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Nineteen Sixties fashion – A Century of Fashion

September 3, 2014

Nineteen Sixties fashion and the Swinging Sixties was a decade that in fashion terms, was all about fun. Teenagers had lots of disposable income, and they wanted to spend it on clothes. The clothes themselves were disposable, being thrown out long before they were worn out. In fact, a quick fad for the paper dress meant a garment that was literally worn for one time only.


After the deprivations of the war, and being brought up to be careful and make things last, they just wanted to do things differently.Clothes were shorter, brighter, and weirder in sixties fashion than ever before. Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Paco Rabanne made clothes from plastic discs, transparent plastics, and space age silver.

Nineteen Sixties fashion – Mary Quant

Mary Quant popularized the thigh high mini skirt in swinging sixties fashion and Vidal Sassoon the short, sharp bob, and asymmetric hair styles. A skinny rib polo neck balanced the proportions of the mini, and colourful tights and winkle-picker shoes completed the outfit.


An alternative popular look was to dress as a little girl: very short, flouncy baby-doll dresses were teamed with flat, round toed Mary Jane shoes, white tights and pigtails.

Dr Zhivago

The film “Dr Zhivago” introduced a whole different aesthetic to Nineteen Sixties fashion – long military coats maxi coats were now thrown over mini skirts and “Bonny and Clyde”, set in the 1930s, started a vogue for longer, more sinuous lines than the stiff, short triangular shapes popular up to now.

Nineteen Sixties fashion – Models

Makeup in Nineteen Sixties fashion emphasized the eyes, and both Twiggy and Penelope Tree, two of the most popular models of the age, emphasized their already enormous eyes with strips of false lashes, or painted on ones. Faces and lips were kept pale, so as not to distract from them.

Carnaby Street, London, 1966

Carnaby Street, London, 1966

Nineteen Sixties fashion – Hairstyles

Hair could be in the sharp Vidal Sassoon styles, the urchin crop, or the towering beehive. If your hair was not straight and heavy enough for a swingy crop, or abundant enough for an elaborate beehive, wigs were a popular solution.


Teenagers hung around the fashion Mecca of Carnaby St, admiring each other’s outfits and buying more. King’s Rd was another notorious hang out, and to keep up with sixties trends you really needed a new outfit each week.


Up till now, it had been impossible to leave the house without some type of hat and gloves, whatever the weather, and now millinery sales took a sharp dip as young women abandoned these conventions in sixties fashions (although some novelty styles were popular, such as the fluffy fur baby bonnet style, or plastic sou’wester).


For a vintage Nineteen Sixties fashion, simply search through vintage shop rails for a mini dress of lurid colours, preferably in a man-made fabric. Team with colored tights and pointed vinyl shoes, and backcomb hair into a beehive. Pale pink lipstick and heavy eye makeup (think Amy Winehouse here) make you into a Sixties Babe!


Paco Rabanne

Mary Quant

“Dr Zhivago”