1968 - 1979: Diverse Inspirations

As the youth-dominated 1960s came to a close, there was an overarching dissolution of the fashion industry. No longer did fashion magazines advocate for particular new looks each season because popular fashions became extremely diverse. There was no longer a “correct” way to dress. Women’s clothes originated from many different sources ranging from traditional couture designers to individuals of the street subculture. No matter what, no one wanted to look like women of the past; no one wanted to look old.

In the late 1960s fashion’s cutting edge shifted to the United States. Peaking in 1968 and lasting into the early 1970s, the anti-Vietnam war and related social justice movements, rising especially on America’s college campuses, challenged all aspects of mainstream society including fashion. Fashion was decried for reinforcing an unfair class structure favoring the wealthy, as it frequently changed up-to-the-minute colors and styles necessitating constant useless purchases to conform and keep up.

In the 1967 “Summer of Love” hippies introduced the earth-loving philosophy “Flower Power,” which included a natural aesthetic that replaced the mod, futuristic clothing that originated in London. Along with other political ideals, “Flower Power” set aside prescribed fashion as hippies sought to express themselves in very personal ways. To break out of the mainstream fashion mode, they raided thrift stores and embellished their clothing with embroidery, beads, and patches. Hippies tended toward natural fabrics, while rejecting the plastics and vinyl materials used in futuristic clothing of the earlier 1960s. Especially popular were exotic “ethnic” dresses inspired by African, South American, and Native American fashions and longer flowy skirts as a throwback to simpler times. These fashions were determinedly anti-establishment and intended to express their ideals of peace, bridges between non-Western cultures, and independent individuality.

Soon after the initial years of the youth movements of the late 1960s, the fashion industry began marketing similar hippie-bohemian styled clothes for the mass market. The anti-fashion movement continued into the 1970s, where even ugly, unattractive clothes were embraced as cute and quaint. Inspiration for fashion in the 1970s came from all directions.