The youth culture of the 1960s collided with haute couture like an atomic bomb. The youth culture of the 1960s collided with haute couture like an atomic bomb. For a hundred years, Paris ruled high fashion. Prior to the Sixties, young women dressed like their mothers, frequented their mother’s dressmaker, and strived to look curvaceous and ultrafeminine.
However, says design historian and curator Elizabeth Lay, fashion reflects our time and our values, and baby boomers were a rising force. They demanded clothing that was versatile and affordable. Influences like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the Rolling Stones, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and antiestablishment creeds resulted in massive shifts in fashion—as did the Pill, the Cold War, space travel, and new materials.
During the previous decade there were 106 fashion houses in the Chambre Syndicale but by the end of the 1960s there were just 19. Their places were filled by ready-to-wear shops like Mary Quant in London. The look was androgenous, like an immature girl, slim and lithe with large, exaggerated eyes as epitomized by Twiggy and her lean, boyish figure. Models like China Machado and Iman represented a wider range of ethnicities. Pierre Cardin was expelled from the Chambre Syndicale for creating a line of ready-to-wear, and Yves Saint Laurent took it further with his enormously popular Rive Gauche line in 1966. And the go-go boots marched on.
Join Lay for a delightfully illustrated look at the youthquake that shook the world of fashion.