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Fashions of the 1960s: Mods, Hippies, and the Youth Culture

Dolores's interest in fashion history dates from her teenage years when vintage apparel was widely available in thrift stores.

Examples of iconic 1960s fashion include the styles worn by young people in London's Carnaby Street.

Examples of iconic 1960s fashion include the styles worn by young people in London's Carnaby Street.

The Youth Movement of the 1960s

Fashions of the 1960s reflected the youth. From the child-like short skirts of the mid-60s to the costume-type outfits of the hippies, clothing took on new lines, color, and the reflection of vibrant optimism mixed with an idealistic yearning for a new egalitarian society.

The introduction of the birth control pill encouraged women to seek a new kind of freedom. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased interest in African cultures as well as interest in other groups. Western youth no longer saw themselves as a homogenized whole, but as a collection of tribes with a wide variety of interests and self-created roles.

The 1960s was a time of social and cultural change due in large part to population demographics. According to the US Census Bureau, 36% of the US population was under 18 in 1960. A youth movement was underway.

The youthful population of the 1960s wore short skirts, geometric prints, and bright colors. From the casual sophistication of the early 60s to the pop art and op art influences of the mods, dress styles went through radical changes. Women had never shown so much skin. Men grew their hair long. Young people rejected traditional clothing and a kind of style anarchy created a new bohemian look introduced by the hippie movement.

A bride wears a mini dress that flies in the face of tradition, her bouquet a simple handful of daisies.

A bride wears a mini dress that flies in the face of tradition, her bouquet a simple handful of daisies.

Early 60's Fashion Icons

Emilio Pucci

Post-war designer Emilio Pucci introduced tapered capri pants and new lightweight clothing that was perfect for travel. His wrinkle-free silk jersey made in bold colors and vibrant color combinations created a new casual style with a youthful appeal.

Jackie Kennedy

The youthful first lady presented herself with a natural, yet sophisticated style in a manner that was classically simple. Mixing Parisian couture and a breezy, athletic American style, Jackie Kennedy favored boat-neck tops, trousers, and sleeveless dresses. Her formal attire lost the fussy look of the past, leaning toward clean lines and bright colors.

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn, the muse of Herbert de Givenchy, became a fashion icon influential to this day. She was tall and thin, following an era when the feminine ideal was curvy and robust. In her flat shoes and dancer's stance, she created a youthful new look without flashy ornamentation that relied on a natural grace as depicted in her films Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

Twiggy

A fashion model and muse for Mary Quant, Twiggy became a hugely famous figure in the early to mid-'60s. Thin to the point of emaciation, her androgynous appeal became the slouchy, big-eyed portrait of a modern girl. Her short, boyish hair and exaggerated eye make up gave her a unique look recognizable to this day.

Jean Shrimpton

Shrimpton was named Model of the Year by Glamour magazine in 1963 and was known for her long legs, pouty lips, and straight hair with bangs.

Mary Quant and the London Fashion Scene

A new affluence combined with affordable tuition allowed more kids than ever to attend college. The egalitarian influence of the newly educated lower class, mixed with the concept of the shared hardships during and following World War II, led to a youth movement no longer led by the elite. Young people rejected the snobbery of couture and the restrictive conservation of the post-war years.

In the Chelsea area of London, a haunt for artists and bohemians, the beatnik trends of the 1950s informed a look based on dancers' clothing, including short skirts, tights, and flat shoes. Carnaby Street, a fashionable shopping district in London, hosted the emergence of new, independent boutiques that focused on bold new styles.

A girls wears a mini skirt, patterned tights, and ribbed top.

A girls wears a mini skirt, patterned tights, and ribbed top.

Bazaar and the Birth of Mod

In 1955, Mary Quant opened her clothing shop called Bazaar, offering updated traditional styles and an informal shopping experience in a party-like atmosphere.
Designing clothes that offered greater ease of movement, Mary Quant introduced simple tunic style dresses that rejected the structured tailoring of the fashion establishment.

She featured jewelry created by art students in radically new designs. Her mini skirt was offered to young working women to enable them to run for the bus. And when gartered hose did not work with the short hemlines, she sold dancers' tights, then followed up with colored tights procured from theatrical manufacturers.

Bright colors and fabric patterns taken from children's wear mixed with bold geometric prints, puffed caps, and knee-high boots to create a modern, new look—Mod style.

Jeans were popularized and evolved into sailor-style bell-bottoms.

Jeans were popularized and evolved into sailor-style bell-bottoms.

The Abolishment of Dress Codes

In Britain, young working-class men began to adopt historical clothing based on Edwardian designs. From Edward VII's nickname, the Teddy Boys wore long, fitted jackets with velvet collars, brocade vests, and drainpipe trousers. Mods wore tight-fitting suits, grew their hair out like the Beatles and zipped around town on motor scooters. Rockers based their style on an American James Dean look with leather jackets and motorcycles.

Young men and women began to reject the dress codes of a conservative past when the elite establishment ruled fashion. People no longer dressed according to social position or time of day.

While the British dressed up, Americans dressed down. Jeans, once the uniform of cowboys and farmers, became the symbol of a new laid back kind of freedom. College students who no longer saw themselves as an elite class dressed for the common cause, breaking down social positions that were identified by manner of dress.

Jeans became the signature clothing item of the youth movement. The once plain work garment evolved into sailor-style bell-bottoms that came, no longer just in blue denim, but in a rainbow of colors, often featuring embroidery and appliqued designs.

Janis Joplin shows a bohemian-influenced style.

Janis Joplin shows a bohemian-influenced style.

The Hippie Movement and Fashion

In the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, a group of young professionals, artists, and musicians began to adopt a new bohemian lifestyle. Like the Aesthetics of the 19th century, the new bohemians rejected the dehumanizing effects of mass production and consumerism, as well as the roles dictated by society.