Swinging Sixties – The Era of Cool Fashion / Fashion Forward / Style

The 60s was an era of fashion revolution defined by a kaleidoscope of new and unprecedented fashion trends. Peter Pan collars, shift and A-line dresses and bell bottom jeans were just some of the trends that broke the traditional mold and took the 60s by storm. Even the most shocking or downright barmy fashions were popularized by models who, for the first time, became superstars. Jean Shrimpton, widely dubbed as the first supermodel and also “The Face of the 60s” helped put peter pan collared shirt on the world map with her demure, doll-like features which complemented the innocent charm of the peter pan collars perfectly.

Katherine Hepburn in her iconic pant suit

During the mid-60s fashion was very much inspired by the music that was popular at the time, including British bands such as the Beatles, The Who, and the Rolling Stones. Since these bands are all male, styles became somewhat androgynous because women were interested in the styles as well. British group called the Mods were the ones to really start mimicking the bands. Only once the Mods’ group became publicly accepted did women start to wear this style as well. Mod fashion was pretty clean-cut, simple, and classic, just adding a couple of new elements such as bright colors and patterns.

Twiggy, probably the most famous supermodel of that era, brought the mod dress to a whole new level with her high-fashion take on the A-line silhouette. Touted to be Jean Shrimpton’s successor, Twiggy broke all boundaries and catapulted to fame in the mid 60s with her boyish pixie haircut and androgynous figure. The revival of the mod dress was especially prominent in 2013-15 runway collections of Louis Vuitton, Jenny Packham, Charlotte Ronson and Moschino.

Twiggy - the most famous face of the 1960s

The Chanel suit, originally designed by Coco Chanel in the 1920s, remained a classic fashion item throughout the 60s. Jackie Kennedy wore pink Chanel suit on the day of John F Kennedy’s assassination, became one of the most famous pieces of clothing in history. Space travel had an influence on 1960’s fashion as well. The use of “modern” materials such as plastics and shiny metallic fabrics dominated the high fashion scene for a time.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking Suit

Another fashion main-stay that grew to popularity in 60’s fashion was the controversial introduction of the pantsuit for women. Yves Saint Laurent first pioneered this look in 1966 with the “Le Smoking” suit. Viewed as inappropriate for women to wear pants, women donning the pantsuit could be refused service at posh establishments. This didn’t stop women such as zealous Katherine Hepburn to apologetically wear pantsuits, furthering women equality. Today, designers feature pantsuits in almost every collection, regardless of season.

Changes in men’s fashion in the 1960s were just as drastic for men as they were for women. Like women, men wore basically the same thing in the early 60s as they did in the late 50s. By 1964, though, things started to change. One change that is quite noticeable was when the pants became much tighter. The fit around the thigh was sporty and not at all the relaxed fit that men were accustomed to. The pea coat became popular for men in the mid-60s. Well, basically anything that looked straight out of London was good to go in the mid-60s. The Beatles were leading the way, as hair started to grow longer and pants fit tighter. Men still wore boots and hats. The late 60s brought a whole new range of styles for men. In 1969 seeing a man wear a scarf was commonplace. But it wasn’t a big, wool scarf of today. It was a silk scarf that was tied like a loose tie. Also, men’s pants became flared at the bottom almost like women’s pants. It’s quite clear that at that time, women’s clothes were becoming more masculine while men’s clothes were becoming more effeminate.


The 60s also saw the emergence of evergreen style icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Cher, Penelope Tree, Nancy Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Birkin. It is amazing how till today, designers, stylists and fashionistas still look up to these ladies for inspiration. The four quarters of the decade were characterized by diverse fashion, which range from conservative, to flirt, and to flamboyant ones. Perhaps, it is the diversity which made the mod fashion hip and undying. The recent generations still finds the 1960s fashion, makeup, and hairdo fanciful.

Jean Shrimpton in a peter pan collar blouse and printed skirt with signature 60s cats eye make-up

Early 60s Fashion Men

Jane Birkin - the cool It Girl of the 60s

Contributed by Hassan Iqbal Rizvi.

Fahim is a kluchit member


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