1960 - 1968: "Youthquake"

Although a youth culture emerged in the 1920s with the mass marketing of short “flapper” dresses, in the 1950s the clothing industry began for the first time to cater specifically to teenagers. Prior to that time, young people typically wore the same clothing lines as their parents. By the 1960s, the youth market exploded into what Vogue magazine termed a “Youthquake.”

Up to this point, high fashion originated with designers, usually from Paris, who in early years developed styles for the very rich and in later decades sold designs to industry to be mass produced and mass marketed. During the 1960s, fashion for the first time came directly from the street, and mothers scrambled to wear what their daughters were wearing.

London emerged as the epicenter of 1960s fashion. Boutique owners fashioned their own designs to capture the attention of young women of the vibrant youth culture that rose in post-war London. Chelsea boutique owner, Mary Quant, began making A-line short dresses resembling a baby doll look. Some people credit her with “inventing” the mini skirt. Rather than the maternal curves of the 1950s, these youthful 1960s dresses obscured the waistline, giving the young woman a childish shape while highlighting the legs. The ideal body shape became the thin, leggy adolescent girl with an obscured figure.

By mid decade, designers in Paris and the United States were responding to the “Youthquake” with their own fashions. Other influences on the fashion of the decade include futuristic designs inspired by space exploration and the bohemian look of social/anti-war demonstrators (hippies). By the end of the decade, there was a general rebellion towards the haute couture (high fashion) and a push to design for women on the street.