Styles and Trends: 1960s Womens Fashion

If there’s one era that influenced fashion heavily, it’s none other than the vibrant and colorful 1960s. Women, in particular, made strides in personal expression through fashion. This decade brought with it a revolution of sorts, with popular styles and trends changing with every passing year. From formal wear to everyday apparel, clothing in the 1960s was all about freedom, self-expression, and experimentation. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the iconic styles and trends of 1960s women’s fashion, and how they continue to inspire designers and fashionistas to this day.

Styles and Trends: 1960s Womens Fashion
Styles and Trends: 1960s Womens Fashion

The 1960s Decade: An Introduction

The 1960s marked a decade of significant cultural and political upheaval. The youth were leading a countercultural movement that would reshape American society. The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War were also at the forefront of public attention. These significant events deeply influenced fashion trends, and 1960s womens fashion presented new and exciting styles.

The Role of Youth Culture

The rise of youth culture in the 1960s was a defining factor in fashion trends. The baby boomer generation was coming of age and rejecting the established norms of their parents. College campuses were hotbeds of political activism, and youth culture was the leader. This newfound freedom was expressed through fashion, and the era presented new styles that catered to the youth market.

  • Mini-skirts: The mini-skirt was the most iconic piece of clothing that emerged in the 1960s. Considered scandalous at the time, it was a symbol of rebellion for the youth. It became one of the most popular fashion items and was featured prominently in fashion magazines such as Vogue.
  • Go-go boots: Go-go boots were another fashion trend that emerged in the 1960s. They were a symbol of youthful rebellion and became a staple in womens fashion. Go-go boots were often paired with mini-skirts and were a must-have item for any young woman at the time.

The Influence of Pop Culture

The 1960s was a decade of pop culture dominance. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other musicians were revolutionizing the music industry. Television shows such as The Addams Family and Bewitched were popular, and film stars like Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot were style icons.

Pop culture had a significant influence on fashion, and designers would often look to popular culture for inspiration. Audrey Hepburn’s “little black dress” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s became an iconic piece of clothing, and the Beatles’ influence could be seen in fashion items such as Nehru jackets.

The Impact of Political and Social Change

The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War had a significant impact on fashion trends in the 1960s. The Civil Rights movement led to an increase in African American models, and designers such as Oleg Cassini started to cater to a more diverse market.

The war in Vietnam led to a rise in anti-war sentiment, and “peace” became a popular symbol. Tie-dye shirts and other items featuring the peace sign were popular, and the hippie movement emerged as a result.

Overall, the 1960s was a decade of significant cultural and political change that deeply influenced fashion trends. Womens fashion reflected the newfound freedom of the youth and the impact of pop culture and political and social change. Mini-skirts, go-go boots, Nehru jackets, and other iconic items emerged, and the era presented new and exciting styles that continue to inspire fashion today.

Shift Dresses and Hemlines: The Main Features of 1960s Womenswear

The 1960s marked the beginning of a new era in fashion for women. Hemlines rose dramatically, as did the popularity of shift dresses. The shift was a loose, boxy dress that hung straight from the shoulders and did not have a defined waistline. This style was a sharp contrast to the fitted, tailored dresses of the 1950s. The shift represented a break from traditional gender roles and allowed women to move more freely.

The Characteristics of Shift Dresses

The shift dress was simple and minimalistic in design. It often did not feature any embellishments or detailing and instead relied on bold colors and geometric patterns to make a statement. The hemline was typically mid-thigh or higher, which was a radical departure from the ankle-length dresses of the previous decade.

Shift dresses were typically made from lightweight, breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, and silk. This allowed the wearer to stay cool and comfortable in warmer weather. The dress was often sleeveless or had short, boxy sleeves that did not hug the arm.

The Symbolic Value of Shift Dresses

Shift dresses represented a significant shift in society as well. They were worn by young, independent women who were defying traditional gender roles and rejecting the conservative ideals of their parents’ generation. The shift dress embodied a sense of freedom and individuality that was highly valued during the 1960s.

The popularity of the shift dress was also a reflection of the cultural and political changes that were taking place in the United States and Europe during the decade. The Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the rise of youth culture all contributed to a sense of upheaval and questioning of authority. The shift dress symbolized a rejection of these established power structures and a desire for change and progress.

The British Invasion: Influence of British Fashion on 1960s American Women’s Fashion

In the 1960s, the UK’s cultural impact on the fashion world was significant, especially for American women’s fashion. The emergence of a new style was influenced by English rock and roll bands, fashion icons, photographers, and designers. The fashion revolution was not about designers alone but the creative cultural moment that inspired the development of a new fashion and lifestyle. In this section, we will examine the influence of British fashion on 1960s American women’s fashion and clarify how it trickled down to the United States.

The Beatles and the Mod Style

The Beatles were one of the most influential bands in history, and their music and style set the tone for the 1960s. The band’s style was a combination of smart and casual wear, which resonated well with the Mod style. The Mod style was derived from the word “modernist,” and it was characterized by a desire for sharp, clean-cut outfits, and a focus on button-down shirts and slim trousers. The Beatles also had an affinity for Nehru jackets, Cuban-heeled boots, and band collar shirts.

The Mod style became popular in America, and it had a considerable influence on the fashion industry. In fact, the Mod style’s trademark look- the mini-skirt- was designed by Mary Quant, a British designer.

The Swinging London and the emergence of British Fashion Icons

The 1960s was a decade of change and transition, especially regarding fashion. In London, a new cultural revolution called “Swinging London” was born, and it brought about significant changes to the fashion industry. The Swinging London era produced an array of new fashion icons who ushered in a new era of fashion.

The likes of Twiggy, Marianne Faithfull, and Jean Shrimpton were major British fashion icons. Their style consisted of mod clothing, short haircuts, and bold accessories. Twiggy, for example, became the poster girl for the Mod style, and her iconic mini-skirt became a symbol of the decade.

Biba and the Rise of the British Boutique

The British boutique was a product of the Swinging London era and the emergence of new fashion designers. One such designer was Barbara Hulanicki, who founded the Biba label in 1964. The Biba brand was known for its affordable and stylish clothes. Biba’s clothes were designed to appeal to the youth market, and the brand’s popularity grew throughout the decade.

Biba, along with other British boutiques, became synonymous with the Mod style. These boutiques were known for their colorful, retro-inspired clothes, which became a staple of the 1960s fashion scene. The British boutique phenomenon influenced American fashion retailers such as Bloomingdale’s, which began importing the latest British fashions.

Color, Material, and Accessories: Details that Matter

The 1960s were a decade of change, not only socially and politically, but also in fashion. Women’s fashion, in particular, saw a drastic transformation during this era with the introduction of new colors, materials, and accessories. Let’s take a closer look at the details that mattered in 1960s women’s fashion.


The use of color in clothing became bolder and brighter during the 1960s. Psychedelic prints, geometric patterns, and floral designs were popular, and colors such as pink, yellow, and turquoise were commonly seen in women’s clothing. The use of color in clothing allowed women to express their individuality and break free from the traditional styles of the 1950s.


The 1960s saw the introduction of materials such as PVC, plastic, and vinyl into the fashion world. These materials were popular for raincoats, boots, and handbags. Man-made materials such as nylon and polyester were also introduced, which allowed clothing to be produced at a lower cost. These new materials were a reflection of the technological advancements of the time and the desire for futuristic fashion.


Accessories played a significant role in 1960s fashion, and popular choices included oversized sunglasses, large hoop earrings, and chunky jewelry. Scarves were a popular accessory, worn as headbands or tied around the neck. Handbags were also an essential accessory, with popular styles including the funky and colorful clutch bags and the shoulder bags known as “Hippie Bags.”

Footwear and Hair

1960s footwear for women were characterized by low heels and chunky wedges. Boots also became fashionable, especially knee-high boots made from leather or suede. Women’s hairstyles were not left out, with the famous beehive updo and bouffant hairstyles becoming popular. Long, straight hair was also in style, which was a reflection of the natural and carefree spirit of the decade.

In conclusion, the 1960s market a significant shift in women’s fashion. The use of bold colors, man-made materials, and accessories became the norm, reflecting the changes happening in society and the desire for individuality. The colorful and playful spirit of 1960s fashion still influences fashion trends today.

Body Image and Feminism: A New Female Identity

The 1960s marked a turning point in the way women saw themselves and were seen by society. Women began to push back against traditional gender roles and embrace new forms of self-expression and self-determination. In turn, fashion changed to reflect this evolving sense of female identity. From the beehive hairdo to the mini skirt, 1960s fashion was inextricably linked to the movement for female liberation.

Body Image: Redefining Feminine Beauty

One of the most significant changes that took place in the 1960s was the way women began to see themselves. For so long, the ideal feminine form had been represented by curvy, hourglass figures. But in the 60s, a new ideal emerged: the slender, almost boyish figure of models like Twiggy. Women were no longer expected to conform to an idealized standard of beauty, but rather, could embrace their own unique body shapes. Fashion played a big role in this, with designers creating looser, more comfortable clothing that allowed women to move freely.

  • This new emphasis on body positivity is a far cry from the body-shaming culture of earlier decades.
  • Women were finally able to express themselves without fear of judgment and were encouraged to love themselves just the way they were.

Feminism: Dressing for Female Empowerment

In the 1960s, feminism came to the forefront of public consciousness. Women were fighting for equal rights, both in the home and in the workplace. Fashion served as a powerful tool for female empowerment, with women embracing bold, masculine-inspired pieces like pantsuits and military-inspired jackets. They were also experimenting with shorter hemlines and brighter colors, symbolizing their newfound sense of liberation.

As fashion designer Mary Quant famously put it, “Fashion should be a game.”

This playful attitude towards fashion was part of a larger cultural shift towards a more relaxed, less rigid approach to life. Women were shedding the corsets and petticoats of their mothers’ generation in favor of clothing that allowed them to move, dance, and live life on their own terms.

The 1960s was a decade of great change for women. The way they saw themselves and the way society saw them was dramatically different from previous generations. Alongside this shift towards greater equality came a new fashion sense, one that emphasized comfort and individuality over conformity. From beehives and bouffants to mini skirts and hot pants, 1960s fashion was a reflection of feminist thought and a powerful symbol of female empowerment.

Legacy, Revivals, and Contemporary Inspirations: 1960s Fashion Today

The fashion of the 1960s is often remembered for its bold colors, daring patterns, and sleek silhouettes. From mod miniskirts to psychedelic prints, the fashion of this decade embraced youthful energy and rebellion. But the legacy of 60s fashion goes beyond just aesthetics. The impact this era had on the fashion industry is still felt today.

Designers and Inspirations

Many designers today continue to be inspired by the fashion of the 1960s. The clean lines and bold colors of mod fashion, for example, have certainly influenced designers like Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs. And the use of loud, graphic prints is a hallmark of both 60s and contemporary fashion.

Other designers have found inspiration in the more bohemian styles of the 60s. Designers like Anna Sui and Isabel Marant have taken cues from the hippie silhouettes and folkloric prints of the era – albeit with their own modern twists.

The Return of Retro

But it’s not just designers who are looking to the past for fashion inspiration. Retro clothing has made a major comeback in recent years, as fashion-lovers seek to recreate the bold, playful looks of the 60s and 70s. Vintage stores, secondhand shops, and even major retailers like Target and H&M offer retro-inspired clothing, from shift dresses to bell-bottom jeans.

This renewed interest in 60s fashion has also spurred the revival of iconic 60s brands. For example, Mary Quant, the designer who made the miniskirt famous, recently reopened her London store, selling new versions of her popular 60s designs. Similarly, the iconic brand Biba, which was at the forefront of 60s fashion, has been relaunched several times since its original run in the 60s and 70s.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions Answers
What were the popular clothing styles during the 1960s? Popular clothing styles during the 1960s were mini skirts, go-go boots, shift dresses, palazzo pants, and bohemian-inspired outfits.
What were some of the most iconic fashion trends of the 1960s? Some of the most iconic fashion trends of the 1960s were bright colors, bold prints, psychedelic patterns, and exaggerated silhouettes.
Who were some of the notable style icons during the 1960s? Some of the notable style icons during the 1960s were Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy.
What accessories were popular during the 1960s? Popular accessories during the 1960s were large sunglasses, statement jewelry, headscarves, and handbags with geometric patterns.
How did the social and political climate of the 1960s influence women’s fashion? The social and political climate of the 1960s influenced women’s fashion by inspiring more freedom and experimentation with clothing choices, reflecting the era’s emphasis on individualism and self-expression.
Are any 1960s fashion trends still popular today? Yes, certain 1960s fashion trends, such as mini skirts, bold prints, and oversized sunglasses, are still popular today and continue to influence contemporary fashion designs.

Thanks for Exploring 1960s Women’s Fashion with Us!

We hope you enjoyed discovering the iconic styles and trends of 1960s women’s fashion. The decade’s bold colors, prints, and silhouettes continue to inspire contemporary fashion and female self-expression. We invite you to visit again later to explore more exciting fashion history topics and find style inspiration for your wardrobe.

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