The 1960s was a great decade for fashion and a period of emancipation for women. Designers like Mary Quant, Barbara Hulanicki and Foale and Tuffin were part of the cultural explosion taking place in London and their clothes went on to define the decade.Their clothes appealed to the new generation, who had money to spend and didn’t want to dress like their parents.

The decade started off quite formal, with boxy suits and slightly shorter skirts being popular, but by the mid-1960s the flared A-line shape was in style and shift dresses, skirts and A-line coats were being sold in boutiques across the country. An innovation in the textile industry saw the invention of nylon tights, which gave women much more freedom than stockings and suspenders and were well suited for the rising hemlines!

Shift dresses are one of the defining looks of the 1960s, the A-line shape, which fell in a clean triangular line from shoulder to mid-thigh, being the most popular. The simple geometric shapes that are typical of 1960s style were first popularized by the mod look and were often paired with white kidskin boots with a pointy toe and no heel (and sometimes a ribbon bow on the top).

Of course it wouldn’t be the 1960s if we didn’t mention miniskirts! Andrè Courrèges and Mary Quant are both credited with the invention of the mini skirt (although Quant has said that it was the girls on the Kings Road who really invented the mini as they were the ones requesting that the lengths of her clothes get shorter and shorter). Hemlines started creeping higher at the start of the decade but by 1965 they had risen to mid-thigh and were to become even shorter as the decade progressed. Often worn with a big belt hung loosely over the hips, they were adopted by women all over the world.

The radical change in silhouette demanded a dramatic change in the style of footwear worn by women – shorter skirts required a flatter shoe! Roger Vivier’s Pilgrim pump became fashionable after it was photographed being worn by Jackie Kennedy in 1966. The shoe had been designed at the request of Yves Saint Laurent to complement his Mondrian shift dresses that were launched in 1965. The Pilgrim pump proved to be Vivier’s most iconic design, featuring a large silver buckle and 3.5cm block heel. The style was widely copied and the block heel flat is one of the iconic styles of the 1960s.

Mary Jane shoes were another popular style at the time (and still to this day). They were so called after the character in the comic strip Buster Brown, which was first published in 1902. Mary Jane was the younger sister of Buster Brown and both characters wore the single strapped shoes that we now call ‘Mary Janes’. Designers were greatly influenced by the rebellious spirit and style of the 1920s so it’s not surprising that the Mary Jane came back into fashion in a big way during the decade.

By the late 1960s the hippie look, which had originated on the West Coast of America, had become popular and suited the new psychedelic music that was being produced. Brocade jeans, filly shirts, flower print tunics, long vintage dresses, embroidered knee high boots and Indian scarves became popular and designers began to experiment with colours, patterns and textures. The hippie style was a significant shift away from the clean lines and modernity of designers such as Mary Quant but it was soon taken on by many British designers including Ossie Clark, Thea Porter and Zandra Rhodes.

Style Icons

Twiggy was one of the defining faces of the 1960s, her short pixie cut and boyish frame suited the clean lines of the decade and she quickly became a sensation, appearing in countless magazine shoots and advertisements throughout the decade.

Cathy McGowan, otherwise known as ‘Queen of the Mods’, was the presenter of hip music show ‘Ready, Steady, Go’, with Twiggy citing her as one of her role models. She was often seen wearing Biba and Mary Quant and her fringe and heavy eye makeup was copied by girls everywhere. Other style icons of the decade include Jean Shrimpton, Penelope Tree, Verushka, Jane Birkin, The Beatles and Francoise Hardy.

Words by Sarah Brewer
Models: Savannah Groot (blonde) and MacKenna Lenarcic (brown hair)
Agency: Dejavu Model Management
Hair: Tanya Milnes
MUA: Lexi Lemke
Wardrobe/Stylist: Angela Bricker of Georgie Girl Vintage (
Photography: Lisa Zandbeek

Vintage Life Team
Written by Vintage Life Team
The team at Vintage Life Magazine bring you the latest from the Vintage scene!