All You Need to Know About 60s Fashion

1 year ago / by Melanie Fourie
60s Fashion
Style icon Audrey Hepburn played a fundamental role in setting the tone for fashion in the 60s. Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

60s Fashion set the tone for contemporary trends. The era revolutionized women’s apparel with vivid hues, eye-catching designs and counterculture that went against the grain of repressive fashion of former eras. Also referred to as the swinging 60’s, the era was also about self-expression and freedom. These ideals spilled over onto the fashion scene, culminating in a fashion revolution. Some of the primary style genres of the era were the mod, hippie and beatnik way of dressing. 

Style icons like the unforgettable Audrey Hepburn made a tremendous impact in the 60s fashion industry when she strutted her stuff in the classic movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. One of her most iconic outfits in the film was a simplistic black dress designed by the renowned Hubert de Givenchy. This style dress veered toward the beatnik subculture. Women subscribing to this dress code wore simple, chic clothing like berets, striped tops and the timeless turtleneck. That being said, Givenchy was not only responsible for beatnik subculture though, and his designs crossed different subcultures. 

60s Fashion also comprised the mod subculture or London look. The British truly set the tone with this aesthetic with designers such as Mary Quant shift dresses. She also played a pivotal role in designing the hot pants, which is a sought after item in today’s world of fashion, and the renowned baby doll look. Back then, the baby doll look was referred to as the Lolita. One other famed designer responsible for mod fashion that has transcended fashion eras is Pierre Cardin. He played a fundamental role in space-age fashion like asymmetrically shaped clothing and the hoop dress. He switched from haute couture to making ready-to-wear lines and today, his brand still shines bright globally. Givenchy also played a role in this subculture by designing the exquisite suites and gowns worn by celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis. 

The hippie counterculture was based on cornerstones such as freedom, peace and nature. It rebelled against repressive styles of the 50’s. Independent or free spirited trends such as boho style apparel, fringed apparel and the classic bell bottom pants came to the fore as a result of this counter movement. Today, many of these 60s fashion trends are evident across contemporary trends. These looks are therefore easy to achieve. If you’re ardent about 60s fashion and would love to know how to recreate this look, have a look at the guide below to help you do this. The guide also comprises advice on how to complement your look with makeup and hairstyles.    

Your Guide to 60s Fashion

The following is a list of 60’s style items popular then and now. Reinvent your 60s outfit by obtaining the apparel from your nearest retailer. 

The Miniskirt

The mini made its debut in the 60s and has been timeless since. It was a true game changer on and off the runway. Back in the 60’s miniskirts and dresses were about 7 inches above the knee. Today, we have the micro mini, which is even shorter than that. Minis have also evolved since its inception and come in different cuts nowadays. For instance, you get the skater skirt mini. Then there’s the wrap skirt mini, the frayed denim mini, the buttoned down mini, the straight or bodycon-like mini, the mod or inverted pleat skirt mini and the asymmetrical mini. One mini also largely popular today is the embroidered mini which looks like it comes straight out of a 60s fashion magazine. 

The Lolita or Baby Doll Dress

Style icons like Twiggy popularized this look. This shift-like style was derived from the mod subculture. It also served as a way out of the restrictive styles of former eras, as this dress was super comfortable and flowy. Younger generation mod loved wearing these as a symbol of rebellion. The dress felt loose at the waist and was sometimes worn as a mini. Today, baby doll dresses have evolved into another form as well; namely the baby doll top. You can easily purchase a gingham balloon sleeve baby doll top, a baby doll camisole, or a knit baby doll top. Baby doll dress today include styles like square neck baby doll dress and printed baby doll mini dresses. 

Daring Designs

60s Fashion was the era for bold colors and prints. These eye-catching looks included bright checkered patters, geometric designs in an array of bold colors, psychedelic patterns and even tie dye patterns. Today, you can very easily replicate this look with a series of items such as hounds tooth miniskirts and matching bustier tops, shiny blue pants and geometric tank tops, bold floral printed sundresses and funky dresses with a  psychedelic aesthetic. 

The Shift or Trapeze Dress

This variation of 60s style dresses formed part of the mod subculture. Even though this dress type had its inception in the 20s with the flapper style dresses, it evolved into a more trapeze type of style in the 1960s. It’s also regularly referred to as the most iconic dress of the 20th Century, and was worn by the likes of Jean Shrimpton and Audrey Hepburn. Also, the shift dress of that era was mainly sleeveless. It’s an A line dress so it looks great with minimal accessories and flat shoes or pumps. 

If you’re looking for ideas on how to wear a modern-day shift dress like a trapeze dress, be sure to not to wear a gather bra. It’s also best to wear contemporary flats like a wedge shoes, elevate your waist line and opt for classic colors. 

Ladies Suits

60s Fashion would not be complete without a classic suit. Back then this meant a somewhat feminine variation of the men’s traditional pants suit. These suits were cut differently and came in feminine colors, including pastels. It was also complemented with go-go boots or Mary Jane’s. Knit suits worn with an open cardigan was popular back then, as was a skirt and top with a jacket type of suit. Older women of the era also liked to wear a cropped jacket with a pencil skirt. Style icons like Jackie Onassis loved showcasing this look. She also loved complementing this look with a pillbox hat, making the overall aesthetic here somewhat appear much like the outfit of an air hostess. 

Today, women’s suits are still as popular as ever. It’s also still a more feminine design that a man’s tailored suit too. It’s also evolved into pin stripe suits, checkered suits, geometric print suits, hounds tooth women’s suits and more. Suit pants are also sold in skinny, flare, straight leg and palazzo pants varieties. Women’s career wear also comprises pencil skirts with open or buttoned jackets. 

White Boots

These were also called go-go boots. This 1960s style was similar to what retails now, like the knee length or calf length boots. 60s Fashion go-go boots were introduced with low heels. However, these classic white boots have also evolved and now you can find them in stiletto heels too. White boots today also comes in ankle length variations. You can also find these in platform heels and as an over-the-knee or thigh-high boot.

 So what exactly can you wear with white ankle boots? Well, these are best worn with an A-line skirt, with a mom jeans, a knit midi length skirt with a slit, a maxi dress, a denim dress and a bell bottom pants or jeans. You can wear the longer boot variation with a sweater dress, a baby doll dress or leggings.  

Women’s Jeans

Women’s jeans were a large part of 60s fashion too. These denims comprised patchwork, embroidery and flower child motifs, inspired by the hippie free spirits. Many of the jeans sold then were wide legged, although other styles like drain pipe jeans were also popular. Today, you can easily find wide legged jeans at retailers throughout the world. In fact, it’s simple to recreate a look with a 60s style denim jeans, as many of these styles have embroidery on it or some type of motif. One way flare led jeans have evolved since then is that there are now low rise and high waist denim jeans. In the 60’s, most jeans had a high waist. 

Black on White

1960s clothing also saw the inception of more black on white designs. This was a refreshing change from monotone apparel. The trend was evident in shift dresses especially. For instance, you’d have a shift dress with a white neckline and black bodice, with a black and white checkered skirt. 60s style dresses were also designed in black and white geometric styles. Or the 60s outfit would have a white collar, black bodice and perhaps white buttons. Styles like this are still popular throughout the world. Also, if the presence of both black and white are not on a dress, you could also improvise another color. For instance, if you have a monochrome white dress, you could always wrap a white scarf around your neck, or wear a white belt to break the black. 

Bright Stockings

Colorful stockings were all the craze in the 60s. Women of that era preferred these over monotone hose and also used this to complement their bright-colored outfits better. For instance, orange was one of the in shades for the era, and donning a pair of orange tights with an orange dress made far more sense than wearing a pair of flesh colored stockings. The trend was enduring as today, you can still find bright colored tights throughout the globe. So, if you’re looking to reinvent 1960s fashion, you can do so with bright colored tights. 

Other 60s Pants

Capri pants were pretty popular in the 60s and were first referred to as pedal pushers. Capris have never gone out of fashion though. Today, you can replicate a 60s look by wearing a Capri pants with leggings and sandals, a t-shirt and jacket or with your favorite pair of sneakers and a sweater. 

Bell bottom pants, inspired by the hippie counter culture also made a debut in the 60s. It was also worn as jumpsuits in that era. Today, the style is still largely sold and worn by women throughout the world.

The 60s also saw dress pants in fashion. These pants were high waist slacks, as opposed to the hip hugging bell bottom jeans and pants. Then there was the culottes. This was introduced as a shin length pants but later changed into what we now call the palazzo pants. Culottes are also sold at retailers worldwide, so you can easily buy it and replicate the look. 

60s Fashion
Cher, another 60s trendsetter who influenced hordes of women worldwide.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

60s Hat Styles

The beret was one of the most profound fashion statements of the 60s. It formed part of the beatnik subculture and was associate with young women interested in modern music and the arts. Today berets are as trendy as ever, and is worn as a chic accessory with mainly fall or winter outfits. 

The pillbox hat was also popular in the 60s. It was popularized by Jackie Onassis in that era too. Today, it forms part of street chic the world over and is often worn by modern-day style icons like Taylor Swift. 

60s Tops

The hippie movement played a large role in 60s tops. One of the tops associated with the movement was the peasant or gypsy top. Back in the day, it was mainly worn with bell bottoms and. This top type also became part of bohemian fashion, which is still popular to this day. However, boho-like peasant tops are now a tad more extravagant in terms of embellishment than the original hippie peasant tops. 

Icons of the era also shone in off-the-shoulder tops. Today, the style prevails, as so many tops are off-the-shoulder, especially the contemporary boho style tops. The off-the-shoulder look is also found in dress designs. It’s therefore easy to replicate this look, as retailers the world over are selling off-the-shoulder styles. 

Women also loved emulating celebrities like Cher who often wore a range of silk blouses in the 60s. Today, silk blouses are worn by hordes of women throughout the globe. In fact, this blouse type has never gone out of fashion. Wear a silk blouse to dress up your jeans. Or wear one with a pair of formal slacks or a skirt. 


Besides go-go boots, women wore a huge array of shoes in this era. Mary Jane shoes was highly popular in the era. This shoe saw a bit of a comeback of the 20’s style dancing shoe. It had sparse straps, a Cuban heel and made your legs appear skinny. Theses shoes came in several earth toned variations in the 60s. 

The era also saw the comeback of the T-panel shoe. In fact, it was very similar to the flapper shoes of the 1920’s. The 60’s presented more variations of this shoe type though, as women could wear then as flats too. Kitten heel pumps were pretty popular too back then. Today kitten heel pumps as still as popular and mainly worn in a formal manner. 

Shoes crossed between a boot and shoe called booties came to the fore in the 1960s too. These were called booties. Booties are still in fashion today. In fact, it’s a staple in contemporary shoe trends and is worn with skinny jeans, leggings, skirts and dresses of all lengths. 

Flat sneakers were all the craze in the 1960s as well. Women wore them with Wrangler jeans and t-shirts then. They could also be worn with skirts. Today, several brands like Adidas and Puma sell flat soled shoes. You can therefore easily reinvent this look by pairing some jeans with a pair of flat soled branded sneakers. Women also wore flat strappy sandals in the 60s with dresses and shorts and skirts. Nowadays, flat strappy sandals are still as popular as ever, and is worn with dresses, pants, jeans, skirts and shorts. This makes it simple for you to replicate this look too if want. 

60’s Makeup for Women

When you think of 60’s makeup, women like Twiggy may come to mind. She epitomized the look with her bold eye makeup and false eyelashes, spider eyelashes, pale cheeks and nude lips. 60s Fashion was therefore not complete with makeup brands that helped women to achieve this look. Some of the most prominent makeup brands of the era was therefore Yardley and Mary Quant.  

To achieve a typical 60’s Twiggy makeup look, you’d have to apply a set of false eyelashes and paint your bottom lashes to resemble spider legs. You’ll also need to aspire for more natural looking eyebrows by just shaping your brows and using eyebrow pencil sparsely. Then create a smoky eye look like Twiggy for that dark, round eye effect. Also opt for a soft colored blush, and a lip color in a soft pink, light brown or coral. You can also add a bit of lip gloss as a nice finishing touch. 

Some of the most popular hairstyles for women of that era was the beehive and the Vidal Sassoon haircut. Celebrities like Bridgette Bardot popularized the messy beehive. The Vidal Sassoon haircut looked somewhat like an angled bob, with a sharper thinner and pointy front section and a shorter, thicker back section. This style was also worn by Mary Quant. The bouffant was also pretty popular back then. So, if you’re wanting to replicate a 60’s look for a special event, you can recreate this yourself, or request your hair stylist to do so. 


What did people wear in the 60’s?

Women’s fashion was largely shaped by various influences in the 60s. One such influence was the hippie counter culture. This was a movement that opposed the repressive styles of the earlier era. Freedom was a cornerstone for the hippie counter culture, and this flowed over into clothing. This birthed loose free spirited and whimsical clothing like the peasant top, which also forms part of modern day boho fashion. Other clothing synonymous with hippie style was the flare leg pants and bell bottoms. The era also birthed sub cultures like beatnik and mod. Mod fashion was influenced mainly by British trends, especially the fashion coming from London. The beatnik sub culture was mainly derived from the arts, and epitomized a simple style of clothing that included berets, loafers and striped prints.

What were the fashion trends in the 1960s?

Fashion trends in the 60s included the birth of the miniskirt. Today, the miniskirt is still worn throughout the world. Other trends included the Lolita dress, which is an enduring style internationally too. The shift dress was worn in the 60s and is now better known as the trapeze dress. Suits for women was also popularized in the 60s. This was simply a softer, more feminine variation of the men’s suit. Women also wore their suits in a variety of bright and sometimes pastel colors. They also wore skirt suits, which comprised a pencil skirt, with a short jacket and sometime a pillbox hat. The suit and pillbox hat look was also popularized by Jackie Onassis. Go-go boots, Capri pants, bell bottoms and orange and brown shaded clothing also trended back then. Designers of the era introduced two-toned dresses too. So essentially, they moved from designing monotone apparel to dresses in black and white.