severe restrictions were imposed on the apperal industry by the government (Keogh). For men the tailored silhoutte, with padded shoulders and a narrow waist and hips, were essentially frozen until the late nineteen forties (Keogh). Women were forced to recycle there clothing, or hand them down to other women when the clothing was not being used for example, the wedding dress, It was a way of conserving fabrics(Thomas). Most fabrics at the time were purchased " ready made". This meant that the fabrics were already sewn together to be worn. In some areas where blot fabrics could not be purchsed or blockades prevented shipments. Women would use the art of sewing, or making there own clothing by putting fabrics together. This was a more detailed but less expensive way to get clothing (Thomas).

The fabrics for clothing during the time of war that were being worn were very dull. Because of the depressing times women and men simplified there clothing. Fabrics were available mostly as solid colors, stripes, and plaids (Thomas). In an effort to comply with the restrictions imposed on them, American designers created a new style of suits for women. Skirts were short and straight topped by short jackets of twenty-five inches or less in length. Cardigans matched skirts and sheath evenign dresses replaced the long flowing gowns of the thirties ( Keogh). McCalls produced patterns for transforming men’s suits into ladies’ suits and women’s dresses into children’s clothing. (Keogh). After viewing hundreds of period photographs, about eighty percent of them feature solid colors, and tight fitting suits for both men and women. Overseas, leather was restricted to military use, so shoe designers were forced to be increasingly clever. Every imaginable material was to make shoes, reptile skins and mesh were the most successful substitutes.

Women everywhere...

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Fashion in the 1960s.

The young people of the 60’s were sick and tired of the old rules and the conservative society. They wanted something new, and this was the decade of optimism. During the post-war period, people had time to re-build, both financially and socially. People had more money and the young people often earned money on their own in addition to get allowance from their parents. Therefore, the young people were able to create their own identity, separate from those of their parents. For the first time ever in any fashion era, the young became the leaders of fashion. This, along with sexual revolution, the space race, curiosity for other cultures, The Vietnam War and Woman’s Liberation Movement was some of the happenings, ideas and thoughts that changed fashion for ever.

The different colour combinations that were formed in the 1960s were exiting. They represented that people were more free and happy after the post-war period and they were very different from the conservative look that dominated the 50’s.Patterns inspired by op-art were dramatic and people had never seen anything like that before.

Women wearing clothes inspired by the op-art. Op-art was also very popular when it comes to art and interiour.

Designer Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt, which became very popular in the late 60’s. Girls wore both short dresses and skirts which showed their legs. This was very different from the 1950s, where the skirts were much longer. At this time, people became more open-minded about sex. People, especially girls, dressed more daring than before and they were not afraid to show skin. The invention of the birth-control pill along with sex becoming more explicit in movies and musicals, along with fashion, opened for a sexual revolution.

Fashion icon and model Twiggy made the mini-skirt famous.

The young generation was not afraid to show themselves and to do controversial thing anymore, but the older generation was not accustomed with this type of fashion, so for many of them, this came as a shock. Men often let their hair grow long (especially hippies), and for the African American, the afro became the hairstyle of choice. This was very controversial at that time. Boys were supposed to have a neat hairstyle, but the young generation wanted to make changes, and so they did. These fashion trends took off because they were so different from what have been and to wear them, you had to be young, to be able to get away with such a controversial outfit.

Men with afro and long hair; very controversial.

Clothes that were inspired by the space race between Russia and USA became very popular and different materials were used such as discs of metal, plastic linked together with wire, leather and PVC. Metallic and neon colours were also popular.

Clothes inspired by the space race between Russia and USA.

The young people were now freer than ever and they wanted to make drastic changes. They managed to do so, but still there were some places where they were not allowed to dress the way the wanted to. For instance, most schools had dress codes, and girls were not allowed to wear pants of any kind and boys were not allowed to wear blue jeans.

People started to travel a lot more in the 1960s and the hippie culture, where everything was free and where everything was supposed to be explored, lead to interest and curiosity for other cultures. This led to a swarm of new fashion styles, for instance ethnical looks, such as The Oriental look and African/Middle Eastern looks. Music also had an influence on fashion, such as Jimi Hendrix and his hippie and ethnic clothing, and The Beatles with their Mod-style.

Jimi Hendrix, famous for his music and ethnical/hippie style.

Flower Power was a slogan used in the late 1960s and 1970s as a symbol of the non-violent ideology. The slogan was invented in opposition to the Vietnam War. People who were in opposition to the Vietnam War were called hippies. They used flowers as a symbol for life, love and peace and they created a hippie culture. Their culture reflected the way they dressed. They dressed in flowery clothes and wore flowers in their hair and around their necks. Both men and women grew long hair, and women should just wear little or no make-up. The clothes were often wide and large, symbolizing the freedom the hippies represented and the colours were very natural, which was symbolic for nature. The style also included bell-bottom jeans, tie-dye and batik fabrics and paisley prints.

Country Joe McDonald in a hippie outfit.



Paisley prints.

Tie-dye t-shirt.

As mentioned earlier women started to fight for their rights in the 1960s. Some women made a “Freedom Trash Can” where they threw objects such as bras, heels, hair curlers, girdles and women magazines or magazines who focused on appearance, such as Cosmo and Playboy. Instead, these feminists started to wear pants, clothes that weren’t figure-hugging and clothes that weren’t necessarily made for women. Some women stopped wearing bras, and bra-burning was popular among the feminists.

Woman burning a bra.

Fashion in the 60’s compared to now.
There are both similarities and differences when it comes to what affected fashion in the 60s and today. Today’s society is more open and things are not as controversial as it was back then. 

In the 60s, the hippies protested against the Vietnam War and expressed themselves through clothing. Today, there are rather few hippies and there is no such thing as a specific style protesting a certain cause. Nevertheless, we have got single garments like t-shirts, jewellery or scarves which can state opinions. In the past years, t-shirts with statements have become very popular. Many people wear t-shirts for instance to show what politics they support or if they are against nuclear weapon.

T-shirt saying: “Stop Bush’s Oil War”.

In the 60s, the young people wanted change and differences from the old and they provoked the older generation with short skirts and jeans. Jeans were supposed to be used while working and boys and girls were forbidden to wear blue jeans in school. It seems like their fighting for change somehow made it through, because today, jeans and mini-skirts are usually not provoking. Jeans are used by both sex and by all age groups. After the 60s, the jeans have become more and more popular and it is always in fashion, though we have seen many different kinds over the years. When a new fashion trend came along, in the 1960s, it usually stayed for a while. When it comes to the 21st century, fashion changes very fast. Fashion today is not very specific. Every season usually has garments inspired by different decades, mostly from the 20th century. The world have seen a lot of different fashion styles over the years and trends come and go, so we barely have time to be provoked anymore. Fashion today is like a mix of different styles over the years, cultures, statements, lifestyles and personal style. We dare to express who we are through what we wear and things are more accepted today, than it was before.

Even though fashion does not provoke as much as it did in the 60s, there are still happenings were people are provoked. Especially the older generation can feel that the young generation’s fashion is offensive because all of them haven’t experienced the globalization within fashion. Still, it is not as big generation gap as people experienced in the 60s. 

Due to globalization and immigration, we have got different cultures closer to us and many of us live in a multicultural society. We are constantly surrounded by cultures, whether it is in real life or on television or computers. One can say that in that little part the hippies in the 60s were influenced by other cultures has now grown a lot and it is not particularly strange for us to see for instance an African in a national costume.

Most of us live in a multi-cultural society.

Music has a huge affect on fashion today, as well as in the 60s. We can express what kind of music we like, through what we wear. Also, actors, singers and models have an influence on fashion today, just like in the 1960s.

Punkers today.

Today’s fashion is affected by the world and everything in it, just like in the 60s. But today people are engaged with different causes, which lead into many different fashion styles. When it comes to the 60s, many people were engaged with the same cause, which led into just a couple of different fashion styles, compared to today. 












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