Fashion of the Early 1960s
As the decade began, women's fashion was still very much influenced by the conservative mores of the 1950s. Suburban housewives and mothers wore proper dresses that hung modestly to the knee or below. Girdles were still a must-have accessory, as were petticoats. Pants were seldom worn except for outdoor activities. Colors were muted so as not to draw attention to the fashions or the wearer.
But winds of change were stirring. Designers began experimenting with stronger, bolder colors. For the first time, the country's youth — the first of the baby boomers coming into maturity — began to influence fashion and other social and cultural trends. Bellbottom pants, inspired by navy uniforms, gained popularity. Casual clothing gained a foothold.
By mid-decade, casual attire was more than a comfortable alternative to suits and dresses — it became a political statement, a break from the status quo. Tie-dyed T-shirts boasting an explosion of color were a statement of individuality.
As the women's movement gained momentum, the younger generation expressed its independence by disregarding the modest norms of the 1950s. Instead of hiding their legs beneath prim dresses, they celebrated skin. Miniskirts and minidresses daringly raised hemlines above the knee. As the skirts became shorter, women would often wear colorful tights underneath.
What is tie-dying?
Tie-dying is a form of clothing design. If a piece of clothing is tied with something like string or rubber bands, the dye cannot reach that bound material. The resulting design is swirling patterns of color. While tie-dyed clothing became synonymous with the 1960s hippie movement, it is an ancient art that dates back more than 1,000 years to China and Japan.
Although the miniskirt is remembered for its revolutionary impact on women's fashion, another trend developed that would have a more lasting impact. Jeans were popular, but many women wanted nicer pants that could be worn in a more professional capacity. Tailored trousers gained popularity. They were either worn with a tunic, a shirt, or a matching suit jacket.
The development of new fabrics had an important impact on fashion in the 1960s. When natural fibers were blended with synthetics, it improved the wear of the fabrics. By the 1960s the production of synthetic fibers had become a burgeoning global industry for companies like Du Pont and ICI. Fabrics like Dacron, Spandex, and Lycra became household names and were used in everything from bras to swimming suits. Other synthetics such as Dynel and Teklan were used to make faux furs and fake hair for wigs.
But the fashion revolution was still to come when Jackie was thrust in the world spotlight as First Lady. Her decision to add unapologetic elegance was groundbreaking. Although Jackie would have preferred to commission French designers for her official wardrobe, it was politically problematic. So Jackie went in search of an American designer with European sensibilities.