Key Looks of the 1960s

I'm currently reading Vintage Fashion - Collecting and wearing designer clothes, which I received as a present last Christmas. Although I live and breathe the 60s I also love the fashions of earlier eras and this book is a great guide to the clothes created by couture houses and designers in the twentieth century. I love looking at couture, mainly from a dressmaking perspective as I love to see the incredible detail that went into making each garment. 

In the chapter on the 1960s they have a section entitled "Key Looks of the 1960s" which I thought I would share.


Andrè Courrèges in Paris and Mary Quant in London can both lay claim to the invention of the mini skirt. Hemlines started creeping higher at the start of the decade but by 1965 they had risen to mid-thigh and were to become even shorter. Often worn with a big belt hung loosely over the hips, they were adopted by women across the world, not just the young and leggy.

Graphic Lines

Mini skirts, shift dresses and short A-line coats were all given the Op Art look as fashion reflected the optical illusions of Bridget Riley's paintings. Thick and thin stripes and geometric checks were used to create strong graphic impact in many of the pared-down simple shapes.


Polyester, nylon and other manmade fabrics permitted the wearer  movement even with slim-cut styles. This 1966 dress by New York designer Gayle Kirkpatrick, modelled by actress Pamela Tiffin, was made in a special stretch nylon developed by Stretchnit.


Innovations in the textile industry saw the invention of all in one nylon tights, which gave women much more freedom than stockings and suspenders. With the emphasis firmly directed onto the legs, tights quickly became an integral part of the look and were made in strong colours with thick stripes, printed patterns, diamonds and plaid for winter, and white lacy versions were worn under summer dresses.

Space Age Looks

With the moon landing came an avalanche of Space Age clothes, best exemplified by Courrèges with his all-white 'moon girl' collection in 1964. Space-inspired helmets in fetted wool or white leather completed the look, as modelled here by Audrey Hepburn, 1965, in Courrèges.


It was a decade of boots in various shapes and styles. Shiny patent boots that came up to and over the knee in black, white and silver were the trendiest footwear to go with the mini. The other strong boot shape, which originated from Paris, was a mid calf white kidskin boot with a pointy toe and no heel, sometimes with a flat ribbon bow around the top.


Paco Rabanne's resolutely modern designs were made from a variety of unconventional materials. Plastic chainmail and aluminium appeared in silver, black or white. Difficult to work with, chainmail  projected a futuristic image that was very much in tune with what women wanted.

Sheer and Transparent

Bodies became the centre of attention with tranparent panels of clear plastic or mesh like netting. Towards the end of the decade see-through clothes became more daring with Yves Saint Laurent's sheer black chiffon blouse and Ossie Clark's gossamer-fine chiffon dresses showing more barely covered flesh than ever before.


By the middle to late 1960s the emphasis had shifted from London to America, and more specifically to the flower children of San Francisco, with their anti-Vietnam chants, long hair and ragbag of utilitarian and ethnic garments. Brocade jeans, frilly shirts, flower-print tunics, Mao jackets and Indian scarves became a street style emulated by most European designers. 


Shapes were cut out of dresses to reveal the midsection. 


Shiny PVC was used for every item of clothing from over-the-knee boots to mini macs, bags and pinafore dresses. It was easy to colour and to overprint with bold motifs. Connecting circles of hard plastic were popular for belts and earrings. 

Oversized sunglasses

Huge bug-eyed spectacles in shiny black or white plastic were one of the hottest accessories to match Op Art and Space Age styles. Perfectly round and goggle-like, they were worn more for photographic styling and celebrity 'disguise' than for everyday streetwear.

Maxi and Midi Lengths

Long coats, skirts and dresses were designed as the antidote to the mini. The maxi fell to the ankle, and the midi was cut to mid-calf. Women were given much more choice to decide what length they felt comfortable in, and they often chose to wear both at the same time: midi knit cardigans were worn over short skirts with boots to show a fleeting glimpse of leg.

Shift Dresses

The most popular shape was an A-line shift that fell in a clean triangular line from shoulder to mid-thigh. Big circular pockets, cutaway armholes and contrast edging around the neck, hem and armholes were defining features. Some were designed to wear over a skinny rib sweater and ribbed tights during the day, or to wear on their own with heels in the evening.


Source: Vintage Fashion: Collecting and wearing designer classics published by Sevenoaks


  1. Love this post! I think one of my favourite things from the 60s is the hosiery and shift dresses. there are endless choices and are an easy look.
    This sounds like a great book. Have you also check out "50 fashion looks that changed the 60's"?

    1. I'm the same, I just love shift dresses they are my favourite thing to wear. I haven't read that book, I've seen it in a few bookshops though but haven't got round to checking it out yet.

  2. Amazing post! It seems like a really good book. I think my favourite part of 60s fashion would the psychedelia but mini skirts come right after! xxx

  3. I love fashion history too- the 60s was so fascinating

  4. I scrolled through your post thinking the photos looked familiar and that's because we have the same book - it's amazing, isn't it? xxx

    1. It's such a great book! I hadn't heard of it before I got it as a present so it was a lovely surprise x

  5. there is so much inspiration in this post here! i adore that long coat!

    lindsey louise


Thank you for taking the time to comment, I read and appreciate every one. Please do not comment anonymously - use the Name/URL option instead.

Spam comments will be deleted.