Mod fashion is one of the most distinguishable of vintage styles thanks to its colorful prints, jaw-dropping hemlines and innovative designs that until the 1960s, had never been considered fashionable before.
The ’60s mod girl was a courageous one because she wasn’t afraid to explore the “bold” side of dressing. In the 1960s, the quintessential mod look was a colorful abstract print A-line dress with an attached metal buckle belt worn with a pair of colored tights and white or silver boots.
Sure, the above ensemble works for your Halloween costume, but if you want to dress with mod style for 2012, you can’t expect to be taken seriously wearing head-to-toe ’60s fashion (trust me, I’ve tried!)
That’s why selectively choosing one trend of mod fashion is the way to go for a modern mod look. Keep reading after the jump for everything you ever wanted to know about how to wear mod fashion without looking like Twiggy or a go-go dancer!
To keep your mod look fresh, I suggested both vintage and modern equivalencies for many of the 10 mod fashion trends listed below. I especially love ModCloth for vintage style looks as inspired by ’60s fashion!
What’s your opinion: Is mod fashion back in style, or do you risk looking like a character channeling those trends of the ’60s?
Feel free to scroll through the post to see my favorite mod ’60s fashion trends, or click any of the links below to be taken immediately to the text within the article.
MOD STYLE HISTORY: “Op art” means “optical art,” because the geometric, finely calculated lines of its designs seem to create optical illusions to the human eye. The term was actually coined by Time Magazine when writing about the new ’60s art craze.
’60s fashion obsession with black and white lines can be traced to a 1965 exhibit called “The Responsive Eye.” Artists like Bridget Riley were pioneers of the movement and featured at the exhibit.
Like a true artist, Bridget’s feathers were ruffled after seeing how her style was lifted and sold to be worn by the masses, even (albeit unsuccessful) attempting to sue for copyright infringement.
WEAR IT NOW: Op art lines are fantastic for fall dressing because you can pair the print easily with other black and white pieces, such as op art pants with a white top and black sweater (Dam Style) or as seen from ASOS, an op art dress with a white belt, neutral (like khaki) trench, black shoes and a black bag.
The trick is to stick to a B&W palette and to support your op art piece with solid colors. I don’t recommend mixing op art with op art!
OWN IT VINTAGE: 1960s Op Art Dress, $149.99 on Ebay
OWN IT NEW: Mod Around the Corner Op Art Dress, $47.99 by ModCloth
Source: ’60s Mod Fox
MOD STYLE HISTORY: Yves Saint Laurent invented the Mondrian dress, but it was French Vogue Magazine’s feature of it on their November 1965 cover that inspired every mass market retailer to create their own (and cheaper) version.
“Mondrian” is a style of art consisting of rectangles of various sizes that are either parallel or perpendicular to one another and a different color from the other. (Source: The Free Dictionary)
The authentic YSL Mondrian dress is like that shown above, however the placement of blue and yellow colors are reversed. This is how brands were able to produce similar reproductions of the famous designer’s piece without copyright infringement.
WEAR IT NOW: The dress calls for a blazer since the pattern is such a standout. I love how ’60s Mod Fox paired hers with a white blazer, and then opted for black below with black knee-highs and lace-up platforms.
OWN IT VINTAGE: 1960s Mondrian Dress, Auction on Ebay
OWN IT NEW: Alice & Trixie “Daryl” Dress, $325 on Ebay
MOD STYLE HISTORY: Designer Mary Quant introduced her version of the above-the-knee skirt to the hip and young things of London’s trendy set. When these mod gals and guys adopted the styles, the fashion collective followed.
The mini skirt’s length continually crept higher, starting at the knee and slowly rising as the boundaries of “appropriate fashion” continued to be pushed during the ’60s. There was an even an extraordinarily short style called the “micro” mini!
WEAR IT NOW: High-waisted mini skirts are great on girls of any shape because they so easily create a tiny waist and the allusion of mile-long legs.
For true mod flare, look for mini skirts with an A-line cut (not tight against the legs) and made from stiff materials, like wool or cotton. Modern mini skirts are usually lightly pleated and made from polyester blends.
BUY IT VINTAGE: Mini Red Canvas Skirt, $79.99 on Ebay
BUY IT NEW: Grand Turi Mini Blue Skirt, $57.99 by ModCloth
MOD STYLE HISTORY: When Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961 followed by American Alan Shepard that same year, designers like Andre Courreges, Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne began to look beyond the earth’s horizons for fashion inspiration.
Andre Courreges even had a collection called “Moon Girl” in 1964, consisting of simple white mini dresses, helmet hats and shiny plastic white go-go boots. The collection was born from Courreges’ belief that the future of fashion would be a simple one of clean lines and ready-to-wear garments, as if the wearer needed a uniform for steering her space capsule through the air.
Plastic dresses, chain metal tops and clear vinyl rain coats are some of the more memorable mod trends from Space Age fashion, also called the “Cosmic Era” by Courreges for its ethos of unlimited, untapped futuristic potential for mankind.
This 1960s video showing models wearing Space Age designs is a must-see! You’ll love the abundance of shiny plastics, bizarre headgear and sunglasses that look like protective eyewear.
WEAR IT NOW: While wearing an aluminum dress (see below) sounds pretty cool, it’s not the most realistic for fashion functionality.
Silver or white sequin cocktail dresses (shown below, right) are perhaps the most easy of modern styles to adopt from Space Age influence, since most of the materials from this trend are difficult to wear (dresses made of glass, anyone?).
BUY IT VINTAGE: 1960s Space Age Aluminum Foil Dress, $589.99 on Ebay
BUY IT NEW: Sequin Cocktail Dress by Laundry, $225 on Amazon
MOD STYLE HISTORY: Dressing like a child became a trend of mod fashion, because the true mod was a young and restless girl or guy anxious for change. The youth had time to adopt the fast-moving trends and therefore became representative of this fashion culture as a whole.
The Peter Pan collar was applied to children’s clothing as early as the 1830s, but was most prominent in the ’20s for little girls’ dresses. The collar was also worn on wedding dresses from the ’20s into the ’40s (who woulda thought?) probably to signify the bride’s virginal, childish innocence (or at least fake it!).
The Peter Pan collar’s design evokes a sense of nymph, as if its wearer is a little girl dressing like a woman. Since the mod fashions were so embraced by the youth of the era, the Peter Pan collar became the collar de rigueur for the era’s marvelously mini dresses.
WEAR IT NOW: The Peter Pan collar made a huge splash in fashion last spring — just ask stylist Alexa Chung!
From plain black dresses with a little white collar, to the attachable sequin studded collars that are all the rage for Fall right now, you can wear a Peter Pan collar no matter your style (or age!).
OWN IT VINTAGE: 1960s Oatmeal Lace Peter Pan Collar Dress, $48 on Ebay
OWN IT NEW: Ivory Now & Then Dress with Peter Pan Collar, $84.99 by Modcloth
MOD STYLE HISTORY: After a decade of minimalist and practical prints in the ’50s, the ’60s exploded with color and expression as art met fashion and the body became a canvas for artistic experimentation.
The mod fashion culture was one to “wear and be seen wearing.” The mod youth and courageous housewives wore eye-catching prints of contrasting colors and swirling, multi-layered and optical illusion designs (including Op Art) that were so inexplicable in description that they were simply lumped into the catch-all of “abstract.”
Just about every designer — from the visionary to the traditional — incorporated some sense of abstract into their ’60s designs. Because who wants solid when you can have sensational?
WEAR IT NOW: Authentic vintage abstract designs are typically bold and bright and feel best when worn in spring-summer seasons as a standalone piece or with a belt in a complementary color.
More modern styles (like the ModCloth version, right) works with a less brilliant colorway, and so with some silver jewelry and leather boots, is totally Fall-ready.
BUY IT VINTAGE: 1960s Abstract Swirl Dress, $33.99 on Ebay
BUY IT NEW: Mosaic Moxie Dress, $47.99 by ModCloth
MOD STYLE HISTORY: Swing coats aren’t an invention of the ’60s (you can find ’50s styles too), but wearing a brightly colored coat was a trend of mod fashion indicative of the era’s penchant for the bold and the bright.
Color blocking was another trend born out of mod fashion. Wearing a solid colored swing coat (like a candy colored pink, a Kermit the frog green or a powder blue) with a contrasting colored dress and tights beneath was how a mod would spread her colorful feathers come wintertime.
WEAR IT NOW: Choosing a ’60s inspired swing coat for cold weather crispness is an investment you should want and absolutely need to love, since your winter coat becomes an everyday piece of fashion.
Swing coats are A-line (meaning they aren’t fitted at the waist but rather flare outward to create an A shape) but beyond this the stylish elements of your personal fav is up to you. Typing “swing coat” into any fashion finder (be it for vintage or new) should yield plenty of options for your review.
BUY IT VINTAGE: 1960s Space Age Orange Swing Coat, auction on Ebay
BUY IT NEW: Not a Cloud in Sight Swing Coat, $119 by ModCloth
MOD STYLE HISTORY: Believe it or not, colored tights were not worn before the ’60s!
The trend was another incarnation of the mod way of dressing like a child since the style was so light and gay, and definitely not recommended for the working woman.
Plus with hemlines so short, colored tights were necessary for some reasonable modesty. Mother of the mini skirt Mary Quant even had a line of tights to pair with her leg-baring styles.
WEAR IT NOW: I love how ’60s-’70s vintage queen Vintage Vixen wears neon green tights for just a pop of color, since her grey shift and forest green boots cover most of her leg.
Rather than show all of your color, dress in longer hemlines so that your legs don’t look like walking glow sticks!
Source: Iro Iro Crafts
MOD STYLE HISTORY: Perhaps one of the most bizarre trends on this list, the helmet hat was an element of Space Age fashion that truly represented designers’ belief that we would all live in outerspace (thus requiring helmets) someday.
While mods weren’t flying off into space wearing them, they were wearing innovative headgear to support fashion’s changing times. The pillbox hat of Jackie O was rejected for these impractical styles that embraced cultural excitement for the era’s Space Age exploration more than attractiveness of an accessory on one’s head.
WEAR IT NOW: Hats are not considered easy to wear by today’s standards. By the ’70s, fashionable hat wearing (unless to block the sun) was no longer a style habit passed on from designer to consumer.
So with that said, it’s totally understandable why you’d feel uncomfortable wearing a hat as a well-placed accessory to your look.
But a woven “sunglasses” hat (left) is too kooky to pass up wearing on the beach (or at least to wear for pictures on Facebook), and this particular vintage style of a ’60s helmet hat (right) pairs well with jodphurs, boots and a basic white button-up.
MOD STYLE HISTORY: The white or silver go-go boot was a blend of two trends: A reflection of Space Age fashions (white/silver representing the moon, stars and outerspace) and the skin revealing styles of the era which required a shoe to cover more leg below for some semblance of modesty.
The thick heel of the boot made walking in one’s mod outfit much easier than the tightly fitted looks with proper heels worn in the ’50s. As women’s fashions became more comfortable, so did their roles in society grow.
WEAR IT NOW: Silver and white boots still give the allusion of go-go dancing (and not the ’60s kind) or dressing in club gear for techno-rave music festivals.
Reserving silver boots for after hours dance parties feels more appropriate than trying to “de-glam” them for day while all-white boots are easiest worn the ’60s mod way, like with all white dresses or white tops-bottom pairings.
Or, wear white boots tucked into black leggings and an op art design piece for a blend of two ’60s mod trends.
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