A while ago I attended a seminar at the Fashion & Textile Museum called ‘Fashion Psychedelia’. I have to admit that I didn’t know a great deal about 1960′s fashion and was intrigued to learn more. The seminar was accompanied by brilliant visuals and at the end we were able to view hand-picked pieces from some of the most renown labels of the time; Biba, Ossie Clark etc. Anyway here are a few things I learnt;
- fashion, music and art have always travelled hand in hand and have always had a huge influence on young people. The 1960′s were no exception with the birth of flamboyant clothing, easily accessible drugs and freedom of expression opening the minds of a whole generation.
- fashion in England during the late 1950s and early 1960′s was very much in the ‘pinned-back’ style, with tailored suits, neat ironed creases and sculpted beehives. The arrival of the much freer, colourful ‘hippie’ unsurprisingly did not sit well with the ‘Mods’ of the time or with ‘the establishment’ who saw hippies as freaks and lazy drug addicts.
- the embracing of psychedelic fashion and music could clearly be seen in popular bands at the time. For example The Who had famously used the Union Jack as a symbol of their music; it was seen to be appealing to the young generation. The Who’s next album in 1967 still had the Union Jack on the cover but it also incorporated psychedelic prints and colours to appeal to the evolving tastes of the younger generation.
- King’s Road was ahead of the curve, with young entrepreneurs taking over boutiques and selling brightly coloured vintage and handmade garments. These entrepreneurs would visit markets, hand pick pieces, adapt them and sell them for much higher prices. Such boutiques as ‘Granny Take A Trip’ and ‘Hung On You’ attracted like-minded people who didn’t only shop there but also used the stores as a hang out.
- menswear in the 1960′s also took a very different direction – dubbed by some as ‘the Peacock Revolution’. Stalls lined Carnaby Street, selling unisex clothing to young men who realised that they did not have to dress like their dads anymore. Instead the decided to take on more flamboyant, bright and less tailored styles. Young tailors also took over Saville Row bringing a fresh thinking to suiting, men became more feminine in their dress with some wearing their girlfriends’ clothes. Men and women started shopping together in the same stores.
- as this once underground fashion movement became more mainstream, people around the world became aware of what London was capable of. The Times dubbed the city ‘Swinging London’.
- in Italy the 1960s also saw the introduction of the now iconic Pucci psychedelic print which is still very popular today. In France in 1966, Yves Saint Laurent unveiled the ‘Le Smoking’ trouser suit for women. The reverse of men wearing women’s fashions, the establishment found the outfit outrageous and women wearing the suit were turned away from restaurants, bars and boutiques.
- the late 1960′s was also the time of Flower Power, The Summer of Love and The Beatle’s Sargeant Pepper. Woodstock integrated the UK and America with its music and also fashion. The kaftan became an important fashion garment; another a unisex item that could be worn at festivals but that was also seen on the runway.
The classic 1960s prints and shapes can of course still be seen in today’s fashion and its music, making the ‘Swinging 60′s’ not just a period in history but very much a part of our everyday culture.