For three centuries, women’s fashions had been almost exclusively the invention of Parisian couturiers, but by the early 1960s the haute couture tradition was in jeopardy as new sources of style were on the rise from: London, New York, Florence, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Madrid, Rome…
Early in the decade, fashion was under the influence of Internationalism, a global style of modernism where fashion interpreted the ‘Less is more’ modernism mantra through garments of pure line with spare ornament. However, this didn’t mean plain and boring. Textiles featured texture, and the art scene was at a peak of creativity. By mid decade Minimalist and Abstract art styles were augmented by Pop, Op and Psychedelic movements that found their way into fashion prints.
Futurism and nostalgia both fueled fashion as some designers looked to new materials like paper, metal, and plastic for space age inspired styles while others looked inside Grandma’s trunk for Victorian coats and Jazz-Age heirloom dresses for ideas.
The 1960s were all about change, largely caused by the shift in demographics that began with the first wave of post-war baby boom children coming of age early in the decade. As this generation grew in size, young people realized they had the power to reinvent the world around them. The rules of fashion broke down as young men and women chose comfortable, informal styles.
London became the centre of a boutique revolution created by the young independent shopkeeper-designers who ‘geared up’the mod generation and launched the ‘British invasion’ of fashion that accompanied the music revolution that swept around the world. As the younger generation became more restless, fashion became more radical, resulting in anti-establishment styles typified by American Hippies on the West Coast.
It could be said that the 1960s saw the death of fashion and the rise of style. By 1970, everything had changed from the way things had been just ten years before – the styles, markets, materials, demographics, inspirations and definitions of fashion were all new. ‘Take it from me,’ said designer Betsey Johnson in a 2003 article ‘There will never be another chunk of time of such pure genius… it was the first and last time that fashion really, really changed.’
The exhibition closes March 16, 2014.