Not since the 1920’s had an era so drastically altered its perception of style and attempted to separate itself entirely from the decades before. Prior to the 1960’s, 50’s fashion was characterized as prim, elegant but proper, with midi dresses and skirts, tea dresses and clothing that denoted what they called ‘proper forms’ of masculinity and femininity in terms of clothing choices. In the sixties it was like the world had woken up from its style slumber, colours became brighter or monochrome, geometric shapes inspired by various art movements like ‘Op Art’ became popular and a convergence of musical and digital media inspired tastes led to social and aesthetic led change, transforming the sixties political, cultural and social landscape. One of the key movements associated with the sixties was the ‘Mod’ trend which was described as ‘young peoples fashion’ by the legendary Mary Quant. Quant is best known for popularizing the mini skirt but she also triggered the augmentation of the monochrome trend, the psychedelic movement as well as other mini-Mod related trends. While Quant did not invent trends, she put them on the map for sixties style lovers and shortened skirt lengths to retaliate against previous fashions that refused to allow women to show their legs. The sixties wasn’t just ‘sexy’ but it was fashion forward, futuristic and fun.
Prior to the sixties, youth culture led fashion was often described as ‘watered down versions’ of adults clothing choices but for the first time the sixties was inspired and created by youth culture. They commercialized ‘pop art’, worked 9-5 jobs so they could parade their ‘fashions after dark and even created trends that had never been seen previously. A common ‘Mod look’ before it waned in popularity in 1965, was a monochromatic or colour-blocked geometric shift with thigh high boots and Vidal Sassoon’s ‘ five point’ hair cut, inspired by models like Twiggy. It was razor sharp and androgynous, yet still laced with a smattering of femininity. The merging of gendered fashion had almost become unisex and both men and women were likely to borrow elements from each others wardrobes. Style had never been so unified and although the 70’s and 80’s were seen as the decades that were ‘infamously androgynous’, it was the sixties that engineered and pre-mediated the androgynous look.
The 1960’s was a definite style powerhouse and even today it is clear that many trends that we see as modern is really just a patchwork of 60’s led styles. For example the popular brand Missoni is inspired by the 60’s mini art movement known as ‘op art’. While op art is often confused with pop art, there is a clear marked difference and that is in both its construction of shape and the materials it uses to cultivate its ‘trend’. Op art is designed to give an illusion of movement by merging conflicting patterns although both art forms are seen as abstract art components. Today Missoni uses the ‘zig zag’ and stripe print that was so popularly used in the 60’s op art movement, although prints are woven instead of printed to mark a difference in periods. But it is not just the op art movement that inspired modern fashion. Arguably Quant’s mini skirt look which was popular with mod subcultures still remains a bold fashion statement today. Note teens and young adults wearing printed mini skirts with knee highs to give an illusion of a ‘longer leg’ while others combine elements of decades past i.e. 90’s and 80’s but weaving into an ultra modern framework, inspired by the sixties.
But it was André Courrèges who became the designer of the decade after creating simple geometric designs-often monochromatic-, while pairing them with white go-go boots and a sharp razor bob to match. Fashion to him was central to the 60’s motto of ‘doing your own thing’, thus creating fashion that was personalized to ‘you’. While Courreges is often associated with ‘space age couture’, simple geometric shifts, cut-outs and mini skirts that we see as popular in modern fashion, is all thanks to his simple 60’s mod designs. Although the latter part of the decade gave way to the psychedelia movement as shown in Austin Powers, it was the first half of the decade that had the biggest impact on the way we view and consume fashion today. Today we are empowered and in most cases have the freedom to wear what we want. 2016 was a hodgepodge of styles, ranging from the 90’s bomber jacket to the 50’s midi skirt but it has always been the sixties that has had the greatest impact on how fashion is constructed in modern style. Thanks to the sixties we wear mini skirts, shift and babydoll dresses, favour monochromatic or colour blocked looks and that is just the tip of the ice berg. Whoever your style tribe, I am almost certain that there is an element of sixties fashion, inspiring your perception of personal style.
Are You A Fan of Sixties Fashion?
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