When I was in the Victoria & Albert museum I took this photograph of the 1960s cabinet. A nice range of clothes showing a variety of 1960s trends. Including some paper dresses – back row in turquoise/green and black and white op-art. The lovely red dress in the foreground is by Courreges, and the suit on the right is by Foale & Tuffin.
I am not shaped like a boy, or a young girl. I have an hourglass type figure. Yet I love the sixties style.
There is more to the sixties than looking like Twiggy. Let’s listen to Mrs Mole.
“It is the 60’s for me. It gave us more freedom to use colors and shapes and the youthful looks our mothers never had. It was the first generation to have their own look and not borrow from the previous ones. I have patterns I sewed back then and can’t bring myself to ditch them.”
I am very much in the same way of thinking (maybe it is our age, who knows?). I remember the 1960s. There was, as Mrs Mole notes, a change in the law on abortion and contraception, divorce and women’s employment rights. Class barriers began to be reduced and working class people could access a better education, jobs and other opportunities. The London scene – encompassing music, art, fashion and social behaviour – was incredibly seductive and successful. We felt technology and science could deliver real change – an end to hunger and disease. We got a man on the moon, saw JFK take over in the States and Harold Wilson in the UK. Martin Luther King made some headway in terms of anti-racism in the US and made his “I have a dream” speech. My own social housing organisation, Notting Hill Housing Trust, was formed in 1963. In 1968 student demonstrations in Paris were so threatening to the old order that Charles de Gaulle left the country, for a while anyway.
Here’s some historical images, and a corresponding fashion shot for each year.
I remember learning the Twist with my Aunty Beryl and cousin Clive. There was instruction on how to do it on the television. I can still do it now. And Chanel was seen as bit old-fashioned, but also very upmarket. My Mum had a Chanel suit, which she wore a lot.
The image from 1962 is the Aldermaston march arriving in Hyde Park. I live very close to the Park and I like this image as it shows just how many people walked from the laboratory where they were researching the nuclear bomb to London. Lots of people I knew growing up were on that march, or claimed they were. It included Labour and Communist members, trade unionists, Christians and students. The other image is of a Valentino wedding dress from the same year. I saw it fairly recently at Somerset house. I liked that exhibition – mainly for the short films showing incredible craft skills in the workshop. I think of those films every time I cut bias strips.
The explosion in the universities started to happen in the early 1960s, as young people from less privileged backgrounds began to access good quality further education. This photograph is from York. When I went to University in the late 1970s it was still basically free for people who couldn’t afford to pay, and heavily subsidised for those that could. In the 1960s students wore tweed jackets, fitted skirts and quite formal looks. The amazing Yves St Laurent hat just speaks to his original, innovative approach to designing – taking inspiration from peasants and nuns as well as from history, art and dance.
Top of the Pops was launched at the start of 1964. On the first show there were: the Rolling Stones with “I Wanna Be Your Man”, Dusty Springfield with “I Only Want to Be with You”, the Dave Clark Five with “Glad All Over”, theHollies with “Stay”, the Swinging Blue Jeans with “Hippy Hippy Shake” and the Beatles with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Phew! The most electorally successful (alongside Tony Blair) leader Harold Wilson became the Prime Minister in 1964 giving the pipe, the Scilly Isles and the Gannex raincoat a much higher profile.
What do you remember from the 1960s?