There is no denying that the “hippie” movement gained so much notoriety because of the unpopular war in Vietnam. However, what is often left out is the other side of the Hippie movement, consisting of extremes— make-up, mini-skirts, and bold geometric patterns.
As is the purpose of this blog, history meets fashion long and hard during this time.
People often mistake “hippies” as being synonymous with protesting Vietnam. And while that is accurate to a large extent, the “hippies” or “Flower Children” really shouldn’t be painted with such a large brush. Much of the hippie movement had its roots in protest, but some were simply about anti-authority…concerts of free love, of adventure, of bucking corporate America, etc. Shopping malls and boutiques still existed,of course, but younger generations often flowed to bazaars, hand-made clothes, and loose-fitting tops. Hairstyles got longer for hippies, as did the idea of being free of the expectations of conforming. This style of reached its epitome when a New York farm hosted a little event called Woodstock. 😶
Broadcast on national television, the Woodstock festival certainly proved that the Baby Boomers had arrived, with the aforementioned clothes, rollicking in muddy muddy feels and “tuning out” from a society many felt had abandoned them. This particular style, perhaps better described as non-style, was in almost every way a statement to be free, be oneself, and for many, a message to the older generation that their generation wouldn’t endure the hardships of war and economic slavery their elders had experienced. They wanted peace and to be free of constraints. Most were disenchanted by not only the war, but the violence, riots, and general unrest that accelerated as the decades progressed. Feminism made its mark (thank goodness!) as did the woefully long time coming of Desegregation. African-Americans and Feminists were the voices of the late ‘60s. For many, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy (within months of each other,) became the final straw. Government, to many, was not the government they were raised to trust.
Though the “hippie look” is the most recognizable of the decade, one cannot discount the part of the population (Richard Nixon’s “silent majority,”) who weren’t going for the hippie look or ideals. Other fashions made popular at that time were the skinny dresses, short hair, short skirts, go-go boots and bold patterns. And yes, the majority of self-proclaimed hippies hated Vietnam and many were anti-establishment. But many were just looking for ways to express themselves. And so they did.
Don’t let it be Forgot/Once There was a Spot/For One Brief Shining Moment/That was known as Camelot.
Need we really try to define what fashion IS or what it ISN’T? I’m certainly not going to do so. Fashion — as it is defined — occurs when a society at large agrees to a style, aesthetic or cultural sensibility for a period of time (the conversation.com.) “Fashion,” for the purposes of this blog, is used loosely, mainly because the ultimate goal here is to analyze fashion as I personally see it, and to analyze how even small pockets of fashion are reflections of the times and a peer into the future.
As discussed in post #3, “The Daily Air,” we see examples of popular fashions from each decade, but within the same decades, style varies drastically. The 1960s decade is a great place to start.
Many a historian will tell you that the early 1960s, culturally, was really a continuation of the 1950s. By and large, I’ve found that to be true. The major shift, though, was the election of John F. Kennedy. From the moment JFK took office, it was apparent that other than basic political beliefs, a youthful, promising America was here. After eight years of the Eisenhower Administration (and no disrespect attended to a very fine Dwight Eisenhower,) America had a young, vigorous, forward-looking President with a beautiful wife, sometimes maligned because of her fondness for haute couture. They had two young children romping the halls of the White House. Looking back on Camelot, as Jackie named her husband’s administration, most Americans felt energized by this stunning couple who traveled the world, showcasing a new, stylish America. So forward thinking was JFK, he promised us Americans would go to the moon by the end of the decade. And we did. Sadly, Kennedy would not be alive to see it.
The Jackie Look
It’s no secret that ladies’ fashion in the early part of the 1960s was greatly influenced by celebrities due to the public’s rapidly accessibility to television and movies. However, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone person (maybe Audrey Hepburn to a lesser degree) than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie’s most famous accessory, the pillbox hat, had been around for a while. As had (obviously) pearls, fashionable skirt suits, and beautiful gowns for White House formal occasions. What Jackie Kennedy did dowas bring these styles to international attention. She was the first First Lady to get her own press secretary, whose conversations with the press dealt most often with what the First Lady would wear. She did receive a fair amount of criticism for the money she spent on her wardrobe. As she wrote to her sister, “A newspaper reported that I spent $30,000 a year on clothes from Paris! I couldn’t spend that much money if I wore sable underwear!” Her style was so popular that Women’s Wear Daily, until that point a trade-only magazine, became a society must-read when it transformed itself into What Jackie Wears Daily.
Americans weren’t the only ones in love with Mrs. Kennedy. On a state visit to Paris, the French line the streets everywhere she went with shouts of “Vive Joaqui!” Jackie was so popular in Paris (and other European cities,) JFK quipped to a Paris crowd, “I do not feel it altogether inappropriate that I introduce myself; I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris…and I have enjoyed it.” America had finally moved to the top of the world stage, not just in terms of military and financial power, but also in the place by which we’ve always been naturally intimidated—the sophistication and elegance other lands had enjoyed for centuries. An added bonus was that America couldn’t have chosen 2 more appropriate people to show for it than Jack and Jackie Kennedy.
The End of Camelot
Everything comes to an end, even fairy tales. Even legends. Even Camelot. After President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, America was never the same. This is not to say that JFK was so powerful and worshipped that every event in the following turbulent years happened because he wasn’t there to stop it. Obviously, we’ll never know what would have been. However, from my perspective, I do think America’s sense of promise did change. Jackie Kennedy knew what she was saying when she quoted the lines from Camelot…Don’t let it be Forgot/Once There was a Spot/For One Brief Shining Moment/That was known as Camelot to an author from Life magazine shortly after her husband’s murder. She wanted history to know who he was, and what he stood for.
There was a slow-boil of distrust of the government following the Warren Commission’s declaration that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Most historians agree that the public became less and less agreeable to the Commission’s findings as the decade progressed. In and of itself, I find no direct link to America’s changing clothing trends…every decade has trends which come and go. But it cannot be denied that the fervor of frenzy over America’s pride in newly-recognized sophistication on the world stage died a little with John F. Kennedy. Jackie Kennedy would go on to be a fashion icon until her death in 1994. Her influence never left us, but other events of the decade (in most cases rightfully so,) overshadowed fashion. At the same time, domestic and international events were reflected in different aspects of fashion trends.
The British are Coming!
Though Jackie remained in the the public eye, obviously she was seen much less; therefore her influence declined. Filling the kind of fashion void that occurred during most of 1964, there was this tightrope of balancing sophisticated clothing with “mod” fashion, best known for go-go books, polka dots, the super-skinny Twiggy style, and the beginnings of the early beatnik-meets-hippie look. The more I read about the origins of historical fashion in the 1960s, the more shocked I become that the British influence isn’t documented more. Unless you were born and lived a very unfortunate life under a rock, the term “British Invasion” means one thing to you…Music, specifically the Beatles. However, if you take a closer look, you see that the British Invasion was much more than 4 boys from Liverpool. What had been a very nouveau Americana style less than 3 years ago seemed to suddenly reverse positions with Americans mimicking in many ways for their style…the British for a “mod” style.
The little black dress (LBD as it is often called,) is a staple every woman with the slightest aroma of style must have. I can only speak for those of us raised in the South and taught very early on just what exact factor makes an “occasion” an OCCASION. About the time we learn about OCCASIONS, we also learn about what to wear when you find yourself in one of those unfortunate situations in which you OWN about 50 perfectly beautiful dresses for said OCCASION, but none of those dresses look any better than your pajamas did 10 minutes earlier. And THAT, dear reader, is when you pull out the aforementioned staple of style. That is the Little Black Dress, thanks to none other than Ms. Coco Chanel. Even though I clearly didn’t know her personally, I do feel the uncanny need to bow my head, nod, or curtsy a bit when I hear or say her name.
You see, the LBD never goes out of style. If worn with complimentary and modern accessories, the same classic LBD you wore to a job interview in 1980 can be the LBD you wear to your retirement party, decades later (maybe a few sizes larger, but who’s counting?)
The concept of the LBD is almost always associated with Coco Chanel, the grande dame of fashion houses world-wide. Chanel’s LBD’s genesis was the following: In 1926, Coco Chanel, a talented but relatively unknown designer published a picture of a short, simple black dress for Vogue magazine. It was calf-length, straight and decorated only by a few diagonal lines. The little black dress was simple and accessible for women of all social classes(hallelujah and Amen to that…) Vogue also said that the LBD would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” How clairvoyant, Vogue! Even the price and overall structure of the garment could be made to fit the needs of any woman desiring a couture look without the couture price tag. Those factors would be essential during the Great Depression. Just as importantly, the LBD was versatile. As you’ll see below, though the concept stayed the same, subtle differences (bows, for example) could be added or removed to make one dress look like 2 or 3 dresses.
Today is your lucky day if you happen to either have a love for or need some inspiration pertaining to your own LBD. Here are some of Coco Chanel’s LBD, accessories, as well as Coco Chanel herself. Also, some of these are amazingly simple yes…again…versatile. Have a peek. 😉~JJ
“Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.” —Diana Vreeland.
It goes without saying that in MOST decades of the last 100+ years, there is almost always a shift in style, sometimes necessitated by historical events or by massive change in social trends…take the early 1960s compared to the style of the late 1960s, for example.
Since it wouldn’t be prudent or substantial to post as well as discuss these fashions and their significance to history, this is a little preview from each decade. Think of it as the appetizer before the meal…and enjoy. As always, feel free to comment. 😉
“Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” —Yves Saint Laurent
Before we jump into fashion/history, take a look at the other fashion icons of the 20th/21st Century. (With a small list of why they’re so important to the fashion world.) This list is purely my opinion, so I know a lot of you might disagree. That’s great! Comment on who YOU would put on the list. I already talked about (in #1, “Paper Dolls”) that Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana are my #1 and #2 favorites, respectively. We will revisit some of these women in more detail later on. Here is the rest of the list of my personal favorite icons of fashion. But for now, enjoy and comment! Here are #3-10. These are in NO particular order. 😌
#5. Michelle Obama
At some point during the inaugural festivities in 2009, while busy trying to watch the Inauguration of President Obama while attempting to impart some semblance of historic significance to a classroom full of 22 sixth graders, I heard in the background the phrase “J. Crew.” I know my head snapped back to the tv with extreme haste, not sure I had heard that correctly. But yes indeed. Michelle Obama was wearing J. Crew to the inauguration. (That same brand I ordered from a catalog in high school because we didn’t have a J. Crew in town, so I was sure no one would have the same outfit.😙) It was then and there that I knew this First Lady would march to her own drum, and would not be pushed around…fashion or otherwise.
Why she’s a modern day fashion icon: Again, this is just my opinion, but I boil Mrs. Obama’s style down to 2 very basic concepts: The obvious answer is that she was the First Lady of the United States. You don’t get a bigger stage than that. So breathing new life into the wardrobe of a FL was her first step. Plus she exudes something which can’t be bought at even the world’s most celebrated Fashion Houses: confidence. And like the cliched “fine wine,” she truly does get better with time.
Her signature go-tos: color. Eye-popping color that Lee Radziwill encouraged in #4. Yet she knows when tan, black, brown, and white are appropriate. Bold Patterns and Prints. Frequently, celebs tend to shy away from those two things because one can never tell how certain patterns and prints will translate in the media. Know thy body. Without question, Michelle Obama has a figure most of us would love to have. However, she knows she’s not Jackie, Marilyn, Grace, or Audrey…and she knows how to play up her very best features and does so extremely well. Accessories. She excels at choosing the right accessories in the right moments, and a whole outfit, when accessorized well, is transformed in an instant.
By the way…any woman who can rock an overcoat, evening gown, pretty patterns, jumpsuit and casual chic…and look just as great in any of them…well, that’s a “Win” in my book. 😉
#6 Grace Kelly
Why she’s a fashion icon: Grace Kelly, raised in a wealthy Philadelphia family, never really thought she’d be a successful actress. And I highly doubt she ever thought she’d be a real-life Princess. Though her Hollywood career lasted only about 5 short years, the impact she had on film is (in my opinion) truly outstanding, given the fact that most Hollywood legends had careers lasting decades…or they tried. So the first reason she is an icon is the simple fact that she’s unassuming, therefore making her glorious wardrobe seem effortless…though appearing regal before she literally WAS regal. Secondly, Alfred Hitchcock, he who put so much credence into her fame (in his opinion, anyway,) called her look “sexually elegant.” That it was. There is just an air of elegance that came with even Grace’s simplest looks, and it always worked for her. If one considers other movie stars of her time, say Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor…sexy, yes. Elegant? Not usually. Grace Kelly was elegant, whether casual or formal. The fact that she is still remembered for her flawless elegance 70 years after her heyday in the movies, and almost 40 years after her death…that speaks volumes. “Grace”—what a perfect name for a lady who embodied grace.
Her signatures: Although probably politically incorrect, one would be lying to say that her first signature is 1) that face. Her naturally beautiful, unassuming All-American looks was a signature. Certainly not her only one, but not a bad start. 😉 2) Silhouettes. Though her onscreen attire didn’t always fit that description, offscreen, in photo shoots especially, she was known for her silhouette dresses. What sets her apart is the bit of flirtatiousness she wove into those silhouette…a low back or “just short enough” skirt which left plenty to the imagination. 3) As with most fashion icons of any era, 3)accessories were a vital part of her look. Short gloves, simple but elegant jewelry (often pearls,) and let us not forget the woman had a bag (the “Kelly” bag) named after her, which is still today a symbol of extravagance and coveted by anyone with enough money to buy a “real” one. How many women can say that? 4) Green…Grace Kelly knew she looked great in green and it is the color most associated with her. (However, it is a misconception that the term “Kelly green” was named so because of her—it wasn’t. It was a term dating back to at least the mid-1900s.) Finally, 5) Grace Kelly’s wedding dress, worn in 1953 when the Hollywood Princess became Monaco’s princess.
#7 Kate Middleton
Why she’s an icon: It has been said that calling the Duchess an “icon,” is premature, but I couldn’t disagree more. After all, let’s not forget that Kate is currently only 2 years younger than her mother-in-law Princess Diana, one of the best dressed women in history was when she died. So no. It’s not too early. Kate Middleton has successfully mixed traditional, conservative Royal clothing with completely modern style, and has done so seamlessly.
Her signatures: British Royal fashion infused with modern clothing and accessories without appearing “stuffy” or “managed.” Her “off-duty” casual look is amazing. She has the uncanny ability to appear casual, chic, and trendy without a wardrobe that screams “Hey, world, I’m climbing off my throne to look like the rest of you peasants.” Nor does she sneak around half-naked to show off her amazing “I’ve given birth to three children” body. Coats. The Duchess has done for coats what Katherine Hepburn did for pants. Diana. To her credit, Kate doesn’t try to dress like Diana but pays tribute to Princess Diana in sweet, yet subtle, ways.
#8 Audrey Hepburn
Why She’s an Icon: Like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn’s style has been emulated and admired for almost 70 years. Her “pixie” look is hers alone, and no one else ever come close to matching it. Even when glamorous, she still pulls off an innocent elegance. Hepburn had many dresses or outfits which were instantly popular, but sometimes one dress kind of defines a person, and for her it’s the famous, beautiful Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress.
Signature looks: Other than the Tiffany’s dress, Audrey Hepburn’s pixie haircut was en vogue before pixie cuts WERE en vogue. Audrey wasn’t shy about wearing pantsuits, fitted pants, and of course her pearls. She also loved hats, an accessory not extremely popular at the time, but they definitely were after she wore them!
#9 Amal Clooney
Why She’s an Icon: Amal Clooney is so much more than her wardrobe. A brilliant human rights attorney and philanthropist should obviously come before discussion of her clothes, but that’s not the point on this site. 😬 Amal Clooney, wife of that gorgeous creature George Clooney, skyrocketed to fame with her versatile, chic style. She has become one of the world’s most best-dressed women and she absolutely deserves to be.
Her signatures: This one is kind of difficult to pin down for the simple reason that her clothes ARE so versatile, she almost doesn’t have just a few “signatures.” Three things do stand out to me personally, though. 1) Chic pantsuits/power suits. Probably the most unique things about Clooney is that unlike almost every lady on this list, she has a non-public She works fabulous style into her work wear. 2) Colors. Whether being mom, attorney, wife, or on the Red Carpet, like Michelle Obama, Clooney tends to go for bright colors and patterns. 3) Strapless looks great on her and shewears it often. Looking at even a tiny fraction of her wardrobe proves that she very much deserves the attention she has gotten.
#10: Katherine Hepburn
Why she’s an icon: Katherine Hepburn’s impact on fashion can be summed up perfectly with one word: trousers. 😉
Her signature: Trousers. Katherine Hepburn was in a way a “feminist fashionista.” Her unique look set her far apart, and that one major staple look is all Ms. really needed to make her mark on the world of fashion. However, what’s truly at the heart of her appeal is that she made her signature look distinctly sexy and alluring. Also, it is crucial to understand why “wearing pants” matters at all, at least through our 2019 lens. When KH rose to the level of national fame because of her superior acting talent, she was also known in Hollywood for being fiercely independent when it came not for the roles she played, but for her wardrobe as well. So when la Hepburn insisted on her now-famous pairing of loose trousers and buttoned blouses and blazers, agents and photographers fought her at every stop. However, being the Grande Dame we now know she is, it was a challenge she not only took on, but did so with the willfulness and determination which peppered every aspect of her storied and revered life. This isn’t to say she never wore beautiful dresses or skirts, but her signature style will always be her ability to make what, at the time, was seen as rather masculine…feminine and oh-so sexy.
First and foremost, thank you for joining me on this journey of fashion, history, and a sprinkle of other cultural topics just forfrivolous fun.😬
A little bit about how I landed my passion and excitement about this blog…
Very far from considering myself a “fashionista,” I do admit I’ve had a lifelong passion for clothes, styles, (usually other people’s) and the icons who make fashion not just a fad or trend, rather a commentary on our history. For years I have been dying to find a way to marry these two poetic concepts: fashion and history. I am a history and education major, but if there had been a major for fashion history, I surely would have taken it. Again, Iadore beautiful clothes, but whatI adore more in the way the impact our society and/or vice versa.
I was the girl who watched every Awards show for the Red Carpet since I was about 9 years old. I was the girl who, while on a dream trip to Paris after college, wanted to visit the famous fashion houses before seeing Versailles or the Eiffel Tower. (That didn’t happen, but a girl can try ! 😉)
Another passion I had was history. I had a thirst for almost any type of literature, but the books I read until the pages were well-worn and yellow, was anything from the European Renaissance through the turbulent 20th century in America. The more I grew in my understanding of history, the more I understood the connection between society and fashion. I’d never grasped that before, but it’s so obviousI’membarrassedI didn’t think of it sooner. Exploring those avenues in tandem has opened a renewed passion for me.(Side note: on November 22, 1963, my Dallas great-aunt and uncle were waiting atthe Dallas Trade Mart, where President Kennedy was to speak when he was shot on his way there.That furthered my fuel for the tragedy of the Kennedys.)
The Genesis: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Princess Diana.
Looking back on my childhood, one of my earliest memories is my mother buying me Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana paper dolls. think I was 5 or 6 years old, so of course I loved dressing my “Di” and “Jackie” dolls…they had the most gorgeous clothes (well, obviously…they were the two most photographed women in the world, though I had no knowledge of that.) I was born in 1980. Too young to remember the “Royal Wedding” and way too young to understand anything about the, as she herself said, “shadows that engulfed” Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s life.
The older I grew, the more I read with veracity anything about “Jackie O.” My love for Princess Diana never wavered, but books about the Princess of Wales were harder to come by. What, oh what did we ever do before Google? Still, I educated myself with the broad strokes of the Royal Family and the Kennedys. I was, and still am, enamored with these two families who, though separated by an entire sea, managed to stay in the news in one way or the other all over the world...and as far back as I’m able to remember, have dealt with one crisis after another.
So Iguess what began with a lot of paper dolls and a little materialism, sparked an unbridled affection for history and for fashion. It is my fervent hope to share observations…lessons…beauty in all its many forms…and the ladies and gentlemen who got us to this point in fashion’s history. I want to learn from you as well. Your comments are always welcome (as long as they’re respectful,) and your opinions are valued. ~JJ
Two ladies whose style I will always love the most~Jackie and Diana: