Guide to 1960s Women's Fashions

Danielle Jennings
60s chicks

From tie-dyes to mini skirts, there were many fads and wardrobe staples that made up 60s fashion. The 60s are known as one of the most fashion conscious times in history. Styles that began in the decade have had a noticeable influence on the fashions of today.

A Look at Women's Fashions in the 1960s

Women's fashion in the 1960s was full of change. Unlike the previous decades, the 60s were a time of emerging and diverse trends. From sophisticated and casual to bright colors and bold prints, the 60s embraced it all with stylish flair. Many of the trends followed what was happening socially at the time, which is evidenced in the extreme hemlines, psychedelic prints, and low heels.

60s Style Icons

Breakfast at Tiffany's style

During the early 60s, women's fashion followed the trends worn by the iconic Jackie Kennedy. Never before had a First Lady been such a style trendsetter. Women everywhere wanted to copy her classy, yet fashionable look. Some common elements of her style included:

  • Pillbox hat
  • Suits in pastel colors
  • Short boxy-style jackets
  • Shift dresses
  • Oversized sunglasses
  • Pearls

The former First Lady wasn't the only style icon of the decade, as other fashion forward women did their part to shape the fashion tone that the 60's were known for.

  • Twiggy was the most popular fashion model of the era, she was known for her "pixie look", which included shift dresses, ballet flats, cigarette pants, and an extremely cropped haircut.
  • Audrey Hepburn, the Hollywood screen goddess was also quite the fashion icon, largely due to her role in one of the 60s most popular films, Breakfast at Tiffany's.
  • Brigitte Bardot embodied the ultimate sex kitten and pin-up girl; she popularized the Bardot neckline (a wide open neck, exposing your shoulders), the bikini, gingham print, and the choucroute, a beehive-inspired hairstyle.

1960s Women's Fashion Staples

go go girl

One of the biggest impacts on modern fashion that started in the 1960s is the introduction of the mini skirt. Originally created by designer Mary Quant, the skirt fell six to seven inches above the knee. Often paired with tights and go-go boots, the mini skirt started a phenomenon that still exists today.

Other popular 60s fashions include:

  • Baby-doll dresses with round necks and fitted waists were seen on women of all ages and sizes. These cute dresses were found in prints and solids and in both pastel and vibrant colors.
  • Hot pants took the term shorts to another level. These short shorts were seen in bright colors and made a fashion statement on whoever dared to wear them.
  • Culottes were another popular clothing item. They had the look of a full skirt but were more versatile, like a trouser.
  • Tie-dyed shirts allowed for personal expression and individuality in the wardrobe. Women wearing these brightly colored shirts were sure to be noticed in the crowd.

Fashion Revolution

Like any era, there were a variety of influences on the fashions of the 60s.

Hippie Fashion

hippie girl

A subgroup of the 1960 culture were the hippies. This group rebelled against the war, promoted peace, love, and made a huge fashion statement. They opted for fashions that were natural and comfortable. Seen in tie-dyes, free-flowing skirts and beads, the hippies' psychedelic style was as unique as their personalities. They often wore flowers in their hair and painted their face or bodies with peace symbols or other meaningful designs. The late 60s brought a whole new set of trends. Most were modeled after the hippie movement and were casual and relaxed. Women wanted to feel free and show off their individuality. Some typical hippie clothing items included:

  • Bell-bottomed jeans
  • Tie-dyed shirts
  • Long flowing dresses
  • Gypsy skirts
  • Fringed vests
  • Peasant blouses

Pantyhose Redesigned

Seamless pantyhose were introduced in the 1960s. Before pantyhose, women wore girdles and suspender belts to keep their nylon stockings from falling down. During the 60s, it was not proper to show bare legs, and it was not fashionable to see the tops of stockings when wearing mini skirts. Pantyhose were the perfect fashion alternative to stockings. Additionally, in the late 1960s tights became just as popular. Usually seen in solids, patterns or with glitter, tights were the perfect complement to a dress or mini skirt.

Footwear

Footwear changed drastically in the 1960s. Stilettos were traded in favor of kitten heels. Flat knee boots were popular and often paired with skirts and dresses. Women also wore Mary Janes, ballerina flats and sling-backs with most of their clothing. Toward the end of 60s, Dr. Scholl's clogs became quite popular due to the wide variety of comfortable styles.

minidress

Cowl Back Necklines

Cowl back necklines drape down and are cut on the fabric's bias, which means that there will be a considerable amount of naturally "soft" looking drape along the lowest edge. Often reserved for the front of a dress, the cowl back neckline was often used for knit dresses as well as more formal garments for cocktail parties and get-together.

Boat or Bateau Necklines

Boat necklines run straight across the chest from shoulder to shoulder, but they often run higher than the usual neckline. Besides being modeled in the traditional nautical 60s stripes, they also were seen on mini dresses and casual blouses worn with mini skirts. It wasn't unusual for boat necklines to feature a special lace-up detail in thick cord or ribbon.

Funnel Necklines

Futurism in the 1960s was big, and that included higher, funnel necklines on dresses for a stiffer, more polished look. To balance the high neckline look, skirts crept upwards even further. For women who couldn't pull off the standard funnel shape, the Nehru collar (an Asian-style collar than also stands up from the bodice) was a fair replacement and in tune with hippie styles. Looser funnel necklines were also used as interpretation of the stricter, more "space-aged" designers who often showed more extreme runway styles.

Rounded or Jewel Necklines

Traditional rounded necklines were still popular in the 1960s, particularly among the "DIY" crowd who were known to stitch their own dresses from home patterns. These basic dresses were styled in psychedelic, geometric, or whimsical fabrics to counteract the cut and sew design lines that made basic shifts seem somewhat similar. Basic dresses like these were often accessorized with political pins, brooches, or charms in a contrasting color.

Square Necklines

Dresses of this decade often featured square necklines when the dress or blouse had long, voluminous sleeves and were often worn with a pendant necklace. Square neckline dresses were usually set off by sheer fabric bell sleeves (such as lace or chiffon), and can be found by collectors today in a variety of colors such as light blue, purple, white, and mustard yellow.

Sweetheart Necklines

Sweetheart necklines, which are shaped like a heart at the bust line, popped up in the early 1960s, as ensembles were still considerably more formal than the latter part of the decade. Longer formal dresses in black and white were still worn for evening to-dos complete with pearls and gloves, and sweetheart trends were also adopted by early 1960s blouses in pique, wool crepe, and stiff cotton. Tops with a more simple design often featured back and front waist ties, darts for shaping, and short sleeves.

V-Back Necklines

If you needed to dress up in the 1960s, you might have chosen a dress with a v-style back and a double-breasted, collarless look in front. While these dresses were more common when the "Jackie O." look proliferated, this style never really disappeared. Wearing this look belted was a must, and both day and evening looks were found with this type of dip.

Plunging Necklines

V-shaped, u-shaped, or asymmetrical, plunging necklines became more and more popular as the decade rumbled along. As skirts got shorter, the necklines got deeper as well, and this neckline was never out of place with the eclectic accessories often worn by 1960s girls.

Top Designers

Fashion designers made their mark during the 60s and many are still designing women's fashion today. Some of the most coveted designers of the day included:

  • Pierre Cardin, who became famous for his brightly colored mini dresses.
  • Givenchy designed the iconic little black dress that is essential to every woman's wardrobe .
  • Yves Saint Laurent's shift dresses and pea coats became popular in the 60s.
  • Pucci is best known for colorful psychedelic prints, especially for headscarves and dresses.

Get the Look

Fashions from the 60s are still around; in fact, they can be found in many vintage stores and perhaps tucked away in an attic. To find authentic '60s clothing online, visit any of the following sites:

  • Search for and bid on your must-have 60s fashions at eBay.com
  • Rusty Zipper is the ultimate online destination for all things vintage. Shop by item of clothing or by decade.
  • Vintageous is a vintage online fashion boutique with clothing and accessories for women.
  • Shop online at Soulflower.com for some cool hippie inspired clothing.

You'll also find nods to sixties fashions in modern designer collections. You'll see 60s inspired elements such as colorful prints, classy shift dresses, and boho-chic looks in contemporary names.

A Touch of 60s

While you may not want to look like you just stepped out of the 1960s, adding a touch of the era's fashion can add a new twist to your wardrobe. Whether in vintage or modern 60s-inspired looks, the fashion elements of this decade are always welcomed additions to your closet.

Guide to 1960s Women's Fashions