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How the Fashion in the Early 1960’s is now more Relevant than Ever


60s Fashion

The bored housewives are normally doing the weekly shopping or maybe trimming the rose’s in front of her perfect white picket fence. While the husbands are having affairs behind the wives back, they also dress in the best suites while they drink many glasses of the finest Whisky in their offices.

The article you are about to read is about why the fashion from the 1960s and the way of life from back then has now made its way into the finest films and T.V. Programs. Why has this happened?, Why as viewers do we like watching about this period in time? and will this trend get bigger or eventually fade out? These questions and many more will be answered in the next few pages. But first of all lets just refresh ourself with a quick reminder of the styles and trends from the early 1960’s.

The sixties were the age of youth, as 70 million children from the post-war baby boom became teenagers and young adults. The movement away from the conservative fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking and real change in the cultural fabric of American life. No longer content to be images of the generation ahead of them, young people wanted change. The changes affected fashion, education, values, lifestyles, laws, and entertainment. Many of the revolutionary ideas which began in the sixties are continuing to evolve today, especially in the way of life back then now showcased on T.V. and Film.

60s Fashion

The first half of of the sixty’s resembled the fifty’s Conservative, ladylike, proper and no short skirts, and gloves for evening and social occasions. The pleated and pencil skirts that women started to wear in the sixty’s could easily been worn in the fifty’s. Women would always wear dresses for all but the most casual occasions. Pants were for sports and play and never worn to school.

Jackie Kennedy was the female icon for the first part of the decade. A lot of women across America copied her style, for an example of her style she wore a silk dress in bright colours and normally topped off the outfit with a pillbox hat. Unlike the previous first lady, Jackie mostly wore European clothes, this caused political problems so she started to wear fashion designed by Oleg Cassini. The fashion designed by Cassini gave Americanized versions of French fashion, brought colours dresses and jackets the Jackie preferred, but with oversized buttons and coat pockets that gave it a Hollywood style, also Cassini told the first lady this kind of new style would look better in photographs taken of her. She was a style icon and very popular for a first lady. Now in the 21st century the first lady (Michelle Obama) is the new style icon for a lot of the female population of America and around the world.

The men wore suits to the office and wore suites to nearly everywhere, they always had on a smart hat and a cigarette hanging out of the mouth was the norm. A typical week for a husband/Dad would be as follows, he would spend five days at the office dressed normally in a grey two button suit, it would normally feature narrow lapels and diagonal pockets also it would have side vents and be hand finished. On the weekend a 1960s suburban man would wear a bright colours cotton shirts and a pair of light coloured shorts.

60s Fashion

Elvis Presley and James Dean were the style icons for the young male population, but the adult men did not dress like them, but they did try their hardest to act like him. The men of that day were very different to the health conscious days of the 21st century, they drank whisky everyday and smoked packs of cigarettes like they were going out of business. They cheated on their wives and didn’t care, the women pretended not to know in this suburban so called perfect life.

The fascination with the 50’s-60s fashion and life style in the 21st century first started with the film Far From Heaven which was directed by Todd Haynes and stared the ever fashionable Oscar nominated actress Julian Moore. The film told the story of a bored housewife who gradually sees her idyllic life start to fall apart for many reasons, one such reason was that she finds out about her husbands secret life as a homosexual. After the critical success of the film, an avalanche started and the films and television programs started to be developed every year flowing the release of Far From Heaven.

The next and most important of theses was the critical acclaimed and very fashionable television Program, MAD MEN. The program is set in the early sixty’s, it follows the story of a group of Ad men who work on Madison avenue, New York. They have numerous affairs and are always drinking and smoking, Also through out the episodes the wives of the Ad men start to cheat on their husbands secretly. The style of the program is very important for the makers ( who were the same makers of The Sopranos) The production design, especially the clothes that the main actors wore are very detailed. Everyone in the Mad Men looks perfect, there isn’t a hair out of place on anyone’s head apart from when there has to be (a sex scene for example) this demonstrates that theses peoples perfect life, like their perfect hair can sometimes be shaken up when they have an affair. Like I said before, the fashion is extremely important, this has led to the public wanting to dress like the charterers they watch every week, just recently the Brooks Brothers has brought out a range of suits that the lead actors wear through out the episodes. Mad Men is now on to it’s forth season and has won nine Emmys and five Golden Globes.

60s Fashion

The American film Revolutionary Road was released in 2008, it is very similar in its the style and story of Mad Men. It is based on the book by Richard Yates and it was directed by American Beauty director Sam Mendes. The film set in the 1950’s and follows the life of Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet as they settle into a suburban life. Boredom soon sets in and they decide that they want to move to Paris. As the story unfolds the arguments between the two leads become more aggressive. The fashion and style is very much like that of Mad Men, one scene in the film differs from Mad Men is when the two leads go to the beach, Dicaprio dresses in a cream coloured cotton shirt while Winslet dress very elegantly and modestly like all the other women on the beach. Kate Winslet was nominated for an Oscar while Leonardo Dicaprio delivers one of his very best performances.

Only a few months ago we came full circle with fashion, films and the 1960 when Tom Ford, the well renowned fashion designer released his debut film as a director. It was called A Single Man and it stared once again Julianne Moore and a Bafta winning lead performance from Colin Firth. The story set in 1962 follows Firth through out 24 hours as he plans on killing himself. He is a gay English professor who is distraught over the death of his former partner. The style is of course expertly handled by Tom Ford, the suits and dresses are exquisite to look at and also the cinematography is stunning like a stylised advert from a fashion magazine. Colin firth also won the lead actor award at the 66th Venice film festival for his performance.

Now to answer the questions I proposed earlier on in the article. Why has this happened? And why as viewers do we like watching about this period in time?: I think the life of the suburban family in the 21st century has changed a lot since the sixty’s, men stay at home much more and look after the children, while women are now more often then not, the bread winners, I think that all theses great films and programmes set in the sixty’s have happened because the public secretly wantsto go back to that time and live more simpler and straight forward lives instead of the way they live in modern society. I also think why people like watching it is because they want to be like the cool men while the female population wants to look like the glamours women of that time.

My last question to answer is, will this trend get bigger or eventually fade out? I think negatives for this question is that the time period has been over done, as the viewers are starting to fell very familiar to this certain time and place. The positives for it to continue is that it seems as an art form it really works well, the performances are some of the best in the last decade (Dicaprio, Firth, John Hamm from Mad Men) so as the acting and directing is evolved I think it should continue. My gut feeling is when Mad Men comes to an end I think the that will be the end of the media fascination with the early 1960’s. I think a new trend will be the 1980s as the fashion on the street these days are very influenced by the 1980’s and with that, the films and television programmes will follow.

Watch this space!

An article by Luke Ritta

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