The 1960’s according to River Island was a period characterized by ‘vintage faux suede fringe jackets’, large sunglasses and the ‘infamous Mary Quant esque’ mini skirt, as made popular by the youth culture in the 1960’s. But there is more to the sixties than the ‘Mary Quant’ postcard image’ and its safe to say that allowing ourselves to re-interpret fashion history, through another brand like River Island’s ‘gaze’ can be elementary to how we construct our own fashion identity. For example River Island’s A/W 17 collection encompassed traditional elements of sixties fashion such as the large oversized sunglasses as popularized by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), the tweed boucle jacket worn by Coco Chanel in 1954, but rising in popularity in the sixties ‘mature fashion’ scene and of course the ‘skinny scarf’ which ‘while more popular in the 1920’s and 1970’s’ , the skinny scarf was often worn as a ‘head scarf’ like in the 1940’s when women wore them as ‘propaganda’ uniform. At the same time, the A/W collection sought to re-interpret 60’s trends like the ‘skinny scarf’ and give it their own, modern ‘River Island’ flavour by utilizing textures like velvet and brocade and mixing it with ‘cool sixties trends’.
Naturally the look below bears comparison to a ‘fusion of historical era styles that have been patchworked together to create one unique look’. For example while the ‘button popper’ skirt is sixties at first glance, the rich burgundy colour of the a-line skirt is more synonymous with the 7o’s who favored autumnal, earthy and jewel tones as opposed to its sixties predecessors who loved acidic and primary brights that brought into psychedelic, new wave fashion. On the other hand the fishnet tights is more aligned with the punk rock subculture of the 90’s, where fishnets were worn as a form of ‘angst and self expression’, although they would have been worn with DR Martens, as opposed to the tonal sock boots that are demonstrated throughout this lookbook.
So while River Island might have been inspired by the ‘cool factor’ of the 60’s whose trends were dominated and controlled by the ‘youth culture’ of the era, at the same time its modern re-interpretation of sixties fashion overlaps other fashion history eras like the 90’s (fishnets), the 70’s (the boxy fedora/floppy hat hybrid ) and modern fashion (the sock boots). So what does it mean therefore in relation to my statement that River Island had been inspired by the sixties this winter, if the trends showcased are actually more representative of a patchwork of fashion eras as opposed to one specific era influence?
Well it is a simple fashion formula, the concept of the sixties is often centered around ‘tonal dressing’ that has been inspired by previous decades. For example the skinny scarf was a 1920’s trend used to draw attention to ‘the drop down waist’ that flappers wore, but in the 60’s was worn with a-line, gender neutral silhouettes, drawing parallels with the 1920’s because they were both eras that embraced gender neutrality. You only have to look at David Bowie and his alternating ‘stage persona’s in the late sixties and seventies (Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke) to know that the late sixties was a period of transgression from heteronormative alignments, whereby fashion icons, musicians and other public figures created an ‘androgynous challenge’ and defied the heteronormative expectations of gender and sexual orientation.
As you know it is common for women to wear trousers today but it wasn’t until the 1960’s and 70’s that trousers became gender neutral as opposed to something that only men would wear. And it’s the same with the look below; skirts were once worn by both sexes but over time evolved into something that was associated with women. And yet today artists like Jaden Smith are showing that we all have the ability to ‘wear clothing’ and make it our own, regardless of what gender we may be. Because we have to remember that gender is a social construct and the only way that we can ‘break stereotypes’ is through looking at fashion history and noticing the pioneers like Audrey Hepburn and David Bowie who put two middle fingers up at the society in which they lived in. And more and more retailers are cottoning onto androgynous identity as a form of self expression with sixties gender neutral trends like the Chanel boucle jacket made from tweed, brocade velvet and embroidered jumpsuits such as the ‘nudie Suit’ worn by Elvis Presley who championed the ‘wild west wardrobe’, bearing similar replicas at River Island.
But like I said, when it comes to brands or even individuals like myself looking back into fashion history, we should look to be ‘influenced and informed’ by fashion trends as opposed to ‘imitation’ even if it is the sincerest form of flattery. For example the A/W 17 catwalk show was heavily inspired by the 60’s with cool mod, a-line shapes and bright, bold primary colours. Yet at the same time, the mod dresses were adorned with flamenco inspired ‘ruffles’ and the bold colours were often juxtaposed with prints like the moody ‘floral’ as showcased above that is more indicative of the 1950’s and 90’s as opposed to the sixties.
Thus it shows that my own personal interpretation of the 60’s is also interlinked with the 70’s and 90’s, although my own personal style identity is very much ‘personalized to who I am as a person. For example my formal wear is often inspired by Old Hollywood Glamour with soft pastel pleated midi dresses and ornate embroidery, whereas my ‘casual wear’ is usually interlinked to the 60’s and 70’s with a typical uniform involving a mini skirt, faux fur jacket, fishnets and heels, with a floppy hat to throw the outfit together. At the same time, like the brands that are so popular in mainstream fashion culture, my fashion identity is constantly evolving, even when it has been inspired by ‘eras throughout history’. We have to remember that trends are recycled throughout time, and that while I don’t necessarily follow fashion trends because I believe we should be able to ‘wear whatever the f**k we like’ without being told what is ‘hot and what is not’ at the same time, I am influenced by fashion trends which is prevalent throughout my wardrobe.
Do You Find That Your Fashion Choices Are Influenced By Sixties Fashion?
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*Tights are from UK Tights
My River Island Picks