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By Olivia Pinnock
Few decades have been as game-changing as the 60s. It was the start of youth culture, popular music as we know it and of course, modern fashion. It was both incredibly of its time and ahead of its time, which is what makes it one of the most re-visited inspiration points for designers today.
There seemed to be two different ‘sixties’ in terms of fashion–the one that started in Paris, with the creation of iconic items such as the shift dress, pill box hat and boxy brocade jacket by the likes of Givenchy, Dior and Chanel–and the other one that began later in London. Influenced by the Beatles, Twiggy and Carnaby Street, designers from Britain and beyond, such as Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin and Ossie Clark were shocking the world with their innovative materials, loud patterns and body-revealing cuts.
What this means for lovers of vintage is that no matter what your taste, there’s a 60s vintage look for you.
The Sophisticated 60s
We consulted one trader at the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair, Sarah Horrillo, for her tips on how to get an elegant, early 60s look. This part of the era was still influenced by the womanly 50s, but was moving into a more streamlined style, as exemplified by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To imitate the style, Sarah suggested the following:
–Accessorise with a good classic handbag and timeless, elegant clip on earrings, like those below.
–Look out for (rare!) vintage Givenchy cocktail dresses. Failing that, aim for a classic black shift dress, cut below the knee.
–For a more casual, every day look, go for form-fitting jackets, like this one below, from Courreges, and matching them with flats and Capri pants. Wear a Breton striped top underneath.
–Search for strings of simple, ladylike pearls, which defined the sophisticated 60s woman (think Jackie Kennedy).
–Look for funnel necks in coats, dresses, jackets and sweaters. Ensure these are created from rich materials, like tweed, wool or brocade.
–Keep heels low. Kitten or chunky mid-range heels are best, but ballerina flats are also perfectly paired with pants.
The Swinging 60s
As the decade moved towards the 70s, things got a bit more psychedelic. Youth, pop music and drug culture all played a role in influencing fashion, as did Pop Art, the sexual revolution, and the creation of new, man-made materials.
We spoke to Jane from House of Dartmouth, one of the booths at the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair, to get a few tips on how to rock a late 60s vibe, and here’s what we learned.
–Go for bold, geometric prints; it’s energetic, dynamic and makes you feel empowered. Don’t be afraid to mix two different tones, prints or fabrics too.
–For investment pieces, Ossie Clarke, Mary Quant and Biba are the iconic British labels to look out for; if undamaged, they’ll only go up in price if you ever decide to pass them on.
–For a lesser known but equally important 60s vintage clothing designer, seek out Andre Courrèges. Heralded as a ‘designer for the Space Age’, he was a pioneer of using PVC (a brand new material at the time), metal and plastic in his designs. Whilst Mary Quant is often credited with inventing the mini skirt, many insist it was in fact Courrèges’s brainchild.
–Pop Art ruled the day. If you come across a dress with a Warhol soup print or an original YSL Mondrian dress, snap it up! You can plan your retirement now.
–Cut-out shapes in dresses, bare midriffs and high hemlines are all 60s signature looks. They were shocking at the time, but can be a fun addition to your summer wardrobe.
–Look out for chunky, bright coloured jewellery in Perspex, glass or plastic–a brand new material at the time.
–Enormous sunglasses ruled the day. Go as bug-eyed as you dare! Enormous sunnies keep sun damage away from your eyes, too.
–For a truly 60s look, tights are a must, especially in winter. Don’t be afraid to make a bold colour choice here–even go for patterned or textured tights.
–Silhouettes are looser; hips are lower slung and dresses relaxed from form fitting shapes to A-lines–the shorter, the better!
With the catwalks referencing the 60s in one form or another season after season, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your fashion history and find yourself a 60s gem that’s unique, original and saves beautiful and iconic clothing from landfill.
For more information on where to find vintage fashion, please click here.