Why I love SIxties Style – Part 2 (1966-1969)

posted in: History of fashion | 11

Part 1, on sixties style, elicited some brilliant reminiscences in the comments section. Not all my readers are old enough to have memories of the era, but they may have views about the style.

In 1966 Britain still seemed on top of the world. I remember watching the world cup (in B&W)  in my parent’s bed, and feeling pleased with the result. In fact the whole of the sixties is associated with colour coming in – to TVs, clothes, shoes, cars and life. Mary Quant entered my consciousness too. She was associated with youth dressing, great footwear, sharp hair cuts and the mini-skirt. In the photograph below the model is literally swinging from a lamp-post, or by a Zebra crossing, with the streets of London evident behind her. White boots – they weren’t practical – they were cool.



By 1967 there was something of a reaction. The naive but straightforward early 1960s enthusiasm for growth, British patriotism and simplistic answers was wearing a bit thin so the countercultural movement was growing. The Beatles wore military styles in “psychedelic” colours implying a pro-drug, anti-imperialist stance, and a critique of Britain’s role in the world. Meanwhile in Marks & Spencer shops around the country the “mini-skirt” was around 3 or 4″ above the knee and carefully coordinated with woolies and “American tan” tights. I seem to remember my mum being dressed like this – for childcare, housework and going to the shops.


The reaction to widespread immigration from the Caribbean and Asia was fairly negative in popular culture, which a meant that Till Death Do Us Part could be a popular TV programme. In France student and worker sit-ins and strikes seemed almost revolutionary, whereas in the UK there was industrial action. In fashion terms the explosion of colour in clothes, tights and footwear meant even young women on modest incomes could look really stunning and fashionable. Young people would begin to own lots of clothes – some of them (made of paper, or quickly at home for an evening event) were literally disposable.


I watched the men walk on the moon on TV. It felt breathtaking and unbelievable. Their space suits influenced fashion. Of course for those who couldn’t get quite so far there was still international air travel, even if it was just Spain or France. You could still dress like you were from the future, living in a capsule, or intergalactically. The sheer confidence of the decade still excites and inspires me – in the sixties we believed we could do anything. Mankind was optimistic and enthusiastic, unafraid and willing to give it a go. This seems so different to today’s anxious, confused and reticent world.

11 Responses

  1. Demented Fairy

    Ha ha 60s mums! I remember that it took me and my sister until about 1972 to get mum to shorten her skirts, then fashions shifted to the midi, and we spent forever trying to get her to lengthen them. To no avail. To my horror, she started wearing my discarded platform shoes after I left home in 1977, and stomped about in them [with the mini still] until…oh forever. The shame.

  2. Kim Hood

    Born in ’59 an brought up in NE England where the 60’s had little influence but I still shudder when I hear the words ‘American tan’. I think I managed to get my mum to change my dress pattern from the little girl full skirted job to a shift style in about ’68/9. If she was sewing for me now it would probably be that pattern. See why I sew?
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Stephanie

    It’s funny, just the other night I heard Buzz Aldrin’s government travel claim read on the radio: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/03/buzz-aldrin-travel-expenses-moon-apollo-11

    Having barely existed in the sixties, I missed all of those cool, colourful clothes and white boots (I would have been all over that one). The shoes are so good in the photos you have posted above. I want all of them! I do remember the American version of Till Death Do Us Part, which was popular all through the seventies.

  4. Jennifer

    The airplane photo reminded me that in 1970 (well, almost the 60s) my goal was to be a stewardess for PSA. The reason for my airline choice? The outfits! They were so “mod”, hot pink/orange short, short, short dresses with little round caps. It never happened, but I still love that color combination…Oh, and we American girls were obsessed with anything British!

  5. rosemary

    My first flight to Hawaii in1968, I’d never thought much about world affairs other than fashion. Then heard about the realities of the Vietnam war, that was an eye opener for me. I loved the Mary Quant clothes, the boots, my mini skirts were quite short by the early 70s.

  6. Hazel

    So many memories. Brought up in heart of Cheshire/Shropshire countryside the only access to fashionable clothes was to make them from ideas that I got from Jackie or Top of the Pops! That’s how I got into sewing. I saved for weeks to buy a pair of boots. My father took me to our nearest town to buy them. On returning home my mother said “what white boots in the country, how ridiculous ” and promptly made me return them. I was heartbroken but she was right of course. Rush hour was mainly cows heading along the lane for milking!

  7. Lesley

    Ah yes, I definitely remember the moon landing. My parents bought a B and W TV for the occasion I think. It was the same year we emigrated to Australia from the UK and my little sis’ was born in Sydney. Mum kept her platrorms and I used them as weights, training my legs for ballet!!

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