Mary is someone who doesn't believe any previous era was "better" overall, big picture -- but stylistically speaking, a case could be made!
A Fabulous Era for Fashion and Style
Between the buttoned-up Father Knows Best 1950s and the beard-and-bell-bottom 1970s was an incredible decade for fashion: the Sixties. It was one of the most exciting, diverse times in style history: Contrast Jackie O's neat pillbox hats circa 1961 with Janis Joplin's headscarves, beads & feathers in the latter part of the decade.
I find all of it fascinating and fun, but I think my favorite part is the early 1960s. Fashion in the early 1960s clearly marked a transitional period. In that period, style--like music--retained some classic or traditional influences while hinting at the revolutionary changes to come.
Here, some key elements of early 1960s fashion, modeled by the era's coolest fashion icons.
[image: Jean-Luc Godard from A bout de souffle (Breathless), 1960]
1. Pixie Cuts for Women
Jean Seberg (at top) rocked this close-cropped hairstyle in Jean-Luc Godard's famous 1960 film A Bout de Souffle (Breathless). Audrey Hepburn was arguably the most famous pixie pusher. Icons like Twiggy and Mia Farrow took the cut into the later '60s, proving this look had legs. It's not for everyone (I could never wear it as an adult, although I had this cut for about 15 minutes back in 1969, at age 3!). But when it works, it works. The fact that pixie cut Emma Watson is, even now, a stone-cold hair icon is testament to the staying power of this style. Bonus: Keep up with the frequent trims needed and there should be very little other maintenance to worry about. It's a giant among sixties hairstyles.
2. The Tailored Suit
In the early 1960s, every well-dressed woman wanted to look like Jackie Kennedy, pictured here during her tenure as First Lady (1961-63). And to achieve that she needed a suit--preferably a pastel one with a short, boxy jacket and oversized buttons. Check out Vogue covers from, say, 1963, for a look at how prominent these soft-colored suits were, along with patterned (checks!) and textured ones. Meanwhile, in the men's fashion world, the Beatles were rock'n'role models in their skinny, mod-ish matching suits. Thanks to the suit trend, early 60s fashion was a fairly buttoned-up affair, especially compared to the later part of the decade.
Early '60s French pop singer Francoise Hardy was a vision in streamlined style: boy-cut trousers with little sweaters, boots, jackets...a look that would go on to influence designers like Nicolas Ghesquiere -- who called her "the very essence of French style" -- decades later and to aesthetically (and otherwise) inspire much better-known musicians like Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. And her iconic, eyebrow-grazing 1960s bangs still hang like a hipster flag on millions of young and young-at-heart women. While Hardy wore them as part of a low-key style that might not stand out in any coffee shop today, the beehive -- a more dramatic look, reportedly invented in 1960 by an Illinois hairstylist -- also looked fabulous with bangs, especially on stylish pop sensations like the Ronettes.
4. Cropped Pants for Women
I'm a charter member of the I Hate Capri Pants club, but I have to admit, cropped trousers -- sometimes referred to as pedal pushers, which apparently are longer in inseam than "clamdiggers" -- can look good on a select group of women (alas, myself not included). Basically you've gotta channel the young Mary Tyler Moore--in attitude, at least, and bonus points if you've also got the physique (old Dick Van Dyke Show episodes -- available via Hulu, Amazon Prime and some other streaming services -- from the season's first few years are excellent sources for early sixties fashion inspiration); keep the cut fitted thru the leg; and take the crop closer to the ankle than the knee. In terms of ubiquity, browsing through early 1960s American Bandstand episodes has led me to believe trousers never came close to overtaking skirts, and the early '60s shows a transition from full 1950s skirts to a much more straighter style -- sort of the skirt equivalent of the straight, tailored pant. If the wry Mary Quant quote "A woman is as young as her knees" resonates with you, this trouser style is a great alternative for channeling early '60s fashion throughout the ages and stages of life.
5. The Miniskirt
Arguably the best known symbol of 1960s style is the Mary Quant mini skirt. There's some debate about whether London designer Quant really invented the style (some say it was modernist-minded French designer Andre Courreges), although she does appear to have named it -- after her favorite car, the Mini. (Mary Quant was a fascinating fashion figure whose career actually began in the 1950s -- for more on her story and road to success, check out this interview from the "Dressed" fashion podcast.) Whatever its genesis, the miniskirt got a big boost from model Jean Shrimpton, who made waves at the '65 Melbourne Cup Carnival (above) in a shift-style minidress that would soon be ubiquitous. (Tip for fans of the model: the 2012 film We'll Take Manhattan depicts photographer David Bailey's extramarital affair with Shrimpton and a 1962 Vogue shoot the pair did together in NYC.)
6. Ballet Flats
Like all fans of cute but comfy shoes, I owe a staggering debt of gratitude to Audrey Hepburn, who helped popularize the ballet flat. Still going strong after all these years, it's a wardrobe staple for fashion-inclined females of all ages. Of all the trends on this page, this one is probably the easiest to incorporate in your modern wardrobe. Try leg-elongating pointed toe flats by Vionic -- a brand known for employing comfort technology unknown back in the 1960s -- in this tortoise pattern that goes with everything (even other animal prints; go ahead and mix them!) and adds a retro flair but will never go out of style.
(image copyright Capitol Pictures CAP/PLF)
7. The Bikini
Gotta end with a bang, right?? Although it was invented way back in 1946, the bikini really took off with the release of Beach Party, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, in 1963. The scandalous suit also got tons of publicity from young bombshell Brigitte Bardot, who used it more or less as a uniform on St. Tropez. Bardot's style was in some ways was the polar opposite of Francoise Hardy's lanky almost-androgyny, but that's the cool thing about the early 1960s: It was an era of diverging aesthetics, beautifully balanced.
Look the Part
Fashion Design: Keeping the Early 60s Alive
Arguably the top torch-bearer for early sixties style in the early aughts is New Girl's Zooey Deschanel, who sported much of her mod-nautical design collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger in an episode of that show. (Much more successful product placement than the bizarre Prince episode, IMHO.)
Today, designer Eva Franco crafts (in the USA!) many looks inspired by the bygone-era Hollywood glamour -- often with '50s-inspired flared skirts, but she charmingly showcases some great early '60s influences as well. And I'm not just saying that because she's one of my favorite purveyors of USA made clothing!
Doubt the lasting inspirational value of sixties fashion? In my mind it's no coincidence that a robust current shopping site for vintage clothing is called Shrimpton Couture.
Below, a helpful fashion history video describing the differences between early '60s fashion and styles popularized in the mid and late '60s. Its commentator places some of the early '60s fashion trends I've listed on this page -- bangs, miniskirts -- more in the mid 1960s era, but I think that's because she's splitting the decade into three parts, rather than two-part perspective I took. Enjoy!
Early 1960s Fashion vs Mid 1960s, Late 1960s
"Mad" for Sixties Style
People showcased the "huge" fashion impact of AMC's Mad Men--set in the early '60s--in its September 28 '09 issue. Banana Republic even launched a Mad Men clothing line and corresponding ad campaign. Wasp-waisted, full-skirted dresses--like the one on actress January Jones, at right--were a super-feminine flipside to the streamlined sheaths also big at the time.
Early 1960s Style Comes to Late Night
One of the most fun style-channeling moments of recent years was when K-pop juggernaut band BTS transformed into the Beatles circa 1964, recreating the Fab Four's Ed Sullivan appearance, on modern late-night TV via The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in 2019.
Carey Mulligan won an Oscar nom for her lead role in the 2009 film An Education, set in early 1960s London. As a gifted teen whose road to Oxford University takes a detour when she begins an affair with a man twice her age, Mulligan is a perfect fit for the era's fresh, streamlined styles.
The glorious female, African-American NASA mathematicians who helped make America's space program possible finally got the Hollywood treatment they deserved in Hidden Figures, a film set at the Langley Research Center circa 1961. While fashion isn't center stage in this movie, of course, stars Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer sport some excellent examples of the boxy tailored suit.
Too Marvelous for Words
I was thrilled to learn that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had been renewed for a season 4, coming in 2022, partly because the plots and subplots are fun and diverting, but mainly because the timeline should take us solidly into early 1960s fashion! Fashion foreshadowing was already present in season 3, set in 1960, with looks like the boxy tailored suit Midge wears in a visit to her family home. While she still sports 50s silhouettes for most of season 3, albeit gorgeous ones, I can't wait to see what the turn of the decade has in store.
Sixties Fashion Queen
The 2020 Netflix series Queen's Gambit brought 1960s style to life in full, messy color through the chess champion protagonist, played by Anya Taylor Joy, who develops a sense of personal style over time. With the storyline beginning in the 1950s and ending in the late '60s, we're able to see the evolution of fashion through her character's wardrobe. Looks #6 through #18 in this ranking of Queen's Gambit outfits showcase the early '60s fashion in particular.
Pedal to the Metal
While not everyone loved her character's development (or lack thereof) in the fun Matt Damon vehicle -- pun intended! -- Ford Vs Ferrari, the movie's setting in 1963 allowed the lovely Catriona Balfe to showcase early 1960s fashion. As the Damon character's wife, Balfe sports several of the style symbols listed here, including well-cut cropped trousers and cute blunt bangs.
Early '60s Fashion: Why So White?
Obviously in real life--streets, homes, schools and workplaces--these elements of early '60s fashion were worn by women of all skin tones and ethnic backgrounds. But that was absolutely not represented in fashion magazines of the era. (Young beauty Dorothea Towles spent five years walking the Paris runways but faced stark discrimination in the fashion world upon returning to her native U.S.) One near-exception in the 1960s was the gorgeous African-American model Donyale Luna (born Peggy Ann Freeman), who really took off in the mid to late 1960s but was "discovered" in 1963 by fashion photographer David McCabe, who was visiting her hometown of Detroit on assignment. She decided to move to New York a year later and in 1965 was featured on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, but only in the form of a sketch that makes her race/ethnicity unclear. (To be fair, her ethnic roots were African-American, European and Native American, so not easily pigeonholed.) In March 1966 she graced the cover of British Vogue--and her career took off from there, paving the way for Naomi Sims in the later '60s and into the 1970s. For more on Donyale Luna, check out this piece by her daughter. And enjoy Zendaya's glorious 2020 tribute to the first black supermodel for Essence magazine.
New York's Fashion Institute of Technology offers this brief but helpful timeline of 1960s fashion, using Audrey Hepburn's evolving style as a symbol of the decade's progression from 1950s tailored shapes to late '60s hippie romanticism -- and touches on menswear and children's clothing, too.
Sarah Jessica Parker narrates the evolution of 1960s fashion in this fun video from Vogue -- including an early '60s fashion element I forgot to include in this article (!): the overtly space-age inspiration of Andre Courreges, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne and other designers as space exploration became a goal for President Kennedy, America and the world.
Marie-Claire celebrates the staying power of 1960s fashion in this collection of "game-changing looks we're still into today."
For another take on the topic, see Elle's slide show of "iconic '60s fashion trends we still love today."
"The Miniskirt Myth" is an intriguing writeup on the real history of this iconic symbol of women's style liberation.
If beauty trends are more your thing, check out these suggestions from Byrdie on "How to Wear 1960s Hair in 2021" -- including pixie cuts for women -- or this 1960s makeup timeline from Glamour Daze. This showcase of evolving hair trends through the 1960s (from Jackie Kennedy's flipped bob, Aretha Franklin's beehive haircut, Twiggy's pixie cut hair and Vidal Sassoon's sharply geometric style to afros and flowing hippie locks) is also a delight.
For a look at the top '60s fashion models who showcased the fashion, hair and makeup, see this list (caveat: with the exception of Donyale Luna -- nee Peggy Ann Freeman -- and Naomi Sims, who weren't well known until the late '60s, it's not the most diverse bunch).
And finally, while the legendary Biba store didn't open in London until 1964, this podcast interview with Biba designer Barbara Hulanicki is a delightful stroll through a fascinating fashion decade, starting with a mail-order pink gingham shift dress that was absolutely emblematic of early '60s fashion.
The same podcast that featured Hulanicki has a great, relevant discussion on Mary Quant too, with Jenny Lister, curator of the 2019-2020 Mary Quant exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Do you incorporate any early '60s style elements into your look? Which do you love? Hate? Who's your favorite icon from the era? Or hey, just say anything ;) Thanks for the visit!
© 2009 Mary
RoadMonkey on November 02, 2013:
I was a teenager in the 60s but lived away from the swinging towns! And my parents were not set to let 60s fashion reign in their house. My father had a row with my brothers who wanted to have their hair a la Beatles - it wasn't allowed! I would not wear a mini skirt for a long time. it felt too "exposed", but my parents didn't mind us listening to pop music, so Beatles songs got played a lot in the house (on the radio) and in the car. Transistor radios were just coming in for people to be able to listen to the radio outside, no cassette players and no one had ever heard of personal computers and DVDs and CD players. :)
Elaine Chen on October 07, 2013:
this lens has good reference for those who are attending sixties theme party :-)
Socialpro54 LM on June 06, 2013:
I love the pictures
nognat on May 31, 2013:
Really like your post. Good choice of info!
Danijela from Serbia on April 19, 2013:
My favourite icon from this era is Brigitte Bardot. She is the best fashion icon in the world.
Mary (author) from Chicago area on March 14, 2013:
@JeffGilbert: hmm, I just checked on etsy & only saw 2 pair, both from the 70s. missed that trend!
JeffGilbert on March 12, 2013:
My girlfriend is enamored of a lot of the looks from that time. As a guy, the one thing I can't find from those times are mohair pants. Great lens!!
anonymous on February 07, 2013:
Just so you all know, bikinis are actually an ancient invention; there is an ancient mosaic (Greek?) with pictures of girls in bikinis - I saw it on televsion years ago, prrobably a documentary.
kuadal on October 16, 2012:
great lens , simple concept i think for sixties style , and more mature and elegant , Michelle Obama match for this style , mommy but elegant
junie12 on September 26, 2012:
This lens is great! I loved the sixties style, my daughter does too, that says something about the fabulous clothes and hairstyles that today's generation love as well!
nickybutler on August 25, 2012:
Absolutely love this lens! Cannot get enough of the sixties :D Some lovely photos too :)
Mary (author) from Chicago area on August 23, 2012:
@Annbulance2000: really? did not know about the cowbell trend. was it like this? http://www.etsy.com/listing/78961663/vintage-50s-6...
also didn't know Biba carried rulers! not a bad place for back-to-school shopping, eh??
Annbulance2000 on August 23, 2012:
I loved the sixties. Mum and I went to Biba in London. I would have been about 10 years old. It seemed very modern and exciting.I remember buying a ruler for school, some incense and a cowbell. everyone was wearing cowbells.
vintagebaby on August 23, 2012:
loved your lens and images, a fun read, thanks!
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on July 05, 2012:
I love Jackie!
joannalynn lm on July 04, 2012:
I didn't realise my choice in clothes is very 60ish, as what is see here (sans the tailored suits), is what I wear. I'm wearing a shift style mini-dress today (just above the knee, not mini-mini), I really like capris and clamdiggers (they do well on me), I have long hair and keep bangs (the pixie is not for me), I just pulled a couple of wasp-waisted, full skirted dresses out of my closet yesterday....you get the picture. There is an online retro store in Oregon called Rustyzipper, and I dream over the 60s period clothes. This is a great lens. I love Audrey Hepburn. She was such a natural beauty.
CoeGurl on May 25, 2012:
Fantastic lens! Audrey Hepburn was truly a fashion influence.
crazy anna on May 07, 2012:
I love the style of this era, spot on <3
Blonde Blythe from U.S.A. on March 19, 2012:
I love (and wear) bangs! This lens brought back some great memories. Thank you so much for liking and blessing my "Cell Phones are a Public Nuisance" Lens. :)
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on March 19, 2012:
The 60s influences have always been a favorite of mine too.
AJ from Australia on February 29, 2012:
AJ from Australia on February 29, 2012:
A beautiful lens about a beautiful era featuring some true 60s beautiful women.
Mary (author) from Chicago area on February 29, 2012:
@tvyps: they sure did! but a little later in the '60s, right?
Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on February 29, 2012:
Back to bless this! Girls also wore Go Go Boots!
Mary (author) from Chicago area on February 21, 2012:
@tvyps: maybe I need to expand the list to 10??
Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on February 15, 2012:
I thought for sure that June Cleaver's pearls would've made the top ten!
kimark421 on January 11, 2012:
Great lens! I was just a kid and didn't pay attention much to the style changes in the sixties, but your lens still brought back some memories. Thanks!
jadehorseshoe on December 31, 2011:
anonymous on December 27, 2011:
Enjoyed your lens. I grew up in the 60s and your lens is a trip down memory lane!
BuddyBink on December 02, 2011:
I remember the 60's and how the styles changed from 1960 to 1969. What a decade it was.
beckyf on November 22, 2011:
I wear bangs--always have. :)
anonymous on November 06, 2011:
Ah, Jean Seberg and FranÃ§oise Hardy... Beautiful women with lots of style.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 11, 2011:
Love those days.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 11, 2011:
Love those days.
ScareYouDiva on September 18, 2011:
I love the really sleek hairstyles
atomicgirl24 on August 20, 2011:
I love the early 1960s, even though I was born a decade too late!
JoshK47 on June 22, 2011:
The 60's sense of style was so fantastic - I love it.
Mary (author) from Chicago area on May 13, 2011:
@jamesnodturft: Good idea! Will have to look into that. The eyes certainly were done up, weren't they?
jamesnodturft on May 13, 2011:
I'm a huge fan of Mad Men so I love this lens. One thing I think you could add is the makeup trends. Women's faces were so distinctive in the sixties: Liquid eyeliner, white lips, etc.
Pete Schultz on May 12, 2011:
brings back memories....How about white socks with black dress pants and black shoes. Shoes and belt must be the same color. Thin ties, starched white shirts, french cuffs and cuff links, fedora hats, cardigan sweaters...well you get the idea.
Monika Weise from Indianapolis, IN USA on May 01, 2011:
I was too young to wear a miniskirt, but I remember the 60s (I was also too young to get into any trouble lol). Thanks for the memories :)
anonymous on April 02, 2011:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA+++++++++++++++. Nice Squid Lens. Chris
erica38 on March 24, 2011:
Fabulous lens. The dresses Michelle O is wearing look more 60's modern stye which I like alot. I like the pixie cut, so much easier to manage.
MargoPArrowsmith on March 07, 2011:
1. Bring back the flats! I won't wear these shoes now a days.
2. Those clam diggers of MTM's were a HUGE deal. She was the first sitcom wife/mom who wore pants, but she insisted on it! She said that is what housewives were wearing at home and no one would buy the doing house work in dress and pearls any more. These were a compromise, but there was all sorts of 'not to tight' etc stuff
aliki-m on February 09, 2011:
Great lens!!Love the pixie cut!!
Mary (author) from Chicago area on January 13, 2011:
@anonymous: One-piece, you mean? Maybe "romper"? Just a guess.
anonymous on January 12, 2011:
Can someone tell me what we called the little shorts suit we wore in the 60's?
teatree on December 04, 2010:
I love ballet flats too. I find it hard to walk in heels.
Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on November 21, 2010:
I remember these clothes, and the hair, but I actually was a little later and more in the 70's hippie clothing era.Love it~
LeorG on October 31, 2010:
Very cool lens. Something so stylish about the 60s!
sheriangell on October 22, 2010:
How in the world have I missed this lens until now? Oh I love this! When I was a little kid in the 60's my mother always had my hair cut in a pixie. When I was a teenager, like Pastiche, I am guilty of actually ironing my hair, with a laundry iron!
Big Squid Angel blessing and featured on Pay It Forward - My Life As An Angel.
Dianne Loomos on October 02, 2010:
Yes, the skinny look didn't become popular until Twiggy came on the scene. Lensrolled to my Colleen Corby lens.
anonymous on September 07, 2010:
What a fun trip down memory lane! Love the 60s styles. Ringing my Squid Angel bell with a blessing.
Lee Hansen from Vermont on August 25, 2010:
I struggled with curly hair in the sixties - stick straight and pixie cuts were all the rage. I even resorted to using the laundry iron to try to get the kinks out! Another 60s trend worth noting - women weren't rail thin to be considered attractive (the Bardot bikini pic reminded me that size 10 was considered ideal back then). Fun lens!
Kerri Bee from Upstate, NY on May 20, 2010:
I LOVE the fashion of the 60s. Each decade in the 20th century had an amazing style to it....except the 1990s. The 90s had no style at all.
juzd lm on May 03, 2010:
Really awesome work. I like this! Great research.
Sojourn on April 28, 2010:
I always wanted to be Audrey Hepburn. Was she cute or what?! And I never knew those pants were called clamdiggers (I can't wear those capri pants, either). Really nice overview of the most popular style trends of the 60s!
Airinka on April 12, 2010:
Cynthia Arre from Quezon City on January 29, 2010:
I wasn't around in the 60s but I love anything related to that decade! This lens is a delightful read, *blessed by an angel*
RinchenChodron on December 18, 2009:
Great job - I remember these! Blessed by an Angel - add your lens to my plexo on my angel lens.
modelde on December 01, 2009:
"I say your blog is very nice. Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss, Adriana Lima & Co owe success, wealth and fame of her beauty and her charisma. They are among the most sought-after supermodels in the world are on the catwalks of Paris, Milan and New York home and wrap their flawless bodies in the noblest of noble designer creations.
Dianne Loomos on November 06, 2009:
My favorite icon from the era is sixties super model Colleen Corby. Lensrolled to my lens about her.
Mickie Gee on October 18, 2009:
When you (the author of this lens) visited my "Take a Fashion Trip To the Sixties" lens, you left a comment about how nicely these two fit together. I agree and am returning the favor of a 5 star, and a lensroll! I will probably feature this lens as well.
Thanks and a good job was done on this lens.
Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on October 10, 2009:
and GO-GO boots! remember those silly white things were ALL the rage for awhile. VERY creative work here. 5*s!
momto4 lm on September 14, 2009:
Great lens! I really enjoyed looking through all your pictures.
Mary (author) from Chicago area on September 09, 2009:
thank you!! [in reply to KimGiancaterino]
KimGiancaterino on September 09, 2009:
Excellent photo choices! Blessed and featured on my Squid Angel Diary this week.
Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on September 04, 2009:
Wonderful compilation of the times from a fashion column point of view....perfect theme for the lens, too! Love it!!!5*
anonymous on September 03, 2009:
Fantastic job you captured this era well.
Achim Thiemermann from Austin, Texas on September 03, 2009:
A hearty SquidAngel Blessing for this trip down memory lane. Long, long ago... :-)
seashell2 on September 02, 2009:
Beautiful job! Love the photos! Thanks for sharing!
kimmanleyort on September 02, 2009:
Really great photos and you captured all of the significant trends of that time. Nice job!
SherryHolderHunt on September 02, 2009:
Love this lens and am rolling it to my decade lens Muscle Cars of the 1960s Era
Holley Web on September 02, 2009:
Audrey Hepburn was a beauty. The styles in this era were so "nice". I'm so glad that the flats are still a staple in my house. I have to laugh because I still have bangs sometimes :) This was really fun! Great lens!
bdkz on September 01, 2009:
Really cool lens!
anonymous on September 01, 2009:
Fun lens! I like the bangs too for the same reasons as theraggedge, great for hiding those wrinkles! The miniskirt is funny, now a days that would be considered long!
Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on September 01, 2009:
Do you know that bangs keep trying to come back. Nice work!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on September 01, 2009:
Probably the only thing I could still wear the is pictured on your lens and look ok are the ballet flats:) Great lens
hlkljgk from Western Mass on September 01, 2009:
nicely done. love the pixie.
Mary (author) from Chicago area on September 01, 2009:
Judging from your avatar, you look awesome in bangs! I've had 'em on and off in varying lengths, so I guess I'm a "fringe" girl too ;) I remember my older cousins' plaid minis as the pinnacle of glamor...
myraggededge on September 01, 2009:
Had the bangs (we call it a 'fringe') all my life - great for hiding forehead wrinkles! I was a child in the 60s and remember my mother in her minis. She was (and is) so beautiful!