After of clothes in the Sixties, experimenting

After World
War II the manufacturing of couture became crucial to the economic recovery and
prestige of both France and Britain; thousands of people were employed in the
trade. Haute couture was a handcraft industry. Every garment was ordered and
made to measure for the individual client and was created in house by
specialist dressmakers and tailors. Embroidery, beading and ribbon work was
outsourced to specialist ateliers such as Lesage in Paris and S. Lock in
London. Paris was known worldwide as the centre of luxurious high fashion, some
designers became household names such as Dior, Chanel and Balenciaga. Their
collections dictated changes in style. London couture was led by royal
dressmakers like Norman Hartnell and other members of the Incorporated Society
of London Fashion Designers up until the sixties. For it was in the
sixties that the entire structure of the fashion system was challenged from
bellow. The prestige of the couture came under attack, as new designers and
boutique owners began to give attention to a new youth market, and adult women wished
to look like their daughters. A new generation of designers brought fresh ideas
to the making and retailing of clothes in the Sixties, experimenting with
materials such as plastic, synthetic fibres – Perspex, PVC, polyester,
acrylic, nylon, rayon, Spandex, etc. – to create easy-care outfits that were
eye-catching and fun, also
paper to create disposable fashion, and clothing made out of metal creating a
futuristic, space age look. Designers such as Mary Quant successfully
challenged the dominance of Paris fashion and opened boutiques selling
affordable, youthful styles; their creations became successful export
epitomizing ‘Swinging London’.While it
is always interesting to compare the clothing of the beginning of the decade
with the grab at its end, the Sixties is particularly significant, reflecting
so dramatically the vast social changes that occurred in the intervening ten
years. The transformation was attributable not only to post- war prosperity and
the shift to suburbia with its informal lifestyle, but also to the youth
movement which rebelled against established dress codes. Increasingly,
entertaining took place at backyard cookouts, and eating out meant fast food
drive ins, so there were fewer dress up events. Comfort became universal in the
form of pants. Hence fewer dresses were necessary to complete a wardrobe, while
those that did appear in catalogues, as well as in clothing shops, were
distinctly more formal and differed markedly from their casual counterparts.
Pants, the dominant article of sixties apparel, came in a wide variety of
styles and covered most occasions, and ages. 1960s Fashion prior to the British
Invasion in 1964 was a continuation of the late 1950s. Most of us associate all
1960’s fashion with short skirts, but the short skirt was not really worn by
many people until 1966 and not worldwide until 1967. The trend before the mini
skirt and mini dress, the straight shift, which had developed from the sack
dress from 1957, was still well below the knee. But with the Beatles
came a new and very different fashion influence not Paris or Milan but ‘Swinging
London’. Fashion in the 1960s Britain was representative of just how
accelerated cultural change could be; it symbolised the optimism and
entrepreneurship of the ‘babyboomer’ generation, as it came of age, its
colourful inventiveness in vibrant relief against those earlier privations and
the British fashion industry, and many of the creative industries found a new
international eminence and attention. The brand-new post war ‘babyboomer’
generation was proving that it was a power to be reckoned with. They had energy
and sheer numbers on their side and they turned the designers away from
catering to the old and wealthy to creating fashions specifically for young
adults. As the phenomenon continued teens and even pre-teens were also included
for the first time. The youth of the sixties were the symbol of the growing
distinction between the generations, and with increased economic means in a
time of almost full employment teenagers were identified as a profitable
consumer market. The pace and experimentation that was then taking over Britain
made the young people of the nation desire for change. For many of them life
would be very different from their parents, and in 1960s British fashion would
reflect social and cultural change. The country was said the have launched into
an age of unparalleled lavish living, a new world.Mary Quant
without any real training in fashion, -as she was a young art student at the
time-, possessed of a clear vision, she decided that she wanted to provide fun
and excitement in the form of clothing to ordinary girls like herself. Quant
stated in her autobiography that she found everyday apparel for both youth and
adults boring and very unpleasant on the eyes – ‘To me adult appearance was
very unattractive, alarming and terrifying, stilted, confined, and ugly. I knew
it was not something that I wanted to grow into’, she also said the following
‘I hated the clothes the way they were, I wanted clothes that were much more
for life, much more for real people, much more for being young and alive.’. Quant
began her business in 1955 when she opened her first boutique, Bazaar, in
London’s King’s Road. Bazaar catered for a new generation of young,
newly-affluent adults who had time to enjoy shopping, it inspired many imitations
in ‘Swinging London’, and out
of her small boutique in London hit upon the winning combinations and created a
fashion feeding frenzy starting with the mini skirt. Styles which were
previously driven by the necessities of the middle class were now being
designed for young people who constituted a newly empowered buyers’ market. Quant
anticipated an age; her clothes were fresh, breezy and bright, at a time when
Britain was still grey and boring. Quant found London girls seeking newness
only too willing to try her new darling short mini skirt and the fashion trend
took off because it was so different; and to wear it well, you had to be
youthful to get away with an outfit that was so controversial, particularly
among adults. The Quant style was soon known as the Chelsea Look. The shapes
Quant designed were simple, neat, clean cut and young. They were made from
cotton gabardines and adventurous materials like PVC. The Kings Road in Chelsea
became one of the main clothes centres of the Sixties in London, following the
success of a small lane behind Regent Street near Oxford Circus, called Carnaby
Street. These were the fashion shrines of British youth in the early to
mid-Sixties. By 1965 Carnaby Street had become the centre for boutiques, with
all the latest clothes for the dedicated fashion followers of ‘Swinging London’

 In the 50s and
60s most of today’s new materials were known particularly technical plastics
and composites. So were certain steels, engineering ceramics and non-ferrous
alloys. However irrespective of industrialization problems the prevailing
economic conditions precluded their wide distribution. Over time plastics have
become ubiquitous, inescapable and unremarkable part of our surroundings and
everyday life in the modern world. Back in the fifties and before that plastic
was not a very well-known material, it was not often used in mass produced
products, but the in the sixties that changed. Plastic became a material that
was used in most products, such as furniture, toys, electronics, other gadgets
and of course plastic was used for fashion as well. From hard plastic
accessories to PVC coats and miniskirts, anything was possible, as the youth
took over, and rebelled against old social standards and rules. Plastics were
associated with positive ideas at the beginning of the decade, as the material
represented innovative change and progressive modernity.

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 It was in
1967 that the social revolution of the Sixties reached its peak. It was the
year of ‘flower power’ with the ‘summer of love’. The hippie movement later in
the decade also exerted a strong influence on ladies clothing styles, including
bell bottom jeans, tie dye, batik fabrics, as well as the well-known flower and
paisley prints and the stylised daisy – an adaptation of Mary Quant’s logo-
became the universal emblem of the new look. While focusing on colours and
tones, accessories were less of an importance during the Sixties. People were
dressing in psychedelic prints, vibrant, eye catching colours and mismatched
patterns. Young people around the world erupted in rebellion in 1967. The
effect on fashion was immediate and powerful. At the time thousands of young
people flocked to San Francisco to celebrate a new culture of love. Flower
power replaced space age futurism, and the new Carnaby Street became Haight
Ashbury, a district of San Francisco, where the hippie movement originated
from. Many of the same people who had been mods became hippies, who’s hair was
long and wild, used drugs, favoured exotic, colourful and psychedelic styles.
Their anarchic patchwork of clothing also boasted of journeys to Morocco and
India. When flower powers first became a theme in fashion, the flowers
themselves initially intended to be pop in style. Flat, bright, geometric
daisies (Mary Quant) were very much in favour. Brightly coloured plastic shoes
with a daisy on each toe represent a typical example of the transitional look,
but soon there was an emphasis on natural fibres, plastic was definitely out of
style.

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