Defining Decades: Why 60s Fashion Is So Iconic

A hippy style volkswagen van
Francesca Montefusco

When we think of iconic fashion eras, a lot of us are quick to mention the 70s that give us the much-loved flares, and the bold fashion of the 80s. Or perhaps it’s the y2k looks that we see all over Instagram, reminiscent of the early 2000s. According to Impact’s Francesca Montefusco, 1960s fashion isn’t talked about enough.

The 60s was a time of MAJOR social change; second-wave feminism was in full swing, the civil rights movement took place, there was opposition to the Vietnam war and the beginnings of the gay liberation movement. An obvious sign of shifting attitudes was seen in how people dressed. And so, the 60s sparked a style revolution as outfits dared to challenge previous social norms. This, in my opinion, makes 60s fashion iconic. So here are some of the greatest trends that prove 60s fashion is an era of fashion that we should be talking about today.

More skin on show

The 1960s saw a second wave of feminism as women fought for equality, tired of being positioned as inferior to men and being told to be ‘modest’ and ‘lady-like’. Fashion was a way in which women defied patriarchal society. The mini skirt was a drastic change from the previous below the knee full skirts of the 50s. 1960s fashion icon, Twiggy helped make these new short skirts so popular. A lot of the outfits Twiggy was photographed in are inspired by the looks of flapper girls from the 1920s- another revolutionary decade for women. The new short skirt was a cute item of clothing, but it was also a powerful item about sexual autonomy, freedom and rebellion.

Similarly, the 1960s also saw a huge growing popularity of bikinis. The bikini has since become a timeless classic and the mini skirt is definitely in at the moment. These are being sold by big fashion brands like Urban Outfitters and Motel Rocks who always keep up to date with the current trends. A lot of our clothing has got increasingly smaller and sexier and we have the fashionistas of the 60s to thank for that.

Hippy fashion

Hippy culture never died out completely

The hippy style of wearing loose flowing clothing and men growing their hair long was also a form of fashion activism. The movement was about rejecting the status quo, and so a lot of the clothing was handmade as a rejection of capitalism. It was used as a powerful act of opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam war. Loose fitting clothing was about opposing the structure of the military and long hair was about showing defiance against male social expectations and the shaving of your head that came with being drafted for war. Although not as prominent in society today, hippy culture never died out completely. Fashion is still used as activism, especially with the growing awareness of the environmental impacts of fast fashion produced by huge unethical corporations.

Animal print

Animal print has been around since ancient times but in the 1960s the animal fashion trend became popular amongst the general public. Famous figures from the 60s like the First Lady Jackie Kennedy and actress Elizabeth Taylor were frequently photographed wearing leopard coats, depicting luxury and wealth. However, animal patterns also tied into hippy fashion which used more colour and wilder designs to represent greater freedoms. Many also preferred to partake in the animal print trend without showing support for the animal fur industry. Iconic 60s singer Bob Dylan also might have contributed to the love of animal print in the 60s with his song ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’.

Space Age fashion

The Space Race in the 60s also created some cool fashion. ‘Space age’ outfits were often boxy shaped, pretty short, and bold. André Courrèges was a very influential French fashion designer of the time whose designs came to define the ‘space age’ look. They were influenced by modernism and futurism, using new technology and fabrics. ‘Space age’ looks often featured white and silver colour schemes and quirky accessories like helmet-shaped hats and metallic boots.

A literal Chanel spacecraft was launched

Maybe we aren’t all dressing up like astronauts at the moment, but ‘space age’ fashion has made an appearance on the runway lately. Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall collection at Milan Fashion Week 2022 featured metallics and boxy outfits, and at Chanel’s Fall 2017 show in Paris, a literal Chanel spacecraft was launched.

Women wearing the trousers

Along with shorter skirts, women were also seen wearing more trousers. With women pushing for gender equality, trousers were one item that women wanted equal access to and women haven’t stopped loving wearing trousers ever since. A pair of jeans or cargos are still a go-to and we have 60s fashion to thank for that!

Suits for women were also created by designers such as YSL’s ‘Le Smoking’. This luxurious suit was a powerful outfit that openly challenged stereotypes. Women have been looking powerful in suits since and influencers like Matilda Djerf have got the younger generation of women on board with wearing suits.

Maybe influenced by the 60s fashion statements about gender, some men today are also doing the same thing. Notably, Billy Porter has worn incredible tuxedo gowns. Wearing his famous 2019 Gold Globes look, he told PEOPLE magazine that his “goal was to be a walking piece of political art”. He wanted to use fashion to break gender stereotypes and show support for the LGBTQ+ community. This year a similar amazing pink tuxedo gown was worn to the event.

Francesca Montefusco 

Featured image courtesy of Vasilios Muselimis via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @matildadjerf via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 2 courtesy of @theebillyporter via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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