English Fashion Movements in the Sixties

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2001

7 Pages, Grade: 15

Free online reading


1. Some Catchwords:
1.1 Fashion Role Models
1.2 Twiggy
1.3 Prêt-à-porter Fashion

2. England as a Fashion Oasis in the Sixties:
2.1 Mary Quant
2.2 Biba

3. Different Trends:
3.1 Space-Look
3.2 Hippie-Fashion
3.3 See-trough-Look

4. Men’s Fashion:
4.1 Suit
4.2 Shirt
4.3 Tie
4.4 Sweater
4.5 Trousers
4.6 T-shirt
4.7 Coat
4.8 Shoes
4.9 Hair-Style

5. Bathing-Suit Fashion:

6. Sportswear Fashion:

7. Comprehension : Sources

1. Some Catchwords

1.1. Fashion Role Models:

At that time, fashion idols like Julie Christie, Jean Shrimpton, Brigitte Bardot and Jacqueline Kennedy followed and also set new trends. Jacqueline Kennedy, ”First Lady of America” dressed herself youthfully and wore trousers in public. Her shift dresses became soon a popular trend and her hats were an important accessories to the wardrobe.

1.2. Twiggy

Being boyish slim was a trend of the sixties and it was best presented by Leslie Hornby, better known as Twiggy. Later this “thin as in” became a beauty ideal for women. Twiggy was only 17,when she got a contract with a British fashion magazine, she thinks back

“After eight hours of cutting, tinting, highlighting, and drying, the trademark Twiggy style emerged.[…] They kept drying it [her hair] to see if it fell right. Those haircuts have to be absolute precise. The back was just an inch long, with a tail, and the front was very smooth. I thought it was marvellous.” Shortly afterwards she was elected “Face of the Year 1966” by the “Daily Express”.

1.4. Prêt-à-porter

Being the leading power of fashion, youths influenced the top designer houses, and changed their selling strategies. This led to the establishment of distinguished fashion houses in which Pret-à-porter fashion was sold . This ,so called “ reach-me-down haute couture “ was attainable for a broad mass, and was soon a main business for designers like Yves Saint Laurent or Cardin.

2. England as a Fashion Oasis in the Sixties:

In the Sixties England became a oasis for all kinds of fashion, and in “Swinging London”, in the Carnaby Street and Chelsea Road one could get everything the heart was longing for. New technical vehicles like film, tv set, and broadcasting supported the spread of the new cultural appearances.

Every Friday at 18:08 some 12 million British people sat infront of their tv’s and consumed the show ”Ready Steady Go” from the London Wembley studios. In this show teenagers appeared with knee-length Bermuda shorts or short skirts with sewed on stickers, or with Union-Jack jackets from the guitarist of the band “the who” , with flower shirts, painted blue jeans with self-made holes, old military jackets or velvet shirts.

2.1. Mary Quant:

Mary Quant and her husband Alexander Plunket Green already opened the shop “Bazaar” in London, in 1955.Mary did not like the cloths she sold in their second-hand shop and started to create her own fashion out of cheap fabrics.

“cheap-to-make (and to buy), ready to wear, exuberant outfits made for the irreverent , the young, and the slim. Her fashions combined severe tweeds with laces, riotous stripes with bold checks; she designed rib-tight poor boy sweaters and vests made of knotted string, shiny plastic raincoats, fishnet glovers, foolish patterned stockings, and great fox-fur hats in the style of the Cossacks.”

In 1962 her creations were published in the Vogue and Mary Quant became soon a promising new fashion talent.

Although, many of her innovations were a great win for the fashion sector ,she is mostly known for one piece of clothing - the Mini (skirt). It became symbol of the morally free and enlightened way of thinking in 1965. in 1966 Mary Quant even got the “Order of the British Empire” for her merits for the British fashion export.

Her shop became a prosperous company and she supplied shops in the whole world with not only her Minis and other cloths, but also with Mary Quant pantyhose’s, make up, and accessories. Mary Quant’s fashion was the fashion of the “Swinging Sixties”, how she referred to that time period.

She offered trendy fashion(swinging shirts, bell-bottom pants, etc.) for prices that were hardly higher than in the department stores, and so it was attainable for everybody. This was the simple recipe for her great success.


Barbara Hulaniki, called “Biba” was also a representative of the new trends in the Sixties. She delivered her fashion for cheap money in all parts of the United kingdom. In 1964 she opened the boutique “Biba”, which she closed shortly afterwards to manage a department store that sold her fashion.

3. Different Trends

3.1. Space-Look

“The future has also begun in fashion,” wrote a fashion magazine. Here, you have to name especially André Courrèges, who was more or less the founder of this futuristic look. Since, he his real occupation was architect for bridges and pilot, his fashion was characterised by clear, plain lines, contrasting colours, preferably black and white ,and materials like lac , and silver shining fabrics.

3.2. Hippie-Look

In the middle of the sixties the Hippie wave came from the United States to Europe, and was very opponent fashion to the Space-Look. The Hippies were against racial discrimination, class distinction , discipline, and especially against the American participation in the Vietnam-War. They wore colourful , unconventional cloths, that were inspired by people from distant cultures. Young women wore loose, long skirts or jeans. Everything that was practical, useful or representative was rejected by them. The obviously most important sign of the Hippie culture were the flowers ,which you could not only find as hair decorations, but also imprinted on jeans, T-shirts ,and skirts . Those flowers created terms like “flower-power”.

The Hippie culture is also seen as the root of the alternative scene of the Eighties, and the Nineties .

3.3. See-Trough-Look

The “sexual revolution” was of course, also a new ides of the fashion of the Sixties. That is why ,designers created see-through blouses, which were worn with underwear . Courrèges kept his style and designed dresses with broken through geometrical forms. Yves Saint Laurent created e.g. a long transparent cocktail dress, that was worn only with a scarf around the waist. Hot pants with a pantyhose underneath became also very popular in the movement for “physical liberation”.

4. Men’s Fashion

From the mid-sixties on, men’s fashion also experienced a change of the style. Until 1964 the fashion was hardly different from the fashion of the Fifties, but the generation born after the Second World War had different ideas of fashion and wanted to create their life after their own ideas. They demanded justice, enlightenment together with the end of prejudices and self-deception in every political, moral ,and sexual level. Surely, men’s fashion was also influenced by the new trends of the fashion for women, but the biggest influence was the style of celebrities like the Beatles. Still, conventional cloths like suits, shirts ,and ties kept their place in the society ,because especially in the working world the new way of dressing was not well seen.

4.1. Suit

Suits became more figure-conscious in a way that the jackets were waisted and the trousers were narrow at the bottom. To get a view at the shoes ,the trousers were relatively short, too short for today’s fashion. Suits for the day were light coloured and often striped, in the opposite for the suits for the night which were mostly worn in dark colours. For special events , the smoking with a matching smoking shirt was a must. The middle of the Sixties brought also thin, white turtle-neck sweaters, which were worn for example by Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan.

4.2. Shirt

The short sleeved button down shirt became the “classic” leisure outfit. Shirts now appeared in a new variety of colours, styles and also new materials. New fabrics like nylon gave the shirt the right stiffness, and the white could have hardly been whiter. Unfortunately, touching the crease-proof and iron free shirt gave most women occasionally an electric shock.

4.3. Tie

Not only shirts opened men many new opportunities to be “in”, also the tie became an important accessoire . Ties became broader and were available in all colours and with all kinds of patterns.

Trendy ones were decorated with butterflies ,meadows and trees , or with automobiles.

Geometric patterns, and crazy colour combinations were as popular as ties imprinted with romantic scenes. A variety of fabrics was also there, one could get ties out of cashmere, satin, wool, or synthetics.

4.4. Sweater

In the Sixties the lifestyle became more sportive , and men wanted to be dressed comfortable. This was the victory foe sweaters in the daily life. Turtle-neck sweaters, or V-neck sweaters worn by themselves or over a shirt with a suit were now able to be worn at high society events.

In 1968/69 was the tank-top sweater the fashion hit for boys.

4.5. Trousers

“Single” Trousers

“Single” trousers , without a matching smoking , were worn with a sweater or jacket. They fitted right at the hips and were relatively long, very popular were the striped and checked ones, and trousers with hering-bone or the jacquard patterns.

Blue Jeans

Jeans got especially popular in men’s fashion, at first as leisure pants later for the everyday life. Parents found the washed out blue jeans ugly and rejected them. They also did not like the lack of a crease, the strong seams and sewed on pockets, and jeans to be creased and untidy.

Blues were liked by both sexes and at first a sign for an “anti-civilian” ideology.

4.6. T-Shirt

The T-shirt, which developed out of the cotton undershirt, was the ideal complement to the blue jeans. In 1952, Marlon Brando wore it already in a movie, showing off his muscles and his sex appeal. In the sixties ,it was available for men and women, in all kinds and colours ,and was worn in the place of a shirt.

4.7. Coat

In the sixties, one wore Suede or Napa leather coats, coats out of lambskin with fur on the inside or fur collars , or you could find rain coat or tweed coats. Sportive coats with sewed on pockets were worn everyday and to every occasion. Also trenchcoats were very popular. Even though ,coat were available in every kind and colour ,they lost their function as a protector of bad weather, and since more and more people could afford a car, they took the function as a weather protection.

4.8 Shoes

Narrow and pointy shoes vanished ,and men and women could get more comfortable shoes. Men wore mostly slippers or shoes with rubber soles, and with a suit they wore patent leather shoes or patent leather boots. At the end of the Sixties boots with high heels were not only “in” for women ,but for men also, they tugged the pants in the boots, though.

4.9. Hairstyle

“He looks like a Beatle.” The haircut of the Beatles, with the long hair ,that covered ears, parts of the forehead, and the necks, was seen by grown-ups as unclean ,and unmanly . Apart from their music the Mushroom-cut was rejected, that fact supported most teenagers even more to get that haircut .

The shoulder-length hair of the Hippies was also a sign for the conflict between the generation, because the hair was supposed to show the refusal of the conventional way of thinking.

Having long hair was the way to exaggerate to own existence and to mystify her ,it expressed wild fantasies of the uncivilised life together and the romantic dreams of big city Indians and the nature loving Hippie in a world of industries. The man thing was to shock!

5. Bathing-Suit Fashion

In this fashion direction, one could celebrate the final victory of the bikini. The toplessbikini creations of the designer Rudi Gernreich were unsuccessful, and were just a sensation for the yellow press.

6.Sportswear Fashion

In the beginning of the Sixties sportswear became more and more a part of the fashion movement, because functionality was not enough anymore.

To go hiking men and women pants than went down to the knee made out of latex, tweed or suede leather. Tennis outfits were decorates with laces, or motifs to add colour. Also, base-caps and head-bands were worn to emphasis the sporty appearance.


At the end ,I want to summarise most important movements shortly.

In the Sixties , the youths were the main buyers of the fashion, and so designers created fashion ,which was young and cheap to keep them satisfied. This worked best for designers in England ,and there especially for Mary Quant, who produced with their ideas and innovations fashion mostly for teenagers.

There were besides plastics ,artificial leather and PVC also lac and plush. There was the Space-Look, Op-Art-fashion, the Hippie culture ,and the See-Through-Look. Although, we have to understand that these were not worn by broad masses, but like today only existed in magazines or for a minorities. Trousers, at first only a alternative to the skirt became soon a fashion hit ,and expressed the new self-confidence of women. The Haute Couture remained not untouched by those movements and had to adjust, that was the beginning of the Pret-a-porter fashion, that was available for a good price in little boutiques.

Fashion was due to a increasing consciousness for the nature and physical fitness defined through comfortable leisure outfits. The most used fabric was “blue denim”, coat, bikinis ,and jackets were produced out of it.

In men’s fashion ,innovations were mostly seen in the leisure outfits. Suits , shirts, and ties remained as “working-outfits”. Only details changed ,and the cloth got more colourful, the ties broader and imprinted with more motifs; coat got shorter and the turtleneck popular. Blue jeans and T-shirts beat all other cloths, even though they were not liked in offices or schools.

7 of 7 pages


English Fashion Movements in the Sixties
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ISBN (eBook)
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English, Fashion, Movements, Sixties
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Alexandra Preuß (Author), 2001, English Fashion Movements in the Sixties, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/105186


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