Friday, 23 June 2017

Age and Fashion in History part 14

Looking at old family photos is interesting and the clothes can often lead you to wonder “what were they thinking?” This is particularly true of the duds from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. From miniskirts to big hair, there were some memorable looks during those decades. 

The ‘60s changed the focus of the fashion world. There was still haute couture for grown ups, but the Baby Boomers were coming of age and demanded their own share of attention. The iconic looks of the decade were made for the young women who could wear mini skirts that inched ever higher. Adult fashions followed suit but it took a daring woman over 30 (that was the generation gap age) to wear a truly short skirt. It helped if she had the chutzpa and the legs to carry it off. 

Fashion no longer came from the top down, looks from Paris fashion houses translated for the mass market were not the mainstay of fashion industry they had once been. Trends came from the fringes of society and London’s Carnaby Street became a fashion mecca. Loosening of the fashion hierarchy led into the ‘70s with fashion becoming an expression of personal style. Hippies and disco dudes walked down the same city pavements for parts of that era. Both styles were pretty much youth oriented although there were older guys who sported long hippy hair – like college professors and activists. 

Long hair was still worn in the ‘80s but it was styled for men and women. Big hair abounded for a portion of the population but there were a multitude of styles in both hair and clothes. Padded shoulders were in as were power suits and, for leisure wear, waist high jeans with tucked in tops. Fitness became a craze and women’s workout wear consisted of leotards, tights and leg warmers. 

The trend towards casual clothing continued through the ‘80s and ‘90s and into the present. It was a look which was embraced by all ages and worn by most except on more formal occasions. Work dress codes became more relaxed as the decades passed. In the ‘60s and ‘70s women were required to wear skirts to work, eventually pant suits were allowed. Was that around the time when men no longer had to wear ties? Little by little the requirements relaxed into today’s business casual. 

The whole attitude towards fashion became much more flexible. “The ‘flexibility’ of modern fashion and the disappearance of age-related dress codes were often mentioned as central to the widely perceived blurring of age boundaries.” * Which leads us to where we are today.

If you find yourself on a busy city sidewalk, take a look around and you will see people wearing a wide range of styles. Can you accurately guess their ages? There are few grey hairs to give you clues and their clothes are more likely to tell you about their ethnicity or style than their age. Isn’t it great?



Baudot, François. Fashion: The Twentieth Century. Universe Publishing, New York, 2007

Thane, Pat. A History of Old Age. Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 2005 *p296

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