′S And 1970′S Essay, Research Paper
February 27, 2001
History of Fashion:
Social, Economic, & Political Influences Through the 1960’s and 1970’s
The Swinging/Space-Age Sixties
The sixties were a time of growing youth culture and youth fashions, which had already begun in the late fifties. In the west, young people were benefiting from the postwar industrial boom, and had no problem finding work. With extra cash in their pockets, they were able to spend more and had begun to refashion themselves accordingly. This higher demand in the fashion business brought out a new generation of designers. The freedom of extra cash meant room for more imagination and creativity, bringing out new and provocative fashion ideas.
Pop music began to take on a serious art form. Rock stars influenced fashion in a way like never before. The Beatles began the British invasion with pop culture. They were fashion icons and many copied their long hair. Others copied the rebellious look of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones). Rock stars began speaking on behalf of the younger generation and the media was all over them. By the end of the sixties, pop music was the main force in fashion. In Europe and America, “underground” music played a big part, with underground magazines, festivals, and groups during 1966-67. Drugs such as marijuana and hallucinogens like LSD were more widely used outside of a small circle of musicians and artists. Sounds of blues, jazz, rock, electronic, Indian, and classical had inspiration in psychedelic music. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were leaders of this long hair, drugs, and music scene. Other music such as be-bop jazz with the beatniks, the sounds of soul that flowed from the record company Motown, and folk for hippies also inspired the way of fashion.
In the early sixties, cocktails and beehives were “in”, with the First Lady leading the way. John F. Kennedy was president in 1960, and his wife, Jackie Kennedy was seen as fashionable and glamorous. She modeled Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel. Girls at this time were still wearing clothing identical to their mothers, especially in Europe. Many copied Doris Day’s “girl next door”, but still glamorous, film star image. Dances like the twist and mashed potato and magazines that mapped the steps, Elvis Priestly, Gene Pitney, and Helen Schapiro continued their influence in fashion from the fifties on into the early sixties.
Youth cults in the UK had their share of prestige in style. Greasers, rockers, and Teddy-Boys were seen as juvenile delinquents, and their image came over to teens in America. There were also the Mod’s (moderns) in Britain, a gang of wealthy boys who rode motor scooters, wore expensive clothes, and listened to R&B. Clothes had a rebellious look, with some military influence seeping over from the wars. In 1962 there was the Cold War and USA was also at war with Vietnam. There was a lot of peace talk in politics however, there were more wars in South East Asia, the Middle East, and Indian Subcontinent. Riots were going on in Las Angeles, Chicago, and Berlin. Crime and lawlessness was creeping in everywhere, especially with assassinations to JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The postwar era also influenced mother and wife roles and new gadgets were made to make life easier. There was a revolution in relationships between men and women with contraceptives more easily attainable. This gave women more control, however this was still not very evident in politics or business. Clothing styles portrayed women as being vulnerable and passive (eg, the mini skirt), and there was the image of the “dumb blonde”.
More at-home gadgets were being developed (colour TV, record players, better cars & washing machines) and scientific progress seemed unstoppable. Designers caught on quick to futuristic trends, and developed space-age fashions. Advanced technology in space travel and Apollo’s landing on the moon in 1969 contributed.
Other influences in fashion came with Civil Rights and Black Power. Huey Newton established the Black Panthers, whose aim was to protect blacks from police while staying within the law. Black Muslim leader Malcolm X aimed to steer black youths from conflicts with religious values and pride in their black heritage. Influence also came into the beatniks who turned away from the speech of white and middle class to black American culture. Black Power and the term “black is beautiful” came in around 1968. There was more ethnic inspiration in fashion, as travel was becoming cheaper. The Afro hair do was growing in popularity, flowing into white and even Japanese culture.
1970’s: The “Me” Decade
The seventies were labeled the “Me Decade” by writer Tom Wolfe. There was lots of “me’s” fighting for a piece of the action, as politically extremist and fundamental groups were committing acts of terrorism. Fashion magazines told “anything goes” and there were no rules anymore.
With the energy crisis in1973-74, increasing unemployment, and a world recession in 1975, many were left with little money to spend on fashion. Those dedicated to fashion bought imports, which were cheaper, and others wore jeans. Second hand clothing became more wide spread and designers made new clothing from old. More interest in crafts was promoted, like jewelry, ceramics, hand knitting, and screen painting on textiles. There was also a celebration of trash culture that brought in bright colors and used cheap materials like plastic, nylon, and acrylic. With an increase in the cost of producing clothing, apparel producers went to Third World Labour. Many women and children were exploited as a result.
Gay liberation and women’s movements had their inspiration in fashion too. The homosexual community adopted western and GI styles and the Village People contributed. Radical feminists didn’t follow typical fashion trends, which made women appear vulnerable. Black’s, gays, and women, the “minority” groups, were becoming more visible and audible in the political arena. Designers took notice of this and created styles that helped fit women into new career roles. Also, black fashions like the afro were becoming ever more popular.
Psychologists and sociologists took interest in fashion and began studying teens and radical dress. Studies revealed that teens were searching for identity through fashion. Dress that symbolized status was taken more seriously.
There was a growing concern for the environment and endangered species in the world. In 1970 Americans celebrated the 1st Earth Day, and environmental groups were being established.
The seventies continued on with scientific breakthroughs like the first test-tube baby, and advanced ultra sounds and organ transplants. Alternative medical practices were growing with things like acupuncture and herbal medication. Diet and exercise was being seen as healthy, and low fat foods were being developed. There were more vegetarians, sportswear and exercise bikes, marathons, and health clubs. Disco dancing, skateboarding and roller-skating were the “in” thing, and designers caught on quickly with new fashions that were practical and stylish for such activities. People were slimming down and the ideal woman had a slender figure. At the beginning of the decade, natural was the key, and women were burning their bras. Leotards, bodywear for the gym, and sweat suits were stylized for this exercise and health-concerned decade.
With rioting and terrorism taking place around the world, more aggressive and rebellious styles were being created. The punk look came with this; singers like Johnny Rotton and bands like The Ramones and the Sex Pistols were a few to lead a new generation of teens. There was also the introduction of glam-rock in which musicians mixed glamour with rock. Davis Bowie was the most successful. Fans copied his “rooster” hair cut. He made the androgynous look popular.