How to Date Vintage Clothing: the 1960s

The 1960s was a very interesting time for fashion.  The decade saw a lot of change, not only in styles and fabrics, but also in whom popular fashion was directed toward.

 

 (via Centre Fashions)

1960s Style Overview

The early part of the decade was still rather conservative, however fashion ideals began to change very quickly into the mid-60s.  Until this time, fashion was mainly focused on adults, taking inspiration from high fashion and couture houses.  This began to change in the 1960s as the tastes and preferences of the youth of the time became just as important in the fashion world.  Designers began to create clothing for the younger generation, and youth became highly celebrated throughout North America and Europe.  The prices of clothing for young people became affordable, so it was readily available to the general public.  Music, television and fashion became synonymous with one another.

The mid-60s saw a lot of new innovations and sources of inspiration in fashion.  The “space age” look became all the rage with lots of metallic and unusual materials.  Also popular was the Mod movement, which took inspiration from trendy high fashion European designers.  The Mod look was well-tailored, with clean lines and very slim silhouettes.

(Model Twiggy in a space-inspired outfit, via The Mean Reds)

(Mod style, via Mod Fashion)

Also popular during the mid-late 60s were the overtly flamboyant Edwardian-inspired looks and the beginnings of the hippie movement.  The flamboyance was of British origin and featured lots of opulent velvets, ruffled collars and cuffs, cravats for men, etc.  On the flip side was the hippie movement, which began during the end of the era.  This was very much inspired by political goings on of the time and tended to be quite androgynous.

(Colourful outfits on Carnaby Street in London, via heha_stepbystep photostream)

1960s Silhouettes

The early 1960s still, for the most part, adhered to the fashion ideals of the late 50s. However, silhouettes during the 60s quickly began to change dramatically from those of previous decades.  Most notably, the hemlines of skirts and dresses rose above the knee in toward the middle of the era, thus creating the mini skirt.

(Typical early-60s dress, via Christine’s 1960s Fashion Page)

During the early sixties, Jackie O. was a huge inspiration in women’s fashion.  Two piece suits with pencil skirts and short tailored jackets were very popular, along with the “pillbox hat.”  The hourglass silhouette was still fashionable, though skirts began to become narrower as time went on, eventually becoming slim-fitting pencil skirts.

(Jackie O. in the early 60s)

As the decade progressed, the defined waistline of the 50s started to relax, giving way to garments that were either slim and tight fitting all the way through, or loose garments that hung off the body.  Dropped waistlines became stylish again during the mid-1960s, as they had been during the 20s.  The difference here was that hemlines were now quite a bit shorter, so the proportions of the look were different than in the 1920s.

(1960s dropped waist dress, via MintageClothingCo on Etsy)

By the mid-60s mini and micro-mini skirts were all the rage.  Tent, shift, baby doll, and angel dresses all reflected the youthfulness of the time and were seen on the general public, as well as celebrities and musicians.

(Examples of popular 1960s sleeve styles and silhouettes, via SewKnotMe)

The latter end of the 60s saw the beginnings of the hippie movement, when the bellbottom pant first came into fashion (and was later popularized even more so during the 70s.)  These silhouettes tended to be quite free flowing, mimicking the social mindsets of the time.

(The beginning of the hippie movement, via What About the Beatles?)

Fasteners

Garments during the 60s started to have zipper fastenings in the back more frequently, as opposed to in the side seams during previous eras.  It was still common to see zippers in the side seams of pants, skirts and shorts, however they could be found in the backs of these garments as well.

A huge indicator of a post-50s garment is what type of zipper it has.  During the 60s, toward the end of the decade, nylon zippers started to be used in place of metal ones.  If your garment has a nylon zipper, it is most certainly from the mid-late 60s or later.

Seam Finishing and Fabric

The mid-60s saw the use of serger sewing machine rise dramatically in the fashion industry.  Until this time, sergers were not widely used to finish seams, as they were very expensive and not readily available to the public.  However, during the 60s, this began to change, especially later on in the decade.

Fabrics in the 1960s were all about bold, bright and graphic prints.  Synthetics grew in popularity and could be seen in all ends of the fashion spectrum.  Fabrics such as polyester, nylon, acrylic and even vinyl and PVC were fashionable.  Rayon, a fabric that had been used widely up until the mid-50s, was rarely seen in fashion during the 60s.  It had been replaced with the popularity of nylon, a fabric that was considered very stylish and versatile.  Nylon was used very often in undergarments, slips and sleepwear during the 1960s.

(Nylon sleepwear set, via Ruby Lane)

This period of time also saw the use of blended fabrics.  It is common to find garments from the latter part of the decade with blends such as 65% polyester/35% cotton, etc.

Labels

Fabric content labels, like we have today, started to be placed in garments during the 60s.  Prior to this they were not used in clothing.  Labels, for the most part, were still embroidered during the 1960s.

(A common late-60s style of label, via Deadly Vintage)

 Other Tidbits

Another notable 60s fashion phenomenon was the popularity of the bikini.  Until this point, swimwear had tended to be on the conservative side.  With the popularity of youth culture, however, beachwear became much less conservative.

(60s bikinis, via DigitalNZ)

During the 1960s, shoe shapes changed from previous decades.  The use of a square toe in footwear became trendy, and low thick heels were used in place of the thinner stiletto heel of the 50s.    Pumps remained stylish through the decade.

(A pair of 1960s shoes, via Candy Says)

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