Sixties, Please!

vor 4 Monaten
The 1960s were a decade of profound changes. These were the years of newfound freedom and a new taste for novelty. This era was definitely turned towards the future, unlike its predeceasing decade, the 1950s, which instead reinterpreted pre-war codes to reassure and appease the crowds. A generational clash was inevitable. This led to the emergence of protests and social movements. This was reflected in the women’s silhouette of the time.
The 60s were characterised by a takeover of the youth who sought a total break from their parents and authority. The figure of the woman is an example of this chronological, rapid break as it is diametrically opposed to the archetype of the 1950s (illustrated by the model of the suburban housewife). The hourglass silhouette, present at the time, is inspired by Christian Dior’s retrograde New-look, which hugs women’s waists and accentuates their shapes with sets of shoulder-pads and petticoats. The woman of the 1950s is therefore a reinterpretation of the patriarchal pre-war model where her place is in the kitchen, but still well-dressed. It is the image of a woman wearing makeup with her hair done to vacuum, as seen far and wide in the hey day of American advertisements.

The silhouette of the 60s, meanwhile, does not mark the forms of the woman. The silhouette focuses on freedom of movement. The skirts were shortened to become mini, allowing more fluid motion, under the creative impetus of Mary Quant or André Courrèges. The A-line hems suggest the waist of women without marking it. This drastic change in women’s wardrobe shows a desire for a generational breakthrough, and it serves as a vector for the societal demands of the time. In the 1960s, the youth are protesting around the world. This decade will come to represent a time self expression and progress, especially in Europe: the sexual revolution, the student revolts in France in May 68, and the marching for racial equality throughout the States are examples illustrating global change, brought by the youth.

The new birth of the hippie movement is also emblematic of this era. This act of communal rebellion was committed by the first generation who grow up without war. This peaceful movement exploded at the dawn of colonisation wars in Vietnam or Algeria. This new way of life brought great cultural impacts, and was strongly inspired by the Beat Generation, in particular by the novel “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. The hippies acted for peace and liberty, first in the US, and ultimately had global impact.
The demands of this decade shook the entire fashion industry. It is the birth of ready-to-wear that will implore consumerist habits of shopping, aside an explosion of trends, as clothes are no longer unique but produced in a series. Yves Saint-Laurent will be a forerunner in high-end ready-to-wear with his Saint Laurent Rives Gauche boutique.

Up until then, fashion was dictated by the Haute Couture designers, and then copied by the local neighbourhood seamstresses and housewives. The creation of Ready-to-Wear made designers accessible to everyone, announcing the end to the supremacy of Couture. This change of direction in the world of haute couture brought many upheavals at the creative level, and new designers of the time begin to emerge, such as Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges, and Paco Rabanne. Haute couture was then inspired by the street unlike the previous decade, in which the streets were inspired by designers and their clothing collections themselves. Couture adapted to the codes of the time, and began to adopt a more casual approach, along with the A-shaped silhouette. The current revival of mini skirts and freedom of motion in dress is conducive to new innovations, which will allow creations of a new type– inspired by the conquest of space and contemporary art. We saw many innovations and new materials emerging, such as rhodoïds at Paco Rabanne, and PVC and vinyl at Courrèges and Cardin. Art also inspired many collections, with new surprising strings of creativity emerging: notably the surrealist collaboration between Paco Rabanne and Salvador Dali, or the famous Mondrian collection of Yves Saint Laurent. This century of revolt has allowed the advancement of many societal issues, and the development of youth in a political, economic and social framework the world had never seen- and is prevalent most in fashion of its era.

Text by Marien Brandon
Images Courtesy of Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, and Yves Saint Laurent

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