One thing I’ve come to expect from books by Jonathan Walford is consistency and quality, and his latest, Sixties Fashion, From Less Is More to Youthquake does not disappoint. Written from the fashion historian’s point of view, this is the type of book I like best.
What makes this book so great is how Walford effectively uses primary sources, especially magazine and newspaper accounts from the era, to add weight and meaning to the narrative. It’s one thing to say that in the mid 1960s fashions for the youthful were taking over, but it’s so much more enlightening when Walford quotes a New York Times article from 1964 that explains the phenomena.
We are all familiar with the big names of the 1960s: Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin, Courreges, Emilio Pucci, Rudi Gernreich. But Walford does not stop with the usual discussion of the familiar. He also discusses designers who were influential, but who are not household names today.
As in Walford’s other books, the photographs are superb. One complaint that I often have with fashion books is that the same famous photos tend to be used over and over. But Walford uses photographs of garments from the Fashion History Museum combined with vintage fashion shoot photos and vintage ads. The content is fresh, and the illustrations are very relevant to the text.
Another plus is the readability of the book. For a highly researched history, the writing is engaging and fluid. It is fun to read.
The vintage photo is of Mary Quant, on the right, with models sporting her necktie dress. The actual dress from the Fashion History Museum’s collection is also shown.
Here’s another example of a fashion shot along with the actual garment. This dress is by Geoffery Beene, 1969. Note the Midi protesters in the vintage photo at left.
Remember the granny gown of the mid to late 60s?
The book also talks about shoes and accessories, and there is a section on men’s fashions of the Sixties.
The late Sixties brought an increasing acceptance of pants for women. It also was a time of bright and wild prints.
Modern art also influenced fashion in the Sixties. How about those Op Art designs?
The hippie influence was important in the late 1960s and into the 70s. Walford tells in the book how Afghani coats like the one pictured on the right became popular after John Lennon wore one to the launch of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.
I’ve read the book through, just to enjoy it, and now I’m going to give it a second, slower read to try and absorb all the great information. If you are interested in how people dressed in the 1960s, this book is a must-have for your library.