Currently Reading – Sixties Fashion by Jonathan Walford

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.




Filed under Currently Reading

16 responses to “Currently Reading – Sixties Fashion by Jonathan Walford

  1. Enjoyed the beautiful photos in Walford’s book and also remembering the old Granny Dresses. I had forgotten when I wore one. Thanks for the memory.


  2. Thanks for the heads up! Not only is that something I think I would like – I know a number of mod pals who would dig it as well. Glad to know its Fuzzie Lizzie Recommended!


  3. sierra sue

    Loved the photo of the high boots–I got a pair of ankle high ones, decorated almost exactly like this at Kohl’s last summer–I’ve worn them and everyone asks if they’re “vintage” –see, that was “our time”–but oh, my, the styles of Mary Quant were so wonderful, even if we had to make ours and due to school rules, longer than Mary’s !! Thanks for the wonderful post!


  4. My kind of book. The necktie dress is just gorgeous! Thanks for the insight. This baby is on my wish list now.



    Love those boots!!!! WANT! I accidentally deleted your post about the midi coat. I bought my own and my dad was upset. When the maxi coats came out I bought one of those immediately and he made me take it BACK! Yep.
    I was crushed and he made a very chauvinistic comment about the length of women’s skirts. I still remember it. SO a day later I really liked your post.


  6. Teresa

    Thanks for sharing Lizzie. Definitely on my list to add to the collection.


  7. Pingback: Fuzzy Lizzie reviews the sixties… | Jonathan Walford's Blog

  8. Great review Lizzie! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! 🙂


  9. It looks entirely edible! xxx


  10. I’ve just finished it too and also love it. For me, the most interesting part was on paper dresses. I had no idea just how widespread the trend was. Of course, age is not his topic but I would have loved to hear just a little more on how sixties fashion really divided the young from the old. But his reflections on skirt lengths gave me a lot to think about. He really is an amazing historian. It’s inspiring to consider all he does with Life magazine, a source that all of us can read in its entirety on line.


  11. Thanks for the thoughtful review. This is right up my alley and is now on my to-read list.


  12. I love your book reviews – even if I will not be reading the book, I always come away feeling more informed!


  13. Pingback: Currently Reading – Sixties Fashion by Jo...

  14. Ruth Beaty

    That Afghani-style coat is what mine looked like from the early 70’s!! Mine was a department store knock off made in gorgeous royal blue fake fur with white fake fur collar and cuffs, and the yummiest ribbon running down the front opening next to the white fur. I think it was supposed to be a midi–but I was 5’2” then, it hit almost at my ankles. That coat was my first ever layaway, and my grandparents paid it off as my birthday present. Guess that’s one of the few things from wardrobe back then I still remember. We won’t mention a couple of faux pa’s that should never have been worn by a curvy blonde girl, not to mention my color choices! Thank goodness for being able to sew as I could make a different wardrobe in a few days.


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