The 1960s and 1970s were decades of real contrast in the West. While the global political situation was actually stabilized by the tensions of the Cold War (1945–91), both the United States and European countries experienced internal political turmoil, including assassinations of major political leaders, protests, and widespread movements for social change.
In fashion, the 1960s and the 1970s were decades of repeated revolutionary change. The youth explosion and mod craze of the early 1960s were followed quickly by the hippie look of the late 1960s, the antifashion trends of the early 1970s, and the punk and disco styles of the mid- to late 1970s.
Askirt that tapers gently out from a narrow waist, or a dress that grows gradually wider from the shoulder to the hem, is called an A-line, simply because its shape resembles the letter A. Though the tapered silhouette has been used during various fashion periods, it is generally agreed that the A-line dress became a staple of most women's wardrobes in the 1960s, just as styles were becoming simpler.
Bell-bottoms, pants with legs that become wider below the knee, were an extremely popular fashion during the 1960s and 1970s. The belled or flared legs on bell-bottom pants were originally a functional design, worn by those who worked on boats since the seventeenth century.
Formfitting stretch body suits known as catsuits were the ultimate in slinky style and casual comfort for women during the 1960s. The all-in-one garment was typically either zipped or buttoned at the front, from the navel to the neck, and was often worn with boots.
Sometimes called the "poor man's velvet," corduroy is a soft, durable fabric that has been popular among people of all classes for almost two centuries. Usually made of cotton or cotton blended with such man-made fabrics as rayon and polyester, corduroy is woven with loose threads that are then cut to create a pile, or thick, soft texture.
Down is a natural fiber found on waterfowl such as ducks and geese. These birds have a layer of fluffy feathers known as down underneath their regular feathers that traps air and helps the animal keep warm, even in icy water.
Native American tribes of the Plains and elsewhere had long created garments with fringe, which served as a type of gutter that repelled rainwater from the wearer. Fringe was a border or edge of hanging threads, cords, or strips, and was often found on garments made from suede, leather, and buckskin.
Gaucho pants are wide-legged trousers for women with a cuff that ends around mid calf. Taking their name from pants once worn by South American cowboys, they were in style for a brief period in the early to mid-1970s.
Asleeveless triangular top that ties around the back and at the back of the neck, the halter top loosely covers the breasts and chest, while leaving bare the shoulders, upper back, and sometimes the midriff, the area below the breasts and above the waist. The halter top was at the peak of its popularity during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Hip huggers are tightly fitted pants whose waistline has been dropped below the natural waist of the wearer. Hip huggers usually have flared or bell-bottom legs, and the dropped waist can vary from hanging modestly just below the waist to a sitting several inches below the navel.
Hot pants are extremely short shorts that were designed to be worn as dressy clothing for women. Young people of the 1970s began to leave behind the ragged, patched-denim political style of the mid- to late 1960s.
When the sport of jogging became a national obsession in the 1970s, bringing with it a fascination with fitness, people were looking for appropriate attire for running along city streets and country lanes, or jogging in place at the gym. Baseball, football, basketball, and hockey players had uniforms that were designed for the specifics of their sport and runners were looking for the same.
Leisure suits, which gained popularity among men during the 1970s, were casual suits consisting of matching jacket and trousers. They were made of polyester fabric, often in bright colors or earth tone plaids.
The miniskirt was introduced in 1965 at the fashion show of French designer André Courreges (1923–). He felt that the design of women's clothes was not keeping up with the modern trends of the 1950s and 1960s and wanted to introduce a look that was modern, streamlined, and easy.
Young people of the 1960s who were unhappy with the culture and values they had grown up with began to explore other cultures, seeking different points of view. Because many of these young people opposed war and sought peaceful solutions, they admired the people of India, who had achieved independence from the British Empire in 1947 through largely nonviolent means.
Blue collar or utilitarian chic is the name given to the fashion trend of work clothes becoming high fashion. Like blue jeans, painter's pants were discovered as a fashion item by those who never wore them for work.
Before the late 1960s women only wore pants while working in the garden or around the house, engaging in such female-approved sports as bowling, or traveling to the beach. In most any business, school, or formal public or social setting women were expected to wear skirts or dresses.
People have worn some sort of stockings or socks for centuries, the style varying somewhat as fashions and technology changed and developed. In the 1800s women usually wore cotton stockings, which were covered by their long skirts, but by the 1920s hemlines had risen, and sheer silk stockings became popular.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s many young women rejected traditional fashion for more eccentric, original styles. One such style was the peasant look: a type of clothing that was an off-shoot of the garments worn for centuries by the European lower classes.
Tie-dyeing was especially popular with American youth who opposed the Vietnam War (1954–75), a controversial war in which the United States aided South Vietnam in its fight against a takeover by Communist North Vietnam. During the late 1960s American young people rebelled against the conservative rules of dress and appearance that had influenced their parents' generation, and many began to appreciate a movement that valued arts and crafts, simplicity, and traditional ways of making things.
Velours is the French word for velvet, and, like velvet, velour is woven by a special process with looped threads that are cut to form a pile, or textured surface. What distinguishes velour from velvet is the fabric from which it is woven.
Diane von Furstenberg's (1946–) wrap dress was one of American fashion's top sellers during the first half of the 1970s. The one-piece, knee-length garment, which wrapped in the front and featured built-in string ties of the same fabric, tied around the waist and sold in stores for around eighty dollars.
Women's hairstyles in this period transformed from the stiff, artificial styles favored at the beginning of the 1960s to striking, short mod styles of the mid-1960s and then to the longer, loose, feathered tresses of the 1970s. Whether the styles were dramatic geometrically-shaped bob styles, longer bobs with flipped out ends, or the soft layers of the Farrah Fawcett look, the general trend in women's hairstyles was toward freer, softer styles.
The hairstyle of choice among African Americans from the mid-1960s through the 1970s was the Afro. The Afro featured African Americans' naturally curly hair trimmed in a full, evenly round shape around the head.
Charlie's Angels (1976–81), a show about the adventures of three attractive female private investigators, debuted in September 1976. By mixing sex appeal and feminist self-reliance, the series drew large audiences of both men and women, quickly becoming the top-rated television program in the United States.
The Flip was a bouncy, upturned hairdo that was widely worn by young women throughout the 1960s. Its name derived from a flip, or upturned curl at the ends.
English hairdresser Vidal Sassoon (1928–) established the first of what would become a successful chain of hair salons on London's Bond Street in 1954. Over the next few years he gained a reputation for creating daring but flattering looks for a stylish clientele.
Perhaps no modern fashion trend has been as controversial as that of men growing their hair long. Beginning with the beatniks and hippies—names given to those who rejected the established customs of society in the 1950s and 1960s—and spreading quickly throughout society, long hair on men represented a rebellion against the clean-cut image that had prevailed during previous decades.
People adorned their bodies in widely varying ways in the 1960s and 1970s. The popularity of modern styles at the beginning of the 1960s brought huge plastic flower ornaments, heavy makeup, especially around the eyes, and false eyelashes for women.
Body piercing involves making a hole in a body part and, usually, placing a piece of jewelry into the hole. Body piercing is often defined as the piercing of any body part for men and the piercing of any part besides the earlobes for women, for whom pierced ears have long been acceptable.
The mood ring was one of the biggest fashion fads of the 1970s. Marketed as an accessory for the "Me Decade," a time when people began to actively explore their feelings, the color-changing jewelry first became popular in New York City and quickly spread throughout the United States.
A decorative piece of fabric knotted around the neck has been a part of the clothing of Western men since the seventeenth century, though the exact nature of the necktie has changed frequently over that time. Neckties have been wide or narrow, brightly patterned or somber, depending on the current rules of fashion.
Strings of white puka shell beads emerged as a teen fashion trend in the early 1970s. Puka shells are the leftover parts from the shell of the cone snail found on beaches in Hawaii.
One of the primary reasons why travelers who live in northern climates head off to fair-weather vacation spots is to smooth on suntan lotion, pass hours soaking in sunshine, and emerge with their skin browned by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Not everyone who desires tanned skin has the time or inclination to stay in the sun for the time needed to obtain brown skin.
The footwear styles available in the 1960s and 1970s offered men and women a wide range of choices in heel height, material, color, and design. Some footwear styles were considered ultrafashionable.
Birkenstock sandals are specially designed casual shoes with flexible cork and latex (type of rubber) insoles that are shaped like the bottom of a person's foot. Designed in Germany, Birkenstocks were first introduced in the United States in the late 1960s, and they immediately became identified with a youthful generation who preferred natural and comfortable clothing to the more restrictive fashions of their parents.
Though Dr. Martens Air Wair is the brand name of many different styles of shoes, many people only mean one thing when they speak of Doc Martens: thick soled, black leather work boots that have been favored by rebellious youth internationally since the 1960s.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, young people began dressing less formally. Even footwear became more casual, as girls and women shunned high heels and boys and men avoided dress shoes even for formal occasions.
In the swinging mid-1960s a stylish young woman would never be caught on a discotheque dance floor without her go-go boots: bold, white, or candy-colored vinyl or leather boots of various heights. Usually worn with miniskirts or dresses, go-go boots were pulled on, laced up, or zippered up, and featured a wide range of heels.
In 1818 creative New Jersey inventor Seth Boyden (1788–1870) discovered a special finishing process during which several layers of dyes, oils, varnishes, or resins were applied to unfinished leather, giving it a hard, glossy finish. Shoe factories near his home in Newark soon began producing fashionable shoes from the new leather.
Platforms are shoes with heavy soles that can range from half-an-inch to six-inches thick and made their first memorable appearance during the 1600s, when shoes with high platform soles called chopines were popular among wealthy women in Venice, Italy. During the 1930s cork-soled shoes with wedge-shaped platform soles became popular among many women, but these shoes were fairly conservative, usually having a platform of an inch or less.
The first tennis shoe, called the plimsoll, was a rubber-soled canvas shoe designed during the nineteenth century for playing croquet or tennis. By 1916 the United States Rubber Company introduced its own brand of rubber-soled canvas shoe called Keds and was followed in 1917 by the Converse Rubber Company with its All-Star shoe.