I LOVE those decades. I do. At least the idea that I have of those decades, since I wasn’t alive at that time. I think it has been an incredible time for human rights, freedom of speech, women empowerment, LGBT social movements, sex revolution.
Young people, tired of war and injustice, decided to go to the streets and tell the government that what they were doing was wrong, that they didn’t agree and that they were ought to be heard. I’m thinking about the US, where students learned how to use their voices through peaceful demonstrations. Or May 68 in France, a social turning point in which students and workers protested against capitalism and consumerism.
Such a powerful time for people to be free and express themselves! And fashion has always been an excellent way to do so. This was the time when most of the current vintage trends became popular: from flares to bell sleeves, shearling coats, jumpsuits, Mary Jane shoes, and mini skirts.
A range of style icons like Jane Birkin and Jean Shrimpton made popular an effortless wardrobe, like some jeans and a white t-shirt.
Supermodel Twiggy had women freeing their minds and bodies into clothing that didn’t require any extra thought, as wide tent dresses.
Jackie Kennedy was known for her tailored suit dresses and perfectly matching accessories. The ’70s fashion was marked by Jackie’s signature oversized sunglasses, maxi dresses and menswear-inspired suits.
There was a new emphasis on ready-to-wear, as fashion houses started to use standarized sizes so as to offer cheaper prices. The garments were available to everyone but produced in limited numbers.
Yves Saint Laurent was first designer to launch a ready to wear collection, and in 1966 he opened Rive Gauche, his first ready to wear boutique. Smart call, since the prêt à porter eventually earned many times more than the haute couture line.
Other couture houses started to imitate the street style, developed by young people customising their clothes and combining different fashions. It was inventive, comfortable for women, fun and practical.
Mary Quant, for instance, was making colorful prints for her short dresses, shorts (called hot pants at that time) and mini skirts. She said: “It was the girls on the King’s Road [during the Swinging London scene] who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter.'”
André Courrèges‘ designs were influenced by young artistics movements of that time: modernism and futurism. He was later called the Space Age designer. He created angular mini skirts and trouser suits in black-and-white color schemes, then highlighted the designs with oddities such as safety glasses and helmets taken from astronauts.
Pierre Cardin was also known for his avant-garde style and his Space Age designs. He prefers geometric shapes and motifs, often ignoring the female form. He also made colored jeans popular.
I believe the 60’s and 70’s represented many recognizable social movements which helped reshaping our mentality. The fashion period was the most exciting one since youngsters were creating the trends (and most of them still stand up today). They were telling designers what they wanted to wear, and not the opposite. Thus, fashion houses realised that they needed to make garments more easily available for the people, instead of being a luxury only the rich could afford. Fashion was changed forever.