Why We Always Go Back to the Sixties

I am a nineties kid. By this I mean that I was born in, but have little memory of, the decade that rendered crop tops, Rachel from Friends’s poker-straight hair, and grunge a la Kate Moss, haute style. What I do remember more vividly as I ascended into my teens in the ‘noughties’ were the sporadic, but very distinct sixties references that every few seasons or so dominated fashion. There was 2007 when voluminous, beehived hairstyles struck my all girl secondary school, and then 2011 when mini, mod-esque dresses were the look of choice for my first few legal nights out.

Sixties - carnaby street

Carnaby Street, London in the 1960s  

Moschino Background Image

         Moschino Spring/ Summer 2013 Catwalk

    Now, as my twenty-first birthday is fast approaching the sixties is once again au courrant. Harper’s Bazaar has given its seal of approval decreeing that, “the miniskirt continues to look as youthful today as at its conception half a century ago”, adding that, “the sixties remain a powerful influence on designers and modern style”. Indeed models, looking like they had been teleported directly out of Kennedys’ Cape Cod or Mary Quant’s London, strutted down the international catwalks. Louis Vuitton presented a show complete with escalators and twin sets of models in sheer, graphic mini-dresses and pointed, Mary Jane courts, in front of a yellow and white checked backdrop that resembled a kitchen from, say, 1965. Jean Shrimpton, the classic 1960s beauty, provided the inspiration for Moschino who channeled an air hostess look in a collection complete with bright palette and white piping on A-line minidresses and miniskirts. Prim pea coats were finished off with Jackie Onassis style white rimmed bug sunglasses. Marc Jacobs in contrast homed in on the era’s art with graphic prints and monochrome. Given the emphasis on geometry and colour French Vogue concluded that “spring/summer 2013 will be best viewed in glorious Technicolor”.

Marc Jacobs, Ready to Wear, Spring Summer, 2013, New York Sixties - Moschino post

Marc Jacob and Moschino Spring/ Summer 2013 Catwalks

Sixties - LV post

Louis Vuitton Spring/ Summer 2013 Catwalk

    Beauty did not escape the Factory-Girl-effect either with models batting Bambi lashes at Moschino and pouted nude lips at Marc Jacobs. The fillies at Chanel were painted with silver around the eyes, while the famous feline eye liner flick could be spied at Michael Kors. The staple beehive was prim and finished with ribbon at Louis Vuitton, but was brandished serious va va voom in a half up-half down style at Moschino. Indeed, it is perhaps through its influence of make-up that the sixties particularly lives on. Universally flattering and easy to achieve, Alexa Chung’s eyeliner and Amy Winehouse’s beehive may have been historical beauty references, but they are as synonymous with today.

Sixties - make up - Marc JacobsSixties - make up - moschinoSixties - make up chanel

Sixties- style make-up on the spring/ summer 2013 catwalks from Marc Jacob, Moschino and Chanel.

    There is no doubt that to look on trend for spring/ summer 2013 we need to get our Twiggy on. However, I cannot help feeling marginal déjà vu as I contemplate returning to the decade once again. Referencing twentieth century decades in their collections is something fashion designers have mastered since time began, whether it be 1920’s flapper, 1950’s hourglass or 1980’s punk. Why is it then that we always so willingly escape back to the sixties style moment in particular?

  Sixties - jean shrimpton 2Sixties - twiggy

Sixties style icons, Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.

Sixties - jean shrimptonSixties -twiggy 2

   The answer is the decade’s insouciance. We associate the Sixties with youth, and the age in which the modern teenager was born. It was also a revolutionary ten years as the assertive and ambitious modern woman came forth, and anti-war, civil rights and free speech were high on the agenda. A good twenty years after the war the sixties witnessed a period of materialism and increased disposable wealth. It was a visual and cultural golden age which remains defined in the popular imagination. The louche lives of those who frequented Studio 54, in which Bianca Jagger thought nothing of riding in on a white horse, that of French artists and musicians of the Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg mould, and the free spirits of swinging London’s Carnaby Street, appear effortlessly chic. The fashion of the era is viewed best through David Bailey’s lens. Short, angular Vidal Sassoon haircuts complimenting Mary Quant’s new short hems, and the smoky sexuality Brigitte Bardot first cultivated to the manicured glamour of Jackie Kennedy.

Sixties - serge and jane        Sixties brigitte 3

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin                       Brigitte Bardot

Sixties - bianca       Sixties - quant

Bianca Jagger                                                    Mary Quant

    However, like the bloodied ruin of Jackie’s famous pink Chanel suit after her husband’s death, there is something not quite right about the sixties. Its penchant for waifish Twiggy-esque women, innocent child-like make-up, fast fashion, the political backdrop of assassinations and Cold War, an era of excess and flamboyance, proved fundamentally shallow and unsustainable. Maybe that is why designers return to it so often, and the public buys into the image. The scope for frivolity and imagination through simplicity, the opportunity to break down social codes, and reference the iconic remains ever appealing. Please excuse me while I dig out the kohl…


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