Every season without fail, on and off the catwalk, some aspect of ’60s fashion is referenced. (For updates on the '90s, '00s, and 2010s trends that are still relevant, look no further.) For example, this season, we saw loads of street stylers wearing white boots—a classic item from the era. But that’s not where the decade’s fashion influence ends. It was a momentous time for fashion and the way we consume it. In the ’50s, Dior set the tone for postwar style with its structured hourglass silhouettes. But come the ’60s, hemlines rose and waists loosened as the sexual revolution gave way to an onslaught of new fashion possibilities.
Instead of introducing a singular defining trend, it was a decade where many fashion tribes emerged, each with a signature style. Rather than fashion houses, It girls set the trends. Brigitte Bardot had her beehive, and Audrey Hepburn perfected chic minimalism while Twiggy’s elfish clotheshorse look made her the poster girl for Mary Quant’s colorful minis. And that’s all before we’ve even discussed the high glamour of the likes of The Supremes and Cher. However, all of these looks while different have one thing in common: We still wear them today. Keep scrolling to click through the ’60s fashion trends we’ll never chuck out of our wardrobes.
1. The Miniskirt
Vernon Merritt III/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images
Style Notes: You can’t talk ’60s fashion without mentioning the miniskirt. By 1966, Mary Quant was designing minidresses and skirts that sat six or seven inches above the knee, and while she can’t lay claim to inventing it—that accolade goes to André Courrèges, who first explored shorter hems in 1964—we can credit her with the silhouette’s eventual success.
Style Notes: While floral may be the motif most associated with the era, leopard print was just as popular. Worn by celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, its “rock star” association ensured its cult style status.
Style Notes: Despite the popularity of looser silhouettes and higher hemlines, trousers were still considered vulgar for women. In 1966, YSL debuted Le Smoking, a tuxedo that epitomized sex appeal and was considered to have such potent powers of seduction that it was banned from restaurants. (Socialite Nan Kempner was famously turned away from a New York brasserie for wearing one.) The look was slated by fashion critics, who implied that Yves Saint Laurent was trying too hard to appeal to young people—regardless, it was a hit.
Style Notes: The onset of the sexual revolution liberated women in terms of their style choices, and comfort took precedence over form for many. Loose around the waist and the shorter the better, the babydoll dress was a symbol of rebellion for the young mods who made them popular. They symbolized a rejection of the sculpted styles that were so popular in the ’50s.
Style Notes: While there were a lot of psychedelic patterns swirling around the ’60s, toward the end of the era, brown and orange became incredibly popular as a sort of backlash against the bolder colors of earlier years.
Style Notes: However, by the tail end of the decade, flared styles took off as a more acceptable form of eveningwear, inspired by Pucci’s psychedelic styles. Their loose nature ensured they were seen as less revealing.
Style Notes: Jackie O’s style was unfalteringly elegant—even in the face of tragedy—and it made her a fashion pinup for women worldwide. Her boxy suits, big sunglasses, and pillbox hats were her signatures, and the pink suit and matching hat she wore on the day of JFK’s assassination became the most iconic look of the decade.
Style Notes: The space race in the ’60s had young designers clamoring to create out-of-this-world styles. They assumed that intergalactic travel for the masses was imminent and that, naturally, we’d all need to look chic on the moon. André Courrèges’s designs epitomized the space-age look of mod-influenced bonnets, dresses, and boots made in high-tech fabrics with clean lines. Now the look has come full circle: Chanel and Christopher Kane took intergalactic inspiration for their recent collections, debuting metallics, chainmail, and otherworldly whites.
Style Notes: Young designers in 1960s were keen to explore the use of manmade materials in their creations. Exploiting the previously untapped potential of modern plastics and synthetic fibers like vinyl and nylon, they created outfits that were easy to care for and fun to wear in equal measure.
Style Notes: There are plenty of trends that fashion designer Mary Quant gave us in the ’60s, but it wasn’t just the Peter Pan collar or the miniskirt; it was a combination of a few looks that came together to give us the mod. The influence of this era still lives on today.
Style Notes: Brigitte Bardot and fellow fashion icon Jane Birkin made the off-the-shoulder top a staple of women’s wardrobes in the ’60s. The look was risqué but ideal for jetting off to the French Riviera. The top is still incredibly popular to this day.
Style Notes: Still reeling from the frugality of the ’50s, contrasting buttons proved to be a cost-effective way to update garments and make them more directional in the decade that would follow. This is a design trick still used today—2019’s obsession with tortoiseshell buttons serving as a prime example.
Style Notes: Beatnik fashion started back in the 1940s, but it was still going strong in the ’60s. It was mostly identified by a love of black with a Breton top thrown in for good measure. Audrey Hepburn looked particularly incredible in this simple style.
Style Notes: The signature look of The Supremes was glamour, so it’s not surprising that sequins featured heavily. The groundbreaking girl group’s members changed over time, and when a member left, they had to leave behind their outfits.
Style Notes: Thanks to the likes of Nancy Sinatra (pictured) and her hit “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” plus the go-go dancers, who were known for wearing knee-high boots, white shoes (and boots) are still popular in our wardrobes. You need only look to this season’s street style to see what we’re talking about.
Style Notes: We’ve already touched on sequins, but sparkle wasn’t reserved for dresses. Jackets also received the embellished treatment and were readily worn with wide-leg trousers or miniskirts. Nowadays, they look the sartorial part with straight-leg jeans and slingback shoes.
Style Notes: Not so much a garment trend, but rather a styling hack, many families would still make their own clothes and would enviably match one another when the same fabrics were used across different clothes. It wasn’t long before this look was emulated on a high-fashion scale. In 2019, matching your outfit to a friend’s has been given the moniker of “twinning,” with countless duos using it to drive street style photographers wild during fashion week.