The opening A-line minidress at the Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is cooler than the brisk March weather. Protected by a glass case, the frock by Harry Gordon features a blown-up, black and white screen-printed image of Bob Dylan. “The sixties is such a fun topic,” said Cassidy Zachary, a graduate student at FIT’s fashion and textiles program who co-curated the exhibit with classmate Tracy Jenkins. “A lot of the styles were for young people,” she added. “It was innovative with radical silhouettes and materials like vinyl, paper, plastic, and metal.” Dylan’s mug, for example, was printed on a rayon-nylon blended paper-type textile.
The mod era, which began in London in the early sixties, kicked off the raucous fashion decade. Musicians were a big influence, and trends, in a change that’s been carried on to today, traveled the street on up. The rebellious minidresses were adopted by the American masses (see: J.C. Penney’s collaboration with Mary Quant), while in Paris, they were given the luxury treatment (cue the rise of ready-to-wear lines and the futuristic designs of André Courrèges). Compared to the prim ensembles of the fifties, the new silhouettes were made for movement.
“A lot of social revolutions were going on at the time,” Jenkins pointed out. “People think of the seventies as antiestablishment, but it started in the sixties. Fashion exhibitions are a great way to draw people to history.” And it wasn’t only liberated women who had all the fun. Men were also able to cut loose from the staid Don Draper suits by embracing print and color, such as the daring Ruben Torres leopard-print suit on display. With the head-to-toe pattern and mandarin collar, it might have easily slipped into Elton John’s current closet.
Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution is on display at the Museum at FIT from March 6 to April 7.