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The Fashion Revolution of The Sixties

The Sixties decade introduced innovative change that radically influenced all aspects of American culture, not the least of which was how Americans dressed though not in the early years of the decade, in fact the mini-skirt didn't make it's debut until 1966. The fashion trends of the late Fifties were still being followed during the early years of the Sixties. The Lady's Home Journal and television continued to depict housewives ironing, vacuuming and cooking while they wore crisply starched cotton dresses, and high-heeled shoes. Kick-pleated pencil skirts were worn with twin sets and glamour was important. Jackie Kennedy, the First Lady of America's Camelot, wore smart and feminine suits (think Coco Chanel, classic and conservative) and her famous pillbox hat. Jackie's style was emulated by American women across the Country. Women continued to wear bouffant hairstyles and men maintained crew cuts and marched in to the Sixties wearing their late 50's conservative suits in dark shades of brown, blue and gray, blissfully unaware of the trend-setting revolution around the corner.

Also at this time a segment of the population was influenced in fashion by the "Beat Generation" or "Beatnik's", a counterculture of bohemians who frequented poetry readings in the smoke-filled coffee houses of New York's Lower East Side and San Francisco. The "Beat's" fashion statement was one of nonconformity as evidenced by the women's heavily, black lined eyes, long and straight hair, and darkly monochrome (usually black) stirrup pants with a turtleneck top or slim skirt worn with tights and turtleneck top. Men of the Beat Culture also dressed predominately in black and sported either a goatee or thin beard along the jaw-line. Overall this fashion look was one of rebellion and dark mystery.

The influence of Hollywood rebels such as James Dean, and the arrival of rock and roll performers like, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis was seen by the growing "tough" guy attire of white t-shirts, levis and leather. As the Baby Boomers came of age during the early Sixties their dress became more and more casual and nonconformist.

By 1963 hemlines were beginning to creep up and the emphasis on legs in patterned tights and "go-go boots" became popular.

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In 1966 the British fashion designer, Mary Quant burst on to the fashion scene with the mini-skirt. Revolution was in the air! The androgynous fashion model, Twiggy, Model of the Year, Jean Shrimpton and Britain's mod scene took America by storm.  Hairstyles for women were either swinging long with shaggy bangs, worn in the five-point cut made famous by Vidal Sassoon, or cropped boyishly short as worn by Twiggy  and, later on, Mia Farrow. The Beatles arrival to the United States in February of 1964 and their enormous influence on American youth could be seen in the trend of men sporting long side-burns and hair. The Cuban-heeled and pointy-toed "Beatle boots" became popular with the young men at this time.

In 1966 the Beatles  made their first pilgrimage to India. It is here that they experimented with the psychedelic drug, LSD, as they sought spirituality and enlightenment. Upon their return to the United States in 1967 they visited San Francisco's, Haight -Ashbury where the "Summer of Love" was in full bloom. The Indian influence was showing up in the popular Nehru jackets being worn by men and "Hippies" emerged from the communes of Haight-Ashbury expressing their "make love, not war" and anti-establishment philosophy through their radical "anything goes" fashion choices.

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Clothes became a way for the youth of the 60's counter-culture to make a statement about their generation's protest of American involvement in the Viet Nam War, issues of women's rights and the era's Civil Rights Movement. Unisex dressing was popular and both, young men and women were wearing bright, psychedelia -inspired, clothing. "Love-beads", bell bottoms, long hair and tie-dyed t-shirts and granny dresses  were popular. The culture of the young African American influence was appearing in fashion trends such as colorful kaftans and afros, worn by blacks and whites of both sexes.

The unrest and dissatisfaction of the 60's generation was clearly expressed through the fashion trends they set. In the midst of this revolutionary time in history women were demanding equal rights as they shed their girdles and burned their bras. The introduction of "the pill" in the 60's is credited for the daring new freedom of exhibiting more skin and open expression of sexuality being displayed by the youth of the time.

The conservative dress and social values of the fifties were a distant memory in the wake of this newfound openness, originality and freedom brought about by the post-war, baby-boom generation.


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Fashion in the U.S. during the late 1950s had interesting restrictions. Women's trousers usually had side fastenings, as front zippers for women were considered "naughty."



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Sixties Girl
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60s: Mods and Hippies
60s: Mods and Hippies


Jean Shrimpton 60s model

Jean "The Face" Shrimpton

Super Model of The Sixties


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