Source: bottom images AMCTV.com
The 1960s fashion is known for an array of key clothing trends, many of which were so groundbreaking for their time that modern fashion wouldn’t be what it is today without them.
Period shows like Mad Men scale the era from its beginning in 1960 through where its current season stands in 1965, showing how popular clothing trends evolved over the years and were gradually adopted into the wardrobes of its Madison Avenue workin’-smokin’-sexin’ female characters.
To honor Mad Men’s continuing popularity and the amazing work of show stylist Janie Bryant, I dug deep into my books on vintage style and clothing to learn what the true “breakout” trends were of the decade’s first half. From pillbox hats to leopard print and mad-for-mod mini ’60s dresses, these were the styles that rocked a woman’s wardrobe because they were such must-have pieces among mainstream America.
Keep reading after the jump for pictures of fashion from Mad Men depicting 6 of the most exciting breakout trends of ’60s clothing, and to learn the fashion history behind why these styles were so popular for their time and how you can wear them today!
The ’60s was known for shaking things up and inspiring many of the clothing styles we wear today!
What’s your favorite outfit as worn on Mad Men? Are you a die hard fan or just discovering the show now?
THE TREND: Pillbox hats were historically worn in the military or as ceremonial headgear for religious ceremonies. The hat is rounded and positioned on the top of its wearer’s head, with about 2-3 inches depth so that it adds height to the head.
BREAKOUT MOMENT: While not the inventor of the style itself, Oleg Cassini designed pillbox hats for Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, who was the United States First Lady from 1960 to 1963.
Her tenure and stylish tastes as First Lady proved influential on the fashion tastes of mainstream America, who embraced her penchant for pillbox hats in the first half of the decade.
FASHION SIGNIFICANCE: As soon as Jackie O wore a pillbox on her perfectly coiffed head, America wanted their own versions of the dainty and delightful hair ornament of their own.
While not a fashion revolutionist, Kennedy introduced stylist new fads like the pillbox and leopard print into the American consciousness thanks to the wardrobe decisions of her private couturier Oleg Cassini.
The pillbox hat would remain a staple piece in the day wardrobe of the smart woman who wanted to appear poised and pretty. While wearing a hat wasn’t a requirement of the day and many women still chose to go hatless, wearing a pillbox hat became a symbol of sophistication for the American female of the ’60s.
THE TREND: “Leopard” became a trendy print worn on just about everything from evening lingerie to work-friendly shell tops to faux fur coats and Jackie O pillbox hats.
BREAKOUT MOMENT: Early ’60s fashion icon and America’s political princess Jackie Kennedy wore a real leopard coat during her reign as First Lady, jumpstarting the trend for feline fashion in closets across the US.
Because her couturier Oleg Cassini made her leopard coat from a real (read: live!) leopard, a demand to mimic the style made the animal’s population almost extinct within just a few years.
Today, the sale of both real secondhand and new leopard pieces, as well as other endangered feline cats like jaguar and ocelot, is illegal and subject to punishment by law. Only faux print products can be produced, merchandised and sold.
FASHION SIGNIFICANCE: Like the pillbox hat did for a woman’s head, the leopard print coat did for a woman’s wardrobe, making the sassy style of animal print acceptable to wear anywhere from outerwear to bedroom wear to boardroom wear.
Once perceived as just the coat of a cat, leopard print is many a contemporary girls’ favorite animal print. With a recent revival in the animal print trend thanks to the fashion tastes of modern fashion celebrities the Kardashian sisters, there’s no reason why the contemporary girl can’t add some vintage leopard rawr to her style routine!
THE TREND: The beehive hairdo, described as such because the style of swept-up, piled-on hair resembles the cylinder shape of an upside down bee’s hive.
BREAKOUT MOMENT: Played by actress Audrey Hepurn, Holly Golightly sports a luxurious beehive whilst eyeballing some jewels in the 1961 iconic vintage film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The movie’s popularity inspires the beehive to take its rightful place on the heads of many an American woman.
Other notable ’60s celebrities further perpetuated the beehive trend, including “Son of a Preacher Man” crooner Dusty Springfield and the era’s “It” girl group The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”).
FASHION SIGNIFICANCE: The beehive do most resembles the powdered wig styles of the Victorian era, and so in a way this style was a modern interpretation of a hairstyle popular 100 years earlier.
Beginning around 1963, detachable hair pieces became popular to buy to help add fullness to a woman’s swept-up, piled-on beehive hair.
Adding hair accessories like jewelry, feather and bands was also a trendy way to style one’s sky high coiffure.
Big & Bold Jewels
THE TREND: Big, bold and bling costume jewelry worn often as a matching set with formal attire. Pieces were designed to be seen and to shine!
BREAKOUT MOMENT: While 1950s style trends focused on tailored, petite pieces to wear with high-neck cardigan sets and the severe styles of the era’s “New Look” dress, the lowered neckline of ’60s dresses gave women space to wear the jewels that were stellar and that shined.
The early and mid ’60s embraced what we’d call “bling bling” today because better technology allowed for the manufacture of higher quality replicas of real stones. “Imitation” pieces of Chanel and Dior were made by mainstream brands and accessible to a homemaker’s budget.
FASHION SIGNIFICANCE: Not only did the shift from covered-up ’50s to show-some-skin ’60s grow the popularity of bigger and bolder necklaces and earring sets, but so did the trend of hosting dinner parties in the comfort of one’s own home.
A ’60s party hostess wore theatrical, oversized pieces with the more casual social styles of the day, like luxurious pants, printed caftans and floor length skirts. The jewelry was a way of declaring the event formal without having to actually put on a formal dress.
It was when the flower child movement was born in the late ’60s that theatrical jewelry lost its lustre in favor of more earth-based materials like glass, clay, leather and wood. Handmade and ethnic-inspired jewelry — versus the costume jewelry knockoff designs of Parisian fashion houses — were preferred and allowed an individual to express a more personal style.
Source: Grand Vintage Finery on Etsy / AMC
Women’s Cigarette Pants
THE TREND: Skinny “cigarette” style pants worn by stay-at-home wives for her daywear activities.
BREAKOUT MOMENT: Around 1963 what was called “at-home-wear” or “leisure-wear” was introduced to the middle to upper class American woman as an alternative wardrobe for her wife-mom-homemaker lifestyle.
Rather than wear a shirtwaist dress or cotton gingham print shift from morning till night, she could relax in separates paired with lux pants made from crepe and chiffon material.
FASHION SIGNIFICANCE: Pants for women emerged as early as the ’20s, when Coco Chanel was spotted wearing pants as a fashion statement only she could get away with thanks to her designer cred.
But beginning in the ’60s, it wasn’t just the rebellious lady wearing the trousers around the house. The acceptance of relaxed, leisure fashion encouraged pants to emerge in the closets of married, sophisticated women like Mad Men’s Betty Draper.
In his 1966 collection, Yves Saint Laurent decided that the pantsuit should be owned by the lady as attire for social gatherings like dinner and drinks at upscale restaurants.
It would take a few years to gain social acceptance but by the ’70s, most fashionable women owned a pantsuit or two that they felt comfortable wearing beyond the home.
Mod Mini Dresses
THE TREND: Mini mod dresses, with hemlines that exposed the leg above the knee and was considered socially acceptable for the first time since the 1920s.
BREAKOUT MOMENT: While not the inventor of the mini itself (André Courrèges introduced it to fashion buyers in 1964), designer Mary Quant successfully made the mini skirt mainstream by introducing her stylishly short collection to the the trendy youth of London’s Mad-for-Mob scene that same year.
These vintage hipsters adopted the trend to snub the old guard and express themselves different from their parents. Soon after the style made its way stateside, which is why we see Mad Men sexpot Megan Calvet’s sexy legs circa 1965 in season 5 pictured above.
FASHION SIGNIFICANCE: While hemlines had already begun to creep above the knee by 1965, it was the mini trend that really maximized those knee caps and the fashionable flesh above!
The mini would popularize the “baby doll” dress look, because previously only young girls wore such short frocks. This idea of adults imitating children’s style was given a name to represent the ethos of this freeing, sensual Lolita style.
Source: AMC / Luanne Vintage on Etsy
MORE 1960s FASHION
GUIDE: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About 1960s Fashion
VINTAGE MAGAZINES: ’60s Fashion as Seen in McCall’s Magazine
MODERN STYLE: How to Wear a ’60s Polka Dot Dress & ’60s Maxi Skirt
TREND HISTORY: The Top 10 Trends of 1960s Clothing
HOW TO: Dress Like Mad Men Characters from Quarter Life 202
EARLY ’60s: What the Women of Mad Men Wore During the First Season from Fashion in Motion
PLUS: Everything You Wanted to Know About the ’60s on Paper-Past.com