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MHC

That Crazy, Crazy World

 
TA -line dresses: an icon of the swinging sixties .Photograph: www.nostalgiacentral.com
 
"How do!" Golden Gate Park 1967. Photograph by Robert Altman www.altmanphoto.com - Robert Altman Communications)
 
 
 

The 1960s were the age of youth. Because of the post-war baby boom after World War II, there was an unprecedented number of teenagers and young adults in the 1960s. Their parents were economically prosperous middle aged men and women with plenty of resources to satisfy their children’s wishes. However, a large movement of the 1960s was the conservative backlash, which was generated primarily by young adults against their parents’ generation. No longer content to portray the image that a generation ahead of them represented, the youth of the 1960s wanted change. Ambitious and original, they were the new heroes and heroines who helped propagate a new market of pop music, clothing, house furnishings, make-up, and even state-of-the-art toys. They rebelled and attacked not only traditional entertainment and lifestyles, but also the values and traditions their parents had embraced: authority, good work ethic, religion, marital fidelity, patriotism and, whatever "the establishment" represented.

Women's liberation, the sexual revolution, and the counterculture, were the major movements of this tumultuous decade.

Clothes & Fashion: In the 1950s, the fashion house of Dior in Paris lifted the spirit and hopes of women that had been recovering for more than half a decade from the devastating effects of World War II. Its ultra feminine haute couture designs soon filtered through shops to the delight of both European and American women. Formal day and evening wear was represented by tight skirts and stiletto heels, often showcased by film stars. The death of Christian Dior in 1957, however, somewhat signaled the beginning of the end of the glamorous haute couture era.

In the early 1960s, a big market of ready-to-wear clothing appeared. There were no longer fashion “rules” and designers began to create scandalous new styles, which targeted young women. The slogan of the time was "out with the old and in with the new". Fashion designers drew ideas from trends within the art world. Geometric shapes and contrasting lines and colors were printed on themed dresses, boots, coats, and PVC hats. Skirts’ ever rising hemlines illustrated the contemporary visions within the fashion world. Mini skirts caught everyone’s attention, from young girls to grandmothers. Clothing also became less gender stereotyped and women began to wear blue jeans and men let their hair grow long.

By the end of the decade, hippie and ethnic influences inspired a peasant look that killed the mini skirt. A return to earth lifestyle brought psychedelic patterns, faded denim jackets, beaded accessories and flowered patterns.


New Standards: Voluptuousness was out by the early 1960s. Women everywhere began to believe the saying “you can never be too rich or too thin.” Twiggy, a popular model, propagated the waif look through her tight mini-dresses. Her stick-like physique was a radical reversal from the older generation’s ideals of the feminine body. She had the perfect 1960s figure: narrow body, square shoulders, long legs, small bust, youthful, and boyish features. Suddenly everyone was on a diet to be like Twiggy.

Women’s bodies began to be exposed and the film industry helped to encourage the sexual liberation. Sex symbols, such as Brigitte Bardot, drew sighs even from the most respectable gentlemen.


Riots, Protests, and Movements: In the mid-1960s youth around the world became increasingly aware of social issues such as war and starvation. They found many causes such as anti-poverty, anti-war, and anti-censorship to rally behind. Many students protested against the Vietnam War, which dragged on until 1975. They sought attention through picket lines, petitions, protest marches, and media coverage.

The emergence of hippies and the counterculture in the mid-1960s was a major threat to the conservatives of the decade. Hippies advocated a profound, revolutionary stance against the establishment. The counterculture movement evolved from the disillusioned beats of the 1950s, critics of the stifling conformity in the Eisenhower era, and heirs of a long tradition of rebellion. However, members of the counterculture, unlike their predecessors, were apolitical and embraced no ideology. They believed that society had placed too much emphasis on conformity and were convinced that America had become too materialistic and competitive. Rather than try to improve a system that they saw as irreparable, they rejected it. Freedom was the paramount virtue for them.

 

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This page was created by Carina Galliano 'LF in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 - cgallia@mtholyoke.edu