Women’s 1960s fashion was extreme style and attitude from the start of the decade to the end. In the early years, the fashion idol was Jackie Kennedy with her perfectly white pearls and tailored suit dresses. By the middle of the decade, supermodel Twiggy had women freeing their minds and bodies into clothing that didn’t require any extra thought or effort. From modest to “there is no such thing as too short,” 1960s fashion was in many ways like the 1920s flapper revolution.But it didn’t happen overnight.
Jackie Kennedy’s style was clean, simple, well fitted, with perfectly matched accessories. She wore dresses without collars and jackets that buttoned only with one large top button. She wore sensible low heel shoes (although many women still preferred high heels). She was the last woman to wear hats, a pillbox hat, as a necessary fashion. Jackie O’ put a lot of care into her look, and women in the USA and abroad copied her style with enthusiasm.
Sadly, after her husband’s assassination, Jackie was no longer in the public eye. Women had to find a new 1960s fashion idol to be inspired by.
Brigitte Bardot was that woman. She was Jackie’s opposite. Jackie was put together, simple and modest. Brigitte was tacky, cheap, bold, and even silly. Her 1959 pink gingham wedding dress with white lace trim was so unexpected that gingham and lace quickly became the new trend.
It was the whole idea of a return to youth that drove most of the fashion in the 1960s. Oversize collars, bows, and delicate trim miniaturized women and made them appear smaller. Shapeless mini dresses de-emphasized a woman’s natural form.
The full skirt and tight bodice of the ‘50s dress continued in the early ’60s, with a slightly above or at the knee hemline. The style didn’t last long before the ‘50s pencil dress loosened up and turned into the shapeless “shift dress” in 1963.
How short a woman’s dress was became a sign of how confident she was (not necessarily that she had great legs). Hem length was directly proportional to how women felt about their own sexual liberation. Short skirts were not meant to attract men for the sake of sexual interest, but instead were a way to attract attention so that a WOMAN could be the one to decide if his attention was wanted. Sexual power through fashion.
The jumper dress was a Mary Quant invention that captured the youthful, playful, side of 1960s fashion. That style immediately made a 20-year-old look 10, a welcome change from the ’50s mature fashion. Big bows, large round collars, pastels, and polka dots were all dress details that made women look like little girls’ dolls. The more innocent the better.
Campbells soup cans were all placed on short shift dresses. Being over the top was never too much. Eventually “pop” settled down into soft pastels, pique fabrics and gingham checks made for a gentler “girly” appeal. There was also a trend of earth tone colors, especially as the decade moved toward the hippie movement. Moss green, earthy browns, mustard yellow, burnt orange were common colors year round.