Iconic Women’s 60s Fashion
Iconic Women’s 60s Fashion
Written by Hannah Mae Webster
When thinking of the 1960s, its fashion scene is one of the first areas that comes to mind due to the revolutionary movements and trends that were introduced. From miniskirts to Space Age fashion, the 60s was synonymous with iconic fashion trends that remain desirable today.
Quant’s Influence on Fashion
British designer Mary Quant rose to fame in the 60s for her popularization of high hemlines and her modern take on women’s silhouettes. Quant is credited with the invention of the mini skirt, alongside André Courrèges. The mini skirt was an instrumental development in 60s fashion as it symbolized the rebellious attitude of the youth, through their refusal to dress conservatively like the previous generation.
Although the mini skirt appeared shorter than previous designs, the rising hemlines were more of a gradual process that symbolized shifting dynamics and an emerging youthfulness.
Did you know?
The term “Mod” described the subculture that started in London in the 50s, gaining popularity around the world into the 60s. Mod fashion was creative, innovative, and modern, defined by short dresses, striking colors and patterns, and straight cuts.
Key Dress Shapes
Dresses became less full and shapely into the 60s, with looser and boxier fits. Below are some of the key dress shapes of the decade:
The term ‘A-Line’ was first introduced by Dior for his Spring 1955 collection. It described the triangular shape of the designs, in which the top was narrower with the bottom widening from the waist or bust (reminiscent of the letter ‘A’). This shape grew in popularity into the 60s.
A straight cut fitted dress like the black Givenchy one worn by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
Flows straight from the shoulders with minimal difference in waist, bust, hips, and hemline measurements.
Although popular in the 50s, shirtwaist dresses, featuring buttons and collars, held their place into the 60s whilst appealing less to the younger generation due to their retained traditionality.
A straight-fitting dress with a higher neckline and belt that skimmed the body without shaping it.
Tops in the 60s were still inspired by the designs of the 50s but were no longer fitted to the bust or waist, instead they had a straight fit. Styles such as button down shirts were also being worn untucked from trousers and skirts, something that was previously unseen for women.
Learn more about dress types and shapes.
The 60s Space Race that took place between the US and the Soviet Union highly influenced developments in fashion. Iconic designers such as André Courrèges, Paco Rabanne, and Pierre Cardin introduced ground-breaking designs, fueling a widespread obsession with all things space related.
Popular accessories included goggle-like sunglasses, helmet-inspired hats, and white go-go boots. Silver and white were predominant colors in Space Age style, with some designs imitating elements of the spacesuit. The exciting buzz surrounding the Space Race set the scene for more avant-garde and unconventional designs that pushed boundaries.
The influence of Space Age style continued into the following decades with designers such as Mugler still inspired by the enthralling concept of the future.
Experimental materials such as PVC and plastic were being used, forever altering the image of runway fashion. Space Age fashion appeared regularly in cinema with cult classics such as “Barbarella” introducing revolutionary costume designs that influenced mainstream fashion.
The late 60s saw an explosion of vibrant prints, earth tones, and brown suede fringing, as the hippie era began to take off.
Colors and prints
Popular bold prints included florals, psychedelic designs, and tropical beach prints. Earth tone colors including moss green, mustard yellow, and burnt orange, became desirable. 60s hippies dressed unconventionally, favoring self-expression and free-spiritedness, aligning with their societal beliefs.
Bell bottom jeans were popularized by the hippie culture of the 60s and have recently experienced a revival.
With cocktail parties growing in popularity, partywear was of great importance to women in the 60s. Party styles of the 1950s were carried into the 60s, with both slim and full dresses taking the limelight. Slimmer dresses, such as straight pencil skirts, were often favored as they were understated whilst keeping an element of glamour. Although hemlines were shortened, long empire-waist gowns made an appearance, often paired with evening gloves, pearls, and heels.
Popular party colors included black, white, gold, and pastels.
Alternative party attire
Dresses were of course popular party attire, but the younger generation were starting to wear trousers or jumpsuits, making a new fashion statement.
YSL “Le Smoking”
“For a woman, Le Smoking is an indispensable garment in which she will always feel in style, for it is a stylish garment and not a fashionable garment. Fashions fade, style is eternal.” – Yves Saint Laurent
When Yves Saint Laurent introduced a women’s smoking jacket in 1966, it was a statement of power to say the least, as it was the first tuxedo designed to fit the female body. It was first introduced in the YSL Autumn/Winter 1966 collection paired with a white blouse and a pair of trousers. This weakened the barriers between men’s and women’s fashion.
One iconic moment involving the tuxedo was when socialite Nan Kempner was denied entry from the New York restaurant ‘La Côte Basque’ whilst wearing YSL’s ‘Le Smoking’, due to a no trouser policy for women. Instead of leaving, Kempner simply removed the trousers and styled the blazer as a mini dress, the ultimate display of power.
Did you know?
Yves Saint Laurent released a collection of cocktail dresses in 1965 that were inspired by the abstract art of Mondrian during the 1920s-1940s. Like the paintings, YSL’s dresses featured striking geometric shapes and blocks of bold colors.
Key colors of the 60s
Black and white
monochrome was a popular color choice, with checkerboard prints favorable.
including moss green, mustard yellow, burnt orange, and brown. During the late 60s, hippies would usually dress in earth tones and floral patterns.
vibrant colors and bold prints were synonymous with the 60s, as bold psychedelic designs were a hit with hippie fashion.
White and silver
reminiscent of the space suit, white and silver were regularly used in Space Age designs, giving a clinical and futuristic feel to the collections.
The term “flower power” described the peaceful resistance against war, initially the Vietnam War, and the flower became a symbol of freedom, peace, and harmony.
Key 1960s Fashion Icons
First lady and style icon, Jackie Kennedy, never failed to impress with her sophisticated style, inspiring mainstream fashion for decades. Chanel skirt suits, pillbox hats, and gloves were instrumental in the creation of her elegant image.
“Pearls are always appropriate” – Jackie Kennedy
Some of Jackie Kennedy’s best 60s style moments:
Jackie Kennedy wore this apricot dress in 1962 during a visit to India. The V-neck dress was designed by Cassini and featured a waist-accentuating bow. The dress was paired with white gloves and a multi-strand pearl necklace, typical of Jackie’s accessorizing style.
Jackie Kennedy wore another ensemble by Oleg Cassini at the 1961 Inauguration. Paired with a signature pillbox hat and gloves, her classic style exuded elegance and femininity.
Pictured here in 1962 attending a dinner, Jackie Kennedy was dressed in a stunning strapless Dior gown.
This devastatingly poignant image shows Jackie Kennedy arriving in Dallas, Texas in a pink Chanel suit just hours before the president’s assassination in 1963.
Audrey Hepburn’s style legacy remains inspirational to this day, as she always dressed to accentuate and flatter her slim figure that was unlike the curvy shapes of many popular actresses throughout the 50s and 60s. She helped to popularize many trends such as cigarette trousers, ballet flats, the trench coat, and the black polo neck.
Following the release of her 1961 movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, she became an ultimate style icon as she strolled down the street dressed in a black Givenchy gown, complete with pearls, evening gloves, sunglasses, and of course a croissant. ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ featured a range of iconic 60s style moments including partywear, casual trouser looks, and coats.
In 1963, ‘Charade’ was released which showcased Audrey’s bold coats, hats, trench coats, and headscarf looks.
Love the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Givenchy dress? Why not check out our Audrey dress?
The name Twiggy is always associated with bold eyeliner, colorful makeup and a striking pixie cut, however the British model was also one of the most recognizable fashion figures of the 60s, triggering trends with her eye-catching mod style. In 1966, Twiggy’s hair transformation catapulted her into the public eye and launched her highly successful career.
Her slim “twig-like,” (hence the nickname), body shape and pixie cut hair set her apart from traditional ideas of femininity and was a symbol of liberation during the second wave of feminism.
Twiggy helped to popularize:
- The mini skirt
- The shift dress
- Colorful tights
- Swing coats
- Space Age fashion
- Go-Go boots
- Mary Janes
- Bold and striking prints
- Masculine styles
- Bold sunglasses
In conclusion, Twiggy’s influence on 60s fashion is immeasurable.
Check out our Twiggy dress
During the late 60s, Sharon Tate was a great fashion icon, favoring shift-dresses, mini-skirts, Mary-Janes, and polo necks. Sharon embodied youthful style and complimented her outfits with signature cut-crease eye makeup, and sometimes a half-up ponytail hairstyle.
Some of Sharon Tate’s iconic 60s fashion moments:
Sharon Tate’s 1968 bridal look. She wore a dress and accessorized with dainty ribbons.
An outfit worn by Sharon Tate to the airport in 1967.
Sharon Tate wearing trousers and a half-up ponytail in 1965.
This iconic blue collared mini dress was worn by Sharon Tate in Paris in 1968 and was the ultimate expression of youthful 60s style.
If you love Sharon Tate’s blue dress, why not check out our Sharon dress
Brigitte Bardot’s 60s French style was minimalistic yet effortlessly beautiful. Bardot often wore monochromatic tops, pencil skirts, trousers, and headbands. Her 60s style remains iconic because of its understated elegance.
Interested in Brigitte Bardot’s signature style before the 60s? Why not look at our Brigitte dress, inspired by her 50s style
Key fashion designers of the decade
Quant introduced super high hemlines whilst also popularizing bright tights and stockings, the jersey dress, women’s trousers and suits, the skinny-rib sweater, PVC raincoats, hot-pants, and loungewear.
The French designer was influential in the Space Age fashion phenomenon and was also credited, alongside Quant, with the introduction of the miniskirt.
Pucci was a pioneer in the creation of psychedelic bold patterned designs.
Another pioneer in Space Age fashion, introducing metallic and chainmail designs throughout the 60s.
The 60s experienced an array of new footwear with many still popular today.
Some of the key footwear included
- Go-Go boots
- Mary Janes
- Square heels
- Ankle boots
- Pointed toes
- Kitten heels
- Stacked heels
- Canvas flats
- Birkenstocks (popular with hippies at the time)
- Colorful sandals
The term ‘Beatniks’ was used to describe those who lived a non-materialistic lifestyle, rebelling against society. Beatniks were interested in philosophy, poetry, art, and music, and they developed a distinct style in the 60s.
They wore a lot of plain dark clothing such as black cigarette pants and turtlenecks. Berets and oversized sunglasses were popular as well as striped shirts and loafers. They wore clothing that rebelled from mainstream fashion, this can be considered ‘anti-fashion’, which symbolized their opposition to society in general.
Trousers in the 60s
Although women’s trousers had been introduced in previous decades, the trend grew in popularity into the 60s with film stars influencing mainstream fashion.
Popular women’s trouser styles of the 60s included
- Cigarette pants
- Capri pants – (like cigarette pants but shorter)
- Pedal pusher pants – (calf length trousers)
- Stretch trousers
- Bell bottoms
- Pallazzo pants
- Stirrup pants
- Bold prints such as plaid
- Bold colors
- Denim jeans
Youthful style vs. mature style
Among the emerging youth culture of the 1960s remained mature women who wished to retain the conservative femininity of previous decades. Older women would prefer modest designs such as tailored skirt suits of a less shocking length. Many wished to preserve the element of femininity and glamour that was lacking in the liberating new designs.
Accessorizing was a way of making a statement whilst enhancing clothing choices and so was a top priority for most women in the 60s.
Although feminine pearls had been popular for decades, their presence in the 60s retained a sense of glamour amongst new revolutionary trends. Greatly inspired by Jackie Kennedy, pearls were perfectly partnered with evening gloves for a cocktail party, especially for the mature woman.
Costume jewelry was popular throughout the 60s as women could give the effect of an impressive piece without the cost of fine jewelry.
choices were important to many, with a range of different styles including pouch bags, frame bags, leather bags, patterned bags, barrel bags, and more. Many handbags of the 60s were designed in matching sets to match other clothing and modern materials such as plastic were being used, opening endless possibilities of new looks and designs.
Hats were still present in 60s fashion, but they no longer held the same importance for women as in previous decades. However, Jackie Kennedy regularly wore pillbox hats that matched her skirt suits.
Bold accessories such as chain belts were also gaining popularity in the 60s.
The Second Wave of Feminism
The second wave of feminism was in full effect in the 60s, with figures such as Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug changing the world.
Influence on fashion
Women’s fashion was unsurprisingly influenced by the changing societal landscape and the 60s experienced a surge in liberating designs, moving far away from the curve-accentuating yet restricting styles of the 50s. Masculine styles, shapeless silhouettes, and of course the introduction of YSL’s ‘Le Smoking’ all played a part in blurring the lines between men’s and women’s fashion. These fashion developments were undoubtedly influenced by the progression in feminism.
What did women wear in the 60s?
Many women were embracing new liberating styles and designs featuring bold patterns and colors.
For the younger generation: miniskirts/mini dresses paired with Mary Janes or boots, and colored tights. However, casual cigarette trouser looks were popular.
For mature women: older women favored classic designs and shapes, keeping the modesty and glamour of the 50s. Many preferred knee length tailored skirt suits with accessories like gloves, hats, and pearls.
What would you wear to a 60s party?
- Popular colors included black, gold, white and pastels.
- Slimmer shapes such as pencil shirt dresses were commonly chosen over full skirts.
- Empire waist dresses were popular with gloves paired with a kitten heel.
- Trousers and jumpsuits were also an option for a more casual party look.
What were the big fashion ideas of the 1960s?
- Space Age style
- Mary Quant’s influence on hemlines
- Hippie style
What dresses were popular in the 60s?
Popular dress styles:
- Pencil skirt
- Empire waist
Iconic fashion moments of the 1960s
- The introduction of the mini skirt
- YSL’s “Le Smoking” was released in 1966, introducing a tuxedo designed for the female body.
- ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, 1961 – Audrey Hepburn’s collaboration with Givenchy, featuring the iconic black dress. The movie presented a stunning display of party styles and casual outfits.
- André Courrèges’s Space Age designs – his 1964 spring collection featured goggles, helmets, and white Go-Go boots. White and silver were used, imitating elements of a space suit.
- Twiggy’s bold new look and immeasurable impact on the 60s fashion – launching trends that are still followed to this day.
How to get the 60s look
Find your inspiration
Whether that be Space Age, Quant’s youthful designs, or modest glamour, finding your inspiration is key in creating an authentic 60s inspired look. Finding a fashion icon to study is a great place to start, whether that be Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, or Jackie Kennedy.
Find bold colors and patterns
You could try colored tights to create the ultimate striking 60s look. Eye shadow could also be matched to your color choices. Try recreating Twiggy’s iconic eyeliner look. Pale lips were popular alongside bold eye colors.
Finding footwear is also important
you could try Mary Janes with colorful tights or bare legs, or even try out white Go-Go boots with a mini dress.
“Fashion is not frivolous. It is a part of being alive today.” – Mary Quant