60s fashion and style

Fashion went through a revolution in the 1960s. Mary Quant decided that young women needed their own style when she opened her first store, Bazaar, on the King's Road as early as 1955.   She popularised the mini skirt and shift dress which became the foundation of 'the look' for the mid sixties. Vidal Sassoon's geometric hair styles completed the image. A new type of store, the boutique, colourful and trendy with pop music filling the air, became the place to buy these new clothes.

Men's fashion also changed enormously.  John Stephen, who opened his first shop in the environs of Carnaby Street in the late 1950s, catered to the growing Mod movement.  Groups such as the Beatles and later more purist Mod bands: the Who, the Small Faces and the Kinks helped popularise the style throughout the country.

In the second half of the 60s, young people discovered the past and searched for Victorian and Edwardian military uniforms in shops such as 'I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet' in Portobello Road.   Change came again at the end of the decade when the hippy style - beads, kaftans and long hair replaced the look of the mid 60s.  The style reached its peak in the Summer of 1967, but continued to influence fashion well into the 1970s.

Long hair was in fashion in the late 60s

Unisex clothes were tried in the late 60s.  The older generation were already complaining that it was difficult to tell young men and women apart.  The one universal legacy of the 60s was the jeans and T-shirt, worn by both men and women.

Of course this fast pace of change was only for the young.  Full employment and a school leaving age of fifteen meant that teenagers had money to spend on music and clothes. They were often married by their early twenties, so this period of freedom was short lived. Music and television programmes such as Ready, Steady Go and later Top of the Pops, helped to spread the new styles throughout the country, but different regions and different generations moved at a different pace.  Some groups did not adopt the same styles.  Many working class youths in the late 60s saw nothing for them in the hippy style and went to the opposite extreme.  The Skinhead movement derived from the Mod style of the mid sixties added ultra short haircuts and rather than a constant changing look became a distinct uniform.

Older people also tended to be slower to adopt new styles and there was a marked generation gap in the 1960s.

Early 60s

Teenagers ready to hit the town, c1963

For women's fashion in the first half of the 1960s the look of the late fifties remained. It was all about the glamour of American movies. By 1963, when this photograph, (right), was taken, the wide skirts of the 50s had all but disappeared, but the look was still formal. The two girls in this picture look very grown up. The look was adult and glamorous, there was no real attempt to look that different from the older generation. This style can be seen in films such as 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' (1960).

The young man in this picture is in Mod gear: a smart suit with narrow lapels and tapered trousers, a slim tie and winklepickers. Fashion was very regional in the 60s. Styles adopted in the Capital took some time to reach the whole country. In the film 'Kes' (1969)about Billy, a boy growing up in Barnsley in Yorkshire, his older brother, Jud, still wears this style right down to the winklepickers. In the early sixties in some towns, the Teddy Boy style was still in vogue, whereas in London the Mod movement was beginning.

Winklepickers were fashionable shoes for men in the early 60s

Detail: Winklepickers

Winklepickers (also known as winkle pickers) were sharp shoes, quite literally, with a pointed toe. Winkle pickers were popular mainstream fashion for young men in the early 60s. The pointed toe was also fashionable for young ladies' shoes, which were also known as winklepickers.

60s fashion: Suits from the 60s

For most men over thirty the smart suit remained the only way to dress for going out. Many went to tailors, such as Burton or John Collier to be fitted out at least once a year. Burton's suits were good value for money and lasted reasonably well.

Jackie Kennedy pictured wearing a pink Chanel
suit (1963) (image: Wikimedia commons)

Mid 60s fashion

The Chanel suit, originally designed by Coco Chanel in the 1920s, was still popular with many women in the 1960s. Jackie Kennedy was a role model for older women in the 60s. She is pictured right with John F Kennedy in the pink Chanel suit she wore on the day of his assassination. Later stained with JFK's blood it became one of the most famous pieces of clothing in history.

The Chanel suit remained a classic fashion item throughout the 60s.

60s fashions 60s fashions 60s fashions

A more casual look was creeping into fashion for younger women. Calf length boots were becoming popular. This long leather jacket, illustrated far left, is quite unusual, but in the spirit of the more fashionable art school types.

The young woman with short hair, pictured middle, looks like she might have had a part in 'The Avengers'. John Bates designs for Diana Rigg's clothes in the Avengers allowed a mainstream audience to see the latest styles.

Mini dress, 1960s 60s fashion: The mini skirt was fashionable by the mid sixties

The mini skirt

The mini skirt was the fashion phenomenon of the sixties. Hemlines rose to seven to eight inches above the knee. There is some debate over who invented the mini. Mary Quant's boutique, Bazaar, on the King's Road, Chelsea was one of the first places that sold them in 1965. French fashion designer, André Courrèges, also added mini skirts to his fashion collection in 1965.

The mini skirt slowly caught on throughout the country in the years following 1965. Most women took a couple of years to accept the new look. For the mini to work, the old fashioned underwear and stockings of the fifties had to go. Women now wore tights or panty-hose. A new male fantasy ousted an age old one!

Iconic sixties shift dress with geometric detail

Mary Quant opened a second Bazaar in Knightsbridge and Sally Tuffin and Marion Foale opened Tuffin and Foale in Carnaby Street. Tuffin and Foale's clothes, like Quant's, had a huge influence on the style of the decade. Carnaby Street became a centre for men's as well as women's fashion in 1960s.

London in the mid sixties was awash with boutiques with names like Countdown, Blast Off, Top Gear, Change Down, Glad Rags, Clobber, Quorum, Ad Hoc, Palisades, Barricades etc . There a girl could get the latest fashion, which according to 'The London Spy (a sophisticated guide book) in 1966, was a buttercup-yellow satin gymslip worn with orange boots!

Most of these boutiques were fairly expensive. A simple shift dress cost around £10 (read at least £100 in today's money). For those with smaller pockets there were Wallis, Neatawear and Top Shop. Top Shop's range in the 60s included designs by Mary Quant. If Swinging London was not to your taste, then Jaeger made sweaters, suits and coats that lasted forever. Marks and Spencer was known for quality and value, though some of their dresses and suits were a little too classic. M&S was also considered the best place for underwear.

This shift dress, above left, is typical of the Swinging London style of the mid sixties. The bright colours and geometric patterns epitomise this period. This look lasted into the latter years of the sixties for those not ready to join the hippy revolution.

Mod style, c1967

The Mod style

The Mods of the early sixties took the suit to new levels of style. The tapered trousers and thin lapels of the Italian style, became a new youth cult in the early to mid sixties. To this look they added striped blazers, Fred Perry shirts and the Mod scooter, a Lambretta if possible.

Carnaby Street was their fashion centre. John Stephen had several shops there. His male boutiques became the equivalent of Mary Quant's Bazaar.

In the mid 60s, the London Mods congregated in Carnaby Street for a regular fashion parade. Pop music poured from the boutiques and men's shops along the small, narrow street. By the mid 60s, boutiques catering for girls as well as boys were common on Carnaby Street; the Mods usually brought their girlfriends along with them. Shops on Carnaby Street often came and went. Shops that were on Carnaby Street in the 60s included:

Men's shops/male boutiques:

  • John Stephen
  • Lord John
  • Adam W1
  • Tre Camp
  • Carna B Hive
  • Paul's Male Boutique
  • Domino Male

Ladies' boutiques

  • Palisades
  • Tuffin & Foale

Carnaby Street also had a junk shop called Gear. It sold furniture from the Victorian past and reminders of the then fashionable Art Nouveaux era. Also on Carnaby Street in 1967 were a couple of old fashioned pubs, a health food shop, a toyshop and Button Queen, which sold old buttons.

For more on Mods see Mods and Rockers and 60s Mods

Hippy style

Mod fashions were mainstream youth culture by 1965. In 1966 the scene was changing. In January 1966, Granny Takes A Trip opened at 488 King's Road, London; the wrong end of the street, known as the World's End. Granny Takes a Trip was run by Nigel Waymouth, his girlfriend, Sheila Cohen, a fan of vintage clothes, and former tailor, John Pearse. They decorated the shop with red Art Nouveaux lettering on a black background. It looked very dark and mysterious. Inside were Aubrey Beardsley prints and blow-ups of French postcards from the naughty nineties (the 1890s that is).

Flower motives became mainstream fashion in the late 60s

Granny Takes A Trip marked the end of Mod and the beginning of Hippy style. The shop sold clothes for men and women, some vintage, some new. It also sold floral shirts, jackets with wide lapels, the opposite of the Mod style, velvet and brocade flares, and skirts and dresses in velvet and lace.

Granny's became a Mecca for the pop world. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and Pink Floyd were all customers.

Following on from Granny's, Hung On You had a shop front painted by pop artist, Michael English. He choose bold Art Deco inspired lettering in red over bright yellow sun rays on a black background. It timed in beautifully with the late 1960s Art Deco rival which inspired Biba and films such as 'Bonnie and Clyde'.

This style bridged Mod and Hippy fashion in the late 60s

Also in 1966, Michael Fish, opened his first shop 'Mr Fish' in Clifford Street. Michael Fish is credited with the invention of the kipper tie. All his clothes were labelled 'Peculiar to Mr Fish'.

Long hair and flower power was the fashion in the late 60s

Bridging Mod and Hippy style was this smart, double-breasted style, right. This was the way for a fashionable young man to look hip without being scruffy. It was taken up by many of the Mod bands in the late 1960s, often combined with elements of the Hippy style.

For mainstream youth fashion, everything changed again in the Summer of 1967. The smart look of the Mods was replaced with long hair, beads, beards and kaftans. Flower power was in the air. The look was psychedelic swirls and paisley patterns. Full on Flower Power was short lived, but its influence was long lasting.

1969 and after

As the decade ended, hemlines started to drop. The maxi and midi lengths offered women an alternative to the mini.

Working class youths, unable to join the beautiful people, opted for short cropped hair and Dr Marten boots. The Skinhead was born.

60s fashion: Reference and further reading

60s fashion on the web

There is quite lot about 60s fashion on the internet. I would highly recommend www.fashion-era.com. This site has a huge amount of information about fashion from the 60s and other decades. The Wikipedia article about mini skirts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniskirt is also very good.

For hairstyles have a look at www.hairarchives.com. There are number of 60s styles, including the bouffant, the beehive and some very strange looking unisex haircuts.

Your comments

"The 60s were great times for mods I was living in peckham and used to dress in tonic mohair suits camel coats long leather coats. Also hush puppy shoes then raul shoes very italian.

Used to have my hair cut in a college boy cut or french crew cut.

Used to wear brut after shave.

Go to brighton or margate for bank holidays on scooters. Also used to go to hastings all the girls loved you if you were from london and a mod. Used to go to the triangle at the end of peckham high street to meet all the other mods on scooters.

Great times anyone from peckham remember them there"

j holden

"I loved it. I still have my Mr. Fish shirt & my jacket from Harrads Way In. Very switched on." Jeffrey Beuglet

"This has been such a help. We are putting on a show and doing 'Da doo ron ron' by the Crystals. Now I have some idea how we should look. Thanks" Marilyn Mead

"this is really helpfull as im doing a project for enlish and i need 50's 60's 70's 80's and 90's so thanks for the help xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" alicexx

"thanxs so much this really helped me on my homework about the 50's and 60's XxXxxXxXxXxXxXxX" Nadia Boatswain

"I Really Think Dat Da 60z Itz All Wired" justina Smith

"doing a progect for school this really helps" charlotte lock

"Randi T! it can't be the same mr. becker...?" sarah e

"i wish i was there in the 60s y dont we bring the fashion back...i know i wud be the 1st to actually want to wear it.XD" sami

"i'm doing a project at school so it's great. thanks for the website." millie

"this website was the best becaue me and my friends needed it for a DT project and it had all the best info. x" lizzy

"love your website" lucie

"I am also doing a project for school BUT I am not a loud to copy and paste anything so i dont know what to do that much cos if i put anything it will be basically like copying so i dont htink this helps me much and i want to know about what they actually wore more not about the history and stuff :( i dont like it i'm afraid :(:(:(:(:(:(:" Mollie

"you should have more pictures" claire

Check out 60s fashion pictures


"i think that all the 60's fashion was really stupid and if i were in the 60's i would be so inbarised because their hairstyles looked so stupid and ugly so whatever u weirdo's bye" sam

"the fashions in the 60's is really groovy! i just wish this generation could wear stuff like those mini skirts to school without getting in trouble! peace love happiness... " stephanee

"This gave me alot of info!! Thankss (y) In Drama right now... :D" Kirstaayy

"These fashions were very interesting. But some of them are really cute. They are not like what we wear now." Megan Dale

"it doesnt give enough detail or deffinition thats what im looking for :L but it is god really helpful :)" clodaaagh



Your guide to vintage and retro