Swinging Sixties: Kitsch Bytch
With today’s designer catwalk fashion that can be transferred onto the high street overnight, is it any wonder we sometimes look to the past in hope of finding a sense of individual style?
The late fifties and early sixties were financial boom years – it was the first time after the war that people had money in their pockets. The twice a year clothes shop was more accessible and women could embrace the culture that thrived on the streets of London.
The sixties were a time of freedom and reletive independence for teenagers. Previously, they’d had no money and no finance – now they had pocket money, jobs (both parttime and full-time) and were still living at home so they could spend their wages on consumables rather than boring bills and rent. Fashion was a teenager’s delight, and this decade sparked a fashion revolution, in that the tastes of teenagers starting dictating the tastes of the fashion house, rather than the other way around.
Disposable fashion was arguably invented in the 60’s. The fast turnaround in clothing designs meant that the manufactures where struggling to meet the demand from shops. Unfortunately, that’s why 60’s clothing is so hard to get hold of today – because of its poor quality.
The 60’s fashion overhaul was also an arena in which to fight the establishment! Clothes were a statement about your beliefs and ideas. Hemlines rose with girls’ newfound confidence in the invention of The Pill, and old military uniforms were re-appropriated as an anti-war statement. Another controversial style statement of the sixties was the paper throwaway dress – seen as both innovate and fashion forward!
Most ordinary cash-strapped women found themselves staring into pricy boutiques such as Bazaar, then recreating garments just for their weekends at home.
Everyone believes the sixties buzz revolved around London’s Carnaby Street, but the urban catwalk and spiritual home of London fashion was actually a little further west. Kings Road housed the famous workshop Biba and the trendy Bus Stop; you could usually pick up a gorgeous outfit for around £7.00 (which was a lot back then).
Carnaby Street was, perhaps surprisingly, favoured by male fashion shoppers, and was the centre of a man-style revolution. Young men were beginning to give a major damn how they looked; they loved the European sleek expensive Italian look, out of which the Mod culture was born (if you watch ‘The Cappucino Kid’ starring Cliff Richard when he was young and wild [He really was. Honest to Betsy!] you’ll see the reference points: The sharp lines on the clothes and the scooters, the late-night coffee scene, the teenage gatherings and men impressing each other with their style, not just their women). The men of Carnaby Street and the women of Kings Road rebelled against the establishment and their parents by spending a month’s wages on one item of clothing.
The 60’s was the first time London led the world fashion industry forward. Vogue even dedicated a cover to the phenomenon with the cover title ‘Is Paris dead?’. When designers tried to take the look to America, the US fashion industry was outraged but fascinated by how London had tapped into an unkown market: Youth.
At a time when London was led by exerimentation, idealism and inspiration, before the merge with America, everyone was able to partake in this exciting revolution. Everyone wanted to be in London. Today, many of us are nostlagic for this era.
But, as we look back to a decade of excitement, passion and no limits, is it any wonder why?
And if we allow our nostalgia to take root, won’t it help remind us of where excitement, passion and no limits exist in our current decade – and highlight where they’re currently lacking, and due for a social overhaul?