Topics in the News
Big Cars, Small Cars
Cars for Sale.
After World War II Americans had more disposable income than ever before, and automobiles were high on their wish lists. This excitement about new cars continued into the 1960s. The showing of the new automobile models became a high-profile event, and people visited the showroom entrances to catch a glimpse and perhaps a place on the new-car waiting list.
Bigger Is Better.
Although smaller models existed most cars manufactured immediately after World War II were huge by today's standards. The desires of both the consumers and the auto producers were responsible for the phenomenon. Americans had always seemed to associate largeness with power, prestige, and quality. The auto industry, naturally, was more than happy to oblige: big cars meant big profits, so the six-passenger sedan became Detroit's standard car. Besides having engines that were often much more powerful than necessary for the basic transportation needs of their owners, cars of the postwar era were quite long (up to sixteen or seventeen feet for some models), had low silhouettes, and featured excessive styling, with gaudy paint-and-chrome combinations, bulbous bodies, white-wall tires, wrap-around windows, and sculpted fins. The late 1950s were the high point in such styling excesses. The consumers seemed happy with the state of affairs: big cars were fine with...
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The Full of It.
Hair for many women of the early 1960s was supposed to be full, and they spent many hours with hair lacquer, combs, and curlers to help it reach its desired height and body. The late-1950s beehive, thus called because of its final shape, was one of the most popular styles well into the middle of the 1960s. It was also, by far, the fullest.
How was a beehive made? First, the volume was created. Wet hair was rolled in curlers and then dried. Some women had their own salon-type dryers that came down over the top of their heads. After the curlers were removed, the hair was teased. After being thoroughly teased, the hair was ready to be shaped. The top or front layer was lifted, not brushed, over the entire mass and then heavily sprayed with a powerful hairspray so that the rat's-nest part was hidden from view.
The entire process was not repeated every...
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Looks and New Looks: The New High Fashion
The "New Look."
French designer Christian Dior's "New Look," introduced in 1947, was simpler than previous styles in its emphasis on the natural curve of women's shoulders—rather than the squared-off look of the early 1940s—but was still complex and unnatural. It required hip pads and highly constructed under-garments to squeeze and pull average female figures into "feminine" twenty-inch wasp waists and elegant A-lines. Fabrics were heavy and often elaborately patterned and embellished. But even the women who had discovered simple separates during the 1950s prodded their bodies into the required silhouette for evening social occasions.
Something was done to improve the situation for women, but not all at once. From around 1957 on, some designers began to be influenced by the simpler designs of casual wear. Dresses were still well tailored, but not necessarily waist squeezing; they still emphasized the hips and bust, though. They came in plainer patterns and fabrics. But many formal suits, coats, and dresses were still fancy. Women simplified their clothing styles somewhat, but there was no unified concept of how that could be done without looking sloppy.
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Men's Fashion: Care More, Dare More
More Style Conscious.
By the 1960s many men had generally started to think more about what they wore and to be a little more style conscious and daring than they had for several decades. Men's fashion palettes had expanded, which was not surprising, considering that clothing choices for men during the 1950s could hardly have become more conservative.
A Uniform Direction.
Women's fashions of the early to mid 1960s had two different strains. While Jacqueline Kennedy was passively paring down style to a ladylike, elegant clarity, Mary Quant, the mods, and André Courrèges were turning fashion on its head, paring down little but the number of yards it took to make a shirt. The trend in men's clothing stayed in one fairly consistent direction: whether one was young, old, Chelsea mod, or New York businessman, fashion was becoming more ex-citing on the whole. Of course, the increasing "antifashion" sentiments of the late 1960s altered the course of all fashion trends.
Start at the Top.
The days of the 1950s crew cut were also coming to an end. During the 1960s men were more concerned about having a neat, well-styled haircut. In-stead of the...
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New Fashions for Young People
Not many high schools and colleges had school uniforms in the 1960s, but most had dress codes. For a good portion of the 1960s young women were not allowed to wear pants of any kind to class, and young men were forbidden to wear blue jeans. Students were expected to maintain a neat appearance, and until the second half of the decade they generally complied without much complaint.
Many young women in the early 1960s wore skirt/blouse/sweater combinations, and clothes by such manufacturers as Villager, McMullen, and John Meyer of Norwich were the most sought after. Wool A-line skirts that fell about midknee, usually in muted heather colors, and flesh-colored stockings went with Bass Wee-juns. Cotton blouses, often with a button-down or Bermuda collar, had long or elbow length sleeves. They could be either in a plain solid or have a tasteful, subdued, often flowery print. The sweater was most often a cardigan, sometimes with a ribbon adorning the top button. For the really in look, the cardigan was tied loosely around the neck, and an initial pin or circle pin would be worn at the center of the collar or on the side.
Villager and McMullen, as well as many other large-scale manufacturers, also made one-piece dresses—also worn with a sweater around...
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The Rise of the Youth Market
For the first half of the twentieth century the big designers targeted adult women since they or their husbands had the money to spend. Girls dressed in basic school clothes: plain dresses or cotton blouses, cardigan sweaters, and wool skirts in conformity with school dress codes. School fashions were created by anonymous designers at clothing manufacturers. While hemline height, colors, and so forth were influenced by Paris, the fashion capital's designers seldom made direct contributions to the wardrobe of girls. For dress-up occasions, girls wore versions of their mothers' clothing.
But in the late 1950s and early 1960s teenagers had more money than previous generations. The postwar years had been prosperous, and girls often had incomes from part-time jobs or sizable allowances from their parents.
Also, there were more girls in that generation as the early baby boomers became teenagers. Not only did this growing portion of the population have money to spend, but their generation was the first in a long time that had not grown up in an era programmed with the need to be frugal. They wanted to buy, and they especially wanted to buy clothes. However, shopping in the large department stores could be discouraging for young people....
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Secondhand Clothes and Tie-Dyed Shirts: Antifashion and the Hippie Influence
All in Fun.
Young people of the 1960s had started the decade with an air of optimism, a confident exuberance reflecting the prosperous American society into which they were coming of age. They had an unprecedented amount of social and financial freedom to develop their own identities—identities separate from those of their parents. This sentiment manifested itself most visibly in youthful dress. The mod look was cool; the mini was daring; unusual color combinations were exciting. Mostly it was a good-natured stand against the older "establishment," with no hard feelings.
As the 1960s moved for-ward, with them came a growing consciousness of social concerns, including civil rights issues and controversial U.S. intervention in Indochina. Many young people, disgusted with what they saw as rampant materialism and the moral failing of American society, found ways to separate themselves as completely as possible from the older generation—the establishment—that represented it. One of those ways was a revolution against traditional fashion values. The mods and the new youth market in general had simply rejected the older generation's clothing and its fashion choices. The youth of the late 1960s instead rejected established fashion of any kind—particularly anything worn or accepted by the establishment—in favor of...
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A Significant Decline in the Couture System
Twentieth-century high fashion had traditionally been the almost-exclusive domain of European fashion centers. Designers from European cities, especially Paris, created original clothing for particular wealthy clients or a collection of styles from which clients could choose and subsequently purchase person-ally tailored versions. Naturally, this method is extremely expensive, and the group who patronized personal couture was elite. Many others depended on basic manufacturer lines that, while influenced by what was going on in Paris, were usually fairly basic wear. Still others made their own clothing.
Line for Line.
By the 1960s couturiers were sending their original designs abroad, particularly to the United States, where certain retail stores copied them in a system called "line for line." For a fee these American manufacturers were given permission to produce copies of designs for private customers. Manufacturers promoted this system, boasting that they could have their customers wearing an item from Parisian high fashion within several days of its introduction in the couture houses. But the affected public was still small.
In the mid to late 1950s certain Parisian couture houses also began to create secondary lines of fashions to be...
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Style over Substance: Furniture Goes Pop
The furniture of the 1940s and 1950s, particularly after World War II, was based on the modernist aesthetic—it was rationally designed and functional. Not that it was necessarily boring: unlike many examples of modernist furniture before World War II, the furniture of the late 1940s and the 1950s was often exciting, with lively colors and patterns. Still, it was inherently functional. Furniture was designed first and foremost to be efficient, enabling people to sit, sleep, eat, or store their belongings. Modernist furniture designers took design ideas of the late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century Arts and Crafts movement, as well as certain motifs of early-twentieth-century Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and incorporated them into the modernist vocabulary of rational function. Influential in furniture design of this period was the ideal of a masterfully planned living environment. From the Arts and Crafts movement also came a concern with durability. By using newly developed and perfected synthetic materials, particularly plastics, modernist designers could create objects that lasted much longer than even their Arts and Crafts counterparts. The most prolific and popular de-signers were from the Scandinavian countries, and Danish modern, Swedish modern, and Finnish modern furniture and other interior-design objects filled many American homes by the late 1950s....
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Styles of Modern Architecture
The Modernist Influence.
During the 1960s modernist architecture was still a widespread and powerful force. Buildings in the modernist style were part of the environment of virtually every urban area in America, and new ones were being erected every day. Although it was becoming increasingly evident that modernism had failed to meet its idealistic goals of raising the human spirit, it was still a basically good style and method in which to construct buildings. However, by the 1960s the modernist style began to be recognized as just one of many possible approaches. Throughout the decade architects began to branch out in various directions.
Some of the new stylistic options were not too far removed from the modernist style. Several architects, inspired by the late works of the French modernist Le Corbusier, created buildings that used many of the rational structural ideas of the modernist style. Instead of the sleek, buoyant steel-and-glass masterpieces of the International Style, however, these brutalist buildings were constructed using rough, blocklike materials, such as concrete and brick, fashioned into heavy and aggressive forms. An important brutalist work is Yale University's School of Art and Architecture building (constructed 1959-1963) designed by Paul Rudolph. Its rectangular forms made of large slabs of rough...
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The Twilight of Modernist Architecture
Modernist architecture had been conceived beginning in the 1920s as a Utopian stylistic force. Instead of an outdated neoclassical style (arches, columns, Doric capitals, and sculpted ornamentation), the original modernists had sought a building style that was unique to the twentieth century. That style would both celebrate human progress and technology and steer the human condition toward even higher social goals.
The first goal would be achieved by using technology to its highest advantage. Stronger, more lightweight materials were used to raise buildings to unprecedented heights. Also, with the lighter materials, en-tire walls did not have to bear the weight as in earlier methods of construction. This meant that much more glass could be used.
Pure Form and Rational Design.
Modernist architects attempted to create buildings for people to live in and work in that were pure in form and rationally designed to suit those particular functions. Purity of form came from reducing designs to clean, simple forms—only those elements needed to make the building efficiently perform its intended function. Also, the open plans and large amounts of glass that could now be used in large buildings were intended to foster a sense of togetherness in their inhabitants,...
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Courréges, André 1923-
Innovation and Influence.
There were many important fashion designers during the 1960s—Pierre Cardin, Yves St. Laurent, Oleg Cassini, and others—but among the most influential in both Europe and the United States was the experimental French couturier André Courrèges. He is credited for being among the first to introduce hemlines above the knee and pantsuits for women, among other innovative fashions.
Apprenticeship and Early Designs.
As an adolescent Courrèges was inclined toward an artistic career, but following the wishes of his practical-minded father he became a civil engineer instead. In 1948 he left a promising engineering career and moved to Paris to enter the fashion world. After a few months in a small fashion house, he joined the house of Cristóbal Balenciaga and worked his way up from the bottom, from presser to Balenciaga's main assistant and cutter. In 1961, with his mentor's blessing, Courrèges started his own line, producing fashions highly influenced by his work with Balenciaga.
Courrèges established a name for himself during the next few years, and in 1963 he came into his own with a series of designs totally unlike anything he or anyone else had done to that point, U.S. fashion journalists praised him—he...
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Sassoon, Vidal 1928
At his mother's suggestion, Vidal Sassoon secured his first job at the age of fourteen in a London beauty salon. After fighting for a year with the Palm ach Israeli army, Sassoon re-turned to London, and in the early 1950s opened his own shop on Bond Street. Resolving that, if he was to be a hairstylist, he should "do something different," Sassoon introduced a new method of blunt-cutting hair and then blow-drying it rather than using rollers, resulting in geometric cuts that were unlike popular styles of the time.
His experiments paid off, and important models and actresses began visiting Sassoon's salon. In the early 1960s the Beatles began to sport Sassoon hairstyles, and the hairdresser was soon internationally famous. Sassoon became the major influence on hair-styles in the 1960s as he introduced both very short and very long styles and initiated the natural look, as opposed to the sculpted or slick looks of earlier decades.
Complaining that the financial re-wards of hairstyling were not commensurate with the fame it had brought him, Sassoon founded Vidal Sassoon in the mid 1960s and began to market hair-care and beauty products. He also opened a chain of salons and hairdressing schools....
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Twiggy (Hornby, Leslie) 1949-
To many who knew her, a Cockney girl named Leslie Hornby would have seemed an un-likely candidate for the world's best-known model; classmates called her "Sticks," referring to her extremely slender, boyish figure. But after she adopted the name "Twiggy," dropped out of school at age fifteen, and, with the assistance of her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend Nigel Davies (who preferred to be called Justin de Villeneuve), began a modeling career in London in 1966, success quickly followed. Her androgynous appearance and the mod styles she characteristically sported captured the imagination of the younger generation.
Within a few months Twiggy appeared on the cover or in feature layouts for such prestigious fashion publications as Elle, Paris Match, and the British edition of Vogue. Soon de Villeneuve founded Twiggy Enterprises to handle the young model's expanding business concerns and launched a line of dresses and sportswear bearing her name.
Twiggy in New York.
On 20 March 1967...
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Venturi, Robert 1925-
Early Life and Education.
Robert Venturi was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 25 June 1925. Though his father owned a wholesale fruit company, Venturi dreamed of becoming an architect from boyhood. He graduated with a B.A. in architecture from Princeton University in 1947, where he went on to earn a master of fine arts degree in 1950. He won Rome Prize Fellowships in 1954 and 1956, providing the means for Venturi to continue his studies at the American Academy in Rome.
Venturi returned to Philadelphia and began his career with the firm of Louis I. Kahn. Kahn's firm departed from the dominant modernist architectural approaches exemplified in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Kahn encouraged his designers, including Venturi, to develop their own individual styles. Venturi moved on to several partnerships before forming forming Venturi and Rauch in 1964. He had joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1957, an association that continued until 1965. In 1966 he was appointed the Charlotte Shepherd Davenport...
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People in the News
Pierre Cardin launched the "nude look," featuring flesh-colored panels, in 1966.
R. Buckminster Fuller was given the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1968.
In 1967 U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John Gardner publicly criticized the American automotive industry for contributing to air pollution.
In 1964 Vienna-born designer Rudi Gernreich un-veiled his topless women's bathing suit, creating a stir of controversy.
Philip Johnson's New York State Theater in Lincoln Center opened on 23 April 1964.
Jacqueline Kennedy was inducted into the Fashion Hall of Fame in 1966.
Morris Lapidus's fifty-story, two-thousand-room Americana Hotel opened on 24 September 1962 in New York.
In 1966 pop artist Roy Lichtenstein designed an ex-pensive line of china for the Durable Dish Company.
Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was one of thirty-one recipients of the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1963.
In 1966, the year following his best-selling book Un-safe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader testified before a Senate subcommittee on automobile safety. On 9 September President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the resulting...
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COTY AMERICAN FASHION CRITICS' AWARD
(The "Winnie"—to an individual selected as the leading designer of American women's fashions)
1967—Oscar de la Renta
(Award to a designer whose work merits a top award for a second time)
1968—Oscar de la Renta
HALL OF FAME...
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Elizabeth Arden (Florence N. Graham), 81, business-woman who founded and ran one of the world's largest beauty-aids companies, 18 October 1969.
Bettina BaUard, 56, authority on women's fashions, fashion editor for Vogue (1946-1954), 4 August 1961.
William F. Bigelow, 86, magazine editor, managing editor of Cosmopolitan (1903-1913) and editor of Good Housekeeping (1913-1940), 5 March 1966.
Lord Alfred Bossom, 83, British architect, designed and renovated New York buildings, 4 September 1965.
Mead L. Bricker, 78, automobile executive, former vice-president of Ford Motor Company, 28 January 1964.
Pierre Cartier, 86, jeweler, founded Carrier's (1908) in New York City, 27 October 1964.
Le Corbusier, 77, Swiss-French architect, one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, author of several books reflecting humanistic modernism in architecture, 27 August 1965.
Harlow Herbert Curtis, 69, business executive, served as vice-president and president of General Motors Corporation, 3 November 1962.
Taube C. Davis, 70, fashion consultant who greatly influenced women's fashions, 25 December 1962.
James Frank Duryea, 97,...
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Architecture & Design
Wayne Andrews, Architecture in America: A Photographic History from the Colonial Period to the Present (New York: Atheneum, 1960);
Andrews, Architecture in Chicago and Mid-America (New York: Atheneum, 1968);
Peter Blake, The Master Builders (New York: Knopf, 1960);
John Burchard and Albert Bush-Brown, The Architecture of America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1961);
Walter Gropius, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1965);
Vincent Joseph Scully, American Architecture and Urbanism (New York: Praeger, 1969);
Robert A. M. Stern, New Directions in American Architecture (New York: Braziller, 1969);
Architectural Digest, periodical;
Architectural Record, periodical;
Better Homes and Gardens, periodical;
Historic Preservation, periodical;
House and Garden, periodical;
Interior Design, periodical;
Landscape Architecture, periodical.
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Important Events in Fashion, 1960–1969
- Already an important designer of women's clothing, Pierre Cardin begins to create fashions for men, pioneering a trend away from the standard of the gray flannel suit.
- Anthony Traina, of well-known clothing-design label Traina-Norrell, dies, leaving Norman Norell on his own.
- First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy influences women's fashion.
- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler introduce compact models—the Corvair, Falcon, and Valiant, respectively—in order to combat the growing foreign small-car export market.
- Mary Quant opens a second Bazaar in Knightsbridge, based on the same concept that had propelled the highly successful King's Road boutique in 1955—youth-oriented fun.
- After working for many years under haute couture figure Cristóbal Balenciaga, André Courrèges sets up his own house of fashion design.
- New words are: anchorman, sit-in, cosmonaut, bluegrass, laser, and compact car.
- Mini skirts are first introduced in couture houses by Marc Bohan at Dior and by Courrèges.
- Eero Saarinen's design for the TWA terminal at New York International Airport, built in the shape of an eagle about to take off into flight, nears completion. The architect dies on September 1....
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