Museum at FIT’s latest exhibit explores fashion in the 1960s
Published: Monday, March 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 20:03
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology opened its newest exhibition, Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution on March 6.
The exhibit aims to cover the significant influence of young people on fashion during the 1960s.
During this era, young people held leading roles influencing social, political and cultural trends, which also brought dramatic changes in fashion. The youth’s boom was reflected in the term “youthquake” used in Vogue in 1965: “Under 24 and 90 million strong in the U.S. alone. More dreamers. More doers. Here. Now. Youthquake.”
The rebellious youth established mainstream subcultures: the Mods and the Hippies. Both groups made gender lines ambiguous and used new materials and bold silhouettes.
The Mods concentrated their lifestyle on music and clothing. Mod men wore slim-cut suits and Mod women dressed in pants, shift dresses and miniskirts. Women also adopted the thigh-high boot with short bottoms. Mod style was replaced by the rising new trend of Hippies at the end of the 1960s.
The Hippies used eclectic style, mixing secondhand and natural materials with ethnic elements. They adorned clothing with secondhand materials such as the skirt remade from old jeans. Designers quickly followed the Hippies’ style. Girgio di Sant’Angelo used shells, feathers, and printed cotton.
In fact, young people in the 1960s revolutionized the fashion market as well as fashion itself, which had not happened before the 1960s. As young people wanted to dress differently from their parents, they flocked to boutiques as a new place to shop.
Boutiques, small and independently owned, catered to the tastes of young people. They adapted Mod style and provided new shopping styles — crowded, colorful and playful with loud music. Boutiques sold clothing of limited quantities and low prices. Famously trending in London, boutiques soon spread internationally from Paris to New York.
Because times were changing and clientele was diminishing, the way of high fashion in the 1960s was changed. Many high fashion designers began to change in response to the young people. They created “lower-priced ready-to-wear lines.”
The exhibit displays a unisex tunic, famously styled as a mini-dress by Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most influential designers during the era. His work is evidence of the breakdown of gender roles, even in high fashion. Mass market allowed youthquake styles to be easily spread.
The one-dollar dress, using inexpensive material, sold over half a million pieces. This selling power of the mass market promoted companies to use images of popular icons such as the Beatles, adorned in boots by Wing Dings and Bob Dylan printed on paper dresses.
The exhibit has over 30 garments and accessories of progressive fashion style in 1960s. A dress that disappears strip-by-strip by Emmanuelle Khahn in 1966, shows how progressive youthquake style was. The dress, arranged in strips, is free to detach and change into many different styles.
Video, and related media such as magazines, helped audiences understand the influence of youthquake while playing fashion shows of the age and quoting famous fashion designers’ words.
Every aspect of fashion had changed by the 1960s. Fashion became less limited by designers and single style. Everyone had his or her own fashion sense and fashion spirit. The 1960s Fashion Revolution has also influenced contemporary fashion in several ways.
Fashion is still mass-market based, Mod and Hippies styles have been adapted, and people retain their own unique styles. Mary Quant, who was an influential designer during youthquake, said that she wanted young people to have a fashion of their own. As she wished, all people today have their own style and enjoy the results from the 1960s.
The exhibit will run from March 6 through April 7. The Museum at FIT is open from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.