Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Learning to Love the Sixties

What do you think of first when you think of sixties fashion? 

I want to begin my month of sixties by talking about what I used to think about sixties fashion, when my ideas were the kind of confused muddle that is usually produced when you have been exposed to images, movies and TV but have given no significant thought to the matter.

I have listened to a lot of Donovan and Jefferson Airplane in my time, but with fashion my ideas blurred muddily with the fifties and seventies. Of course, that is not inappropriate, because fashion does the same thing. Trends don't instantly and neatly change when the decade ticks over (unfortunately for my current purposes).

Regardless of that excuse, let me share what went on in my brain when I thought of the fashions of those decades:

It was while preparing an outfit for a 1970s event at school that I started to get a beyond-Abba understanding of seventies fashion. Realising how much I didn't know was one trigger that set me on the path to this blog series. (I should, however, point out that although I know there is much more to seventies fashion than white flared jumpsuits, I'm not sure that I care. What more could you need?)

So I began this project, and decided to start with the sixties. Strangely, although a bright mini-dress would be my first thought of 1960s fashion, if I thought about 1960s hats, I thought of Jackie Kennedy (and possibly Audrey Hepburn) and big pillboxes. Which didn't really seem to fit into my schema, I knew I was pretty confused.

I started to pour through Pinterest, Etsy and Ebay for 1960s fashion and 1960s hats, and identify the key hat styles that appeared again and again. My list of resources has improved since the beginning, and I'll be approaching my research for the 1950s with a bit more... rigour, but the haphazard approach still did the job of educating me pretty well! (You can peruse my 1960s pinterest board for an idea of where my ideas are coming from.)

The biggest surprise for me in this process has been how much inspirational and fun millinery was happening in the sixties, and how much I've come to appreciate the hats and fashion. I don't think I ever really enjoyed sixties fashion before, but I find myself drooling over mini-dresses, bright opaque tights, and even shapeless swing coats (which I used to despise!).

I can see that this blog series is going to have the dire effect of making me a fan-girl for every era of fashion, one at a time, as I gorge myself on images and ideas.

I honestly expected the sixties to be pretty thin on the ground for hats, because I saw it as the decade when hats stopped being the required accessory for a women every time she left the house.

While I still see the sixties as the transition decade for hats, the situation is certainly more complicated than that (I'll be looking at this more in a later post). There were still many new and fun styles introduced, and many classics given the sixties treatment - made bigger to accommodate hairstyles, worn at different angles on the head, and made using new developing materials. I feel I could spend ages on the sixties, but I have one month, and I look forward to spending this month sharing it all with you!

Sorry for the massive long post of writing, and I promise the bulk of the posts will be image-filled. To tide you over, here is a Kotex advertisement from The Australian Women's Weekly, September 7th 1960. It demonstrates that, at the beginning of the decade at least, hats were still such a common everyday accessory that it was taken for granted that this sentiment would be understood. (Another ad in the same series has the same line, but about changing your dress, so we see hats and dresses as almost on par in importance.)

I find this ad not only divinely amusing but also a great peek at sixties hat styles, and a swoon-worthy salon image too. Truncated cones for all! I love that white one with the black bow. Maybe I have time to make just one more...

This post is the first in a new blog series "Hats of the Past: A milliner explores history." If you want to know what to expect, you can read about my plans for the series. The next post will feature the first of the sixties-style hats I've made! Yay!


  1. I'm so excited for this series! The 60s does have a wide span of styles throughout the decade. Early 60s is more conservative and 1950s-ish but then gradually gets to the loud op-art prints of the end of the decade with mod fashion.

    Can't wait to see what you have been working on!

    1. I'm trying to get a good mix of the different styles, even though there was more hat-wearing in the early years, but the late sixties does have its stars, and it lends itself so well to re-interpretation in contemporary hats.

  2. Awesome new series! The sixties have always been a really, really unique decade for me. On the one hand, I rarely go in for the styles they housed, but on the other, I appreciate said fashions right along with everything else from the music to the political movements of the era and cannot help but carve out a spot for it in my heart. On the fashion front, while the Mod and hippie looks are rarely ones you'll see me sporting, I do openly profess to a love of the early (pre-1965) styles that called heavily on the later 50s looks and were often so powerfully feminine and filled with cheerful colours (think those seen in the first few seasons of Mad Men).

    ♥ Jessica

    1. It is a fun decade, with lots of varied styles to enjoy. A lot of the hat-wearing went on in the early years of the decade, and by the women who continued to wear those 50s styles later, so you will be seeing a lot of those looks, as well as some of the fun stuff from the mod era (and maybe a flower headband or two).

  3. The Sixties is where we really start to see individualism and freedom. I love the Classic Era ('55-'65) best but the Mod looks are fun and were favorites of mine when I was younger. And don't get me started on the French and Italian looks in the 60's, think BB and Sophia Loren! That's what I always go back to! Fun to explore!

    1. Now you've made me search for images of Sophia Loren and I've found more hats I want to make! It's always the way!


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