More Is More: Ripped from the Pages of 1960s Vogue


The 1960s seismic fashion shift—miniskirts, bell bottoms, galactic crystals—left an impact seen clearly on Vogue’s unique radar. Take a look at the edge of fashion in all its glory.

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to the impact the 1960s had on American culture. For starters, the 60s followed two consecutive super-conservative decades in the United States. In the 1940s and 50s, gender roles were traditional and uncontested, communication was limited, television was in its infancy, and exploration meant crossing state lines, not oceans. By the early 60s, all of that started to change, creating a combustion of ingenuity and disruption across every category—socially, politically, culturally. One of the most epic decades in U.S. history saw the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the sexual revolution, the arrival of The Beatles in the U.S., the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, and a space race that culminated with the first man landing on the moon. The shift in American culture was seismic.

It’s no wonder, then, that it was also a doozy of a decade fashion-wise—all that intensity and upheaval was reflected in the way women dressed. The decade offered up a frenzy of new trends meant to speak to a female population that was questioning their roles, exploring their sexuality, piquing their curiosity, and building on their new-found confidence. For the first time, women wanted clothes not for pulling a casserole out of the oven or playing bridge on a four top; they wanted clothes meant for protesting and partying. 

The list of major trends that emerged in the 60s is profound. Miniskirts, graphic prints, neon colors, caftans, tribal beading, the denim craze (especially bell-bottom jeans), fringe of every ilk, suit separates, and slinky jersey jumpsuits. Sound familiar? What makes 60s fashion so groundbreaking isn’t just the ground it broke back then, but the fact that the trends it produced are still as relevant today as they were six decades ago. In these 2020s, every designer’s runway—and every ad campaign, store front, influencer feed, and red carpet—takes inspiration from the 1960s. Name any other decade that has yielded as much longevity and remained as impactful on the way women currently dress as the 1960s. I’ll wait.

And Vogue documented it all. These images made during the 1960s, featuring work by the best fashion photographers in the business, capture every energetic moment of that crazy, sexy, cool time in fashion.


Colorful

Images via Shutterstock’s Conde Nast Best Fashion Images Collection.

The 60s saw a color explosion in fashion, the likes of which had never been seen before. Gone were muted tweeds and jewel-tone party dresses, here replaced by psychedelic miniskirts, color blocked sheaths, explosive graphic prints, and neon colors. Designers mixed patterns and offered up novel material mash-ups. Thanks to new advancements in fabric production, prints and color saturation reached new levels of detail and vibrancy. 


Feminist

Images via Shutterstock’s Conde Nast Best Fashion Images Collection.

Women in the 60s, finding their voice and feeling their sexuality for the first time, wanted clothes that reflected this burgeoning sense of power, and wow did the clothes deliver. The styles, shapes, colors, and fabrics provided a 180-degree pivot from the clothes worn in the 1950s, a decade epitomized by boxy suits and pedal-pusher pants. Could an apprehensive woman wear a miniskirt? Not likely. The 60s also saw women enter the workplace for the first time, creating the need for professional wardrobe staples. By the end of the 1960s, there was a boon in comfortable, affordable, coordinating suit separates specifically targeted to the growing number of female nine to fivers. 


Global (and Beyond)

Images via Shutterstock’s Conde Nast Best Fashion Images Collection.

Thanks to the increasing availability of air travel in the 1960s, more Americans started discovering the world. Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, destinations that were so far-flung many Americans had never even seen pictures of them, became more accessible. Even if you, personally, weren’t able to cross an ocean, you knew it was happening (it was in the news, in films, and foreign tourists were now flocking to U.S. shores).

The fashion shift to include “exotic” design elements—Ikat prints, animal skins, beaded embellishments, mandarin collars, robes, and caftans—took off. What’s more, America’s “Space Race” pushed design even further, igniting interest in Galactic glamor—futuristic shapes, bubble accents, Lucite, metallics, and tech-y fabrics. 


Youthful 

Images via Shutterstock’s Conde Nast Best Fashion Images Collection.

Prior to the 1960s, it was adults who determined the culture of the country—what they bought, wore, read, ate, watched, talked about, and cared for—and media and marketers were only interested in speaking to this solid, middle-age sensibility. But in the 60s, the country suddenly got younger as all those Baby Boomers came of age, creating a massive demographic bulge of teens and early twentysomethings.

The decade marked the first time in history that young people had the buying power, and the cultural focus shifted to reflect their interests. What did they want? Freedom of expression in every aspect of their lives, most especially in the way they dressed. This “Youthquake” shook the establishment to its core.


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Cover image via Shutterstock’s Conde Nast Best Fashion Images Collection.



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