Party Clothes in the 1960s

by Karyn Bowman

The fashion of the 1960s ranged from strictly tailored glamour to feminine and loose.

George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

If there was ever a decade of drastic change, the 1960s was it. The beginning of the decade saw party clothes similar in shape and style to the 1950s. But by the end of the decade, hemlines had gone up and come back down. Colors shifted from pastel and classic to bright and modern. Inspiration for designs came from a president and his wife as well as modern art being shown in galleries.

Early 1960s

The early 1960s continued many of the same fashions of the 1950s. Dresses for party-wear felt glamorous with wide skirts with a low knee to mid-calf hemline. The top half of dresses was typically either a boat neck cut or collared and meant to be worn with a matching sweater. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy became known for her sheath dresses worn with bolero-style jackets with 3/4 length sleeves.

For men, President Kennedy popularized the two-button suit, which featured more room for shoulders and showed more of the shirt and tie.

Sweeping Changes

While the early '60s saw similarities to the 1950s, great changes were taking place by the middle of the decade. Hats and gloves disappeared. The mini-skirt, with a hemline that rose several inches above the knee, was introduced in 1964 by French designer Andre Courrèges but became very popular the following year at Mary Quant's London boutique. London fashion model Twiggy, with her boyish frame and haircut, was the new standard of beauty.

Mid 1960s

Stepping further away from the tightly tailored 1950s, styles became looser as dresses took on an A-line shape; that is, they had a shape is similar to the letter"A" with a wider bottom hem with little shape in the top half. The rectangle dress with its straight lines became popular among the party set, especially when young designer Yves St. Laurent came out with his dresses based on modern Mondrian paintings that were colored-blocked with black strips. The mini-skirt also became quite popular when paired with tights and flat-heeled boots.

Young men became enamored of the Nehru jacket, popularized by The Beatles. Color in menswear also became more varied as men moved away from the usual black, gray and navy blue.

Late 1960s

In the late 1960s the trend went back to showing shape and form. Women dressed up for parties by wearing midi and maxi dresses in which the bottom hem fell below their calves. Designers used body-hugging silhouettes and shear or silky fabrics that clung to a woman's shape.

In England, velvet suits for men with "romantic" era touches of lace and elaborate scarves became popular. Neckties became wider, matching the wider widths of collars and suit jacket lapels, according to Alan Flusser. Casual party wear for men turned toward hip-hugging bell bottom pants and poor boy turtleneck sweaters.

Photo Credits

  • George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images