- 1960s Fashion Trends
For The 1962 Fashion Year
- In 1962 American women were beginning to realize that they could not all look like Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy. American designers helped to soften the blow by creating such flattering clothes and in such a profusion of shapes that women no longer desired to imitate the First Lady with such slavish devotion.
- At the start of 1962 designers were beginning to indicate the woman beneath the clothes. The spring collections in Paris, New York, and California were an agreeable shock. Shape was back, and women had it again. The most successful spring suit was generally credited to Norman Norell, although Jules-Francois Crahay, of Nina Ricci, produced a similar outfit simultaneously; the suit featured a fitted jacket that barely reached the waist, where it was tightly belted over a wide, spinning skirt. Norell’s version was available to those of his admirers who could afford it. His numerous but less affluent followers were forced to accept copies with less-than-Norell tailoring and fabric at lower and lower prices in almost every city across America. That this terribly expensive suit became the Ford of the spring fashion scene was no surprise, when one considered that American women had been languishing in their shifts and chemises for a year or more—now they had waistlines again and looked pretty when sitting, standing, or walking.
- Both in America and in Paris, clothes grew even prettier as the sun went down. Ruffles were the rage; even the strictest, most classic designers relented enough to produce miracles of fluttering enchantment. One masterpiece by the French-born American designer Pauline Trigere was a black silk organza column encircled from shoulder to narrow hem with black silk organza ruffles. Only a narrow black silk ribbon at the waist interrupted this cascade.
- The most beautiful day dress of the spring was Trigere’s heavy gray silk (she also produced it in printed silk and a few other fabrics, as was her wont—when she changed a silhouette, she did it across the board. Sleeveless in a new way, it was cut on a slant from armpit into the neck, where it was almost a halter. There it rose high above the collarbone and sliced straight across the neck. Since the fabric was doubled, this had the suggestion and softness of a cowl neck without being in any way loose; the rest of the dress was fitted to the waist, then fluid to the hem.
- Another of the season’s best daytime looks was created by Jane Derby, the gentlewoman of Seventh Ave. She had never favored man-tailoring, and her best suit in gray flannel proved it. The jacket, a take-off on the Capri shirt of a few years before, was knotted at a slightly heightened waist-line and spread in a V which started at the knot and widened up toward the shoulders. The skirt was a dirndl; the accompanying blouse, a stark white camisole.
- Spring coats in America followed fairly much the same scheme as the suits; waists were back. Sarmi, always a champion of the feminine American woman, designed a beauty of soft slate-blue wool in a classic princesse shape fitted down as far as the waist, then gently flared by means of a bias-cut skirt. Zuckerman produced a smashing white walking coat, extremely tailored and firmly sashed—not belted—at the proper place. Below-the-waist fullness was achieved by means of inverted box pleats. The cloth was a French white diagonal wool, and the sash was a good 3 in. wide. Norell produced a coat in soft taupe velours, almost a duplicate of his hit suit of the spring short-waisted, fitted on top, slim-sleeved, widely belted, dirndl-skirted. Then there was the rajah coat to contend with; not only St. Laurent s, which was confined to late day, but Trigere’s, which started a bit earlier. And there were the Tiffeau coats, which resembled his aforementioned coat-dresses and came in luscious fabrics, all waisted high with wide, crushed kidskin sashes.
- Spring brought yet another influence to bear on the eager (and often gullible) American woman —the Cleopatra look. The Cleo look, as it came to be known, included hairdo (straight, dark hair with heavy bangs), eyes rimmed with the modern counterpart of kohl and extended beyond the natural boundaries to give a slightly oriental effect, and late-day, evening, and underclothes. Most designers focused on evening clothes, and scores of pleats were glued to the figure at least from shoulder to waist, then flowed more easily to the ground. In late-day clothes closely copied from the Irene Sharaff costumes for the upcoming Cleopatra film, dresses had no pleats but plunged to the waist, usually baring the wearer’s bosom in a fairly uncomfortable manner. Classic Egyptian, Greek, and Roman clothes featured many pleats and clung becomingly to the figure, but the modern over-emphasis only distorted whatever figure the wearer possessed. Although designers and coiffeurs tried hard, the film publicity endured longer than the fashions, and by summer no designer would touch the Cleo look.
- The other echo from abroad came from Italy, from Emilio Pucci in Florence. Chic women who traveled, or even those who stayed at home and disliked fretting about their clothes, had reveled for years in their Puccis. Although they were relatively expensive ($90 to $100 for a dress, $50 apiece for pants or tops), they were indestructible in every sense of the word—they never went out of style, because they were designed in no particular style. They were, in fact, the sophisticate’s skirt and sweater translated into the lightest wool or silk jersey and printed in a delicious array of colors, judiciously combined. Because they were jersey, they never wrinkled and could be rolled up into balls, packed into a suitcase, and emerge triumphant. Because they were printed, they showed spots and dirt less easily than solid, one-color clothes. They were light, soft, wiltless, and, on a slim woman with a modicum of elegance, they were handsome; but the copies that flooded the market in the summer were not so satisfactory, although they were less expensive than the originals. Copies began at $50 and went down to $3. If the Pucci originals had looked complicated, no one would have had the courage to imitate them; because they resembled the original “little nothing” dress, they gave false courage. As imitators were soon to find out, a Pucci’s very virtue lay in the factor that had been overlooked—the fabric. Try as they might, copyists could not understand why Pucci silk jersey never sagged, needed no lining, clung where it should and fell straight where it should, and took colors beautifully. They could not understand how Pucci wool jersey could be so light, yet so opaque (as was his silk jersey). They could not know that Pucci had begun creating with his fabric, experimenting and discarding until he found lightness with opacity, both in silk and wool jersey, together with an affinity for bright colors and prints. Then he produced, each season, a small batch of new designs, always scaled to his clothes.
- Other straws in the summer wind: fewer bikinis and more covered but unboned maillots; the continuation of ruffles on day clothes as well as late-day clothes, even on beach shifts (another very successful summer fashion). In addition there were the perennial summer favorites, black and white, the strong success of brown for everything from bathing suits to evening clothes, and the emergence of the wig as a necessity for many American women other than the privileged few who had espoused it before. Undoubtedly, the swimming and waterskiing and humidity of summer brought out the yen, but a wig was too expensive not to last.
- At the same time that some women were buying wigs to produce a bouffant hairdo when theirs had lost its bounce, there was hairdo news, the first in several years, and from that unlikeliest source, the cinema. The French-made film, “Last Year at Marienbad,” was set in no particular year (although it had definitely taken place somewhere within the last decade), but the heroine, her clothes, and, most particularly, her coiffure, augured the future on both sides of the Atlantic. The clothes by Chanel, with strong intimations of the 1920’s as well as strong hints for the ’60’s, were avant-garde, as were the heroine’s looks and her coiffure. Although this coiffure might have been dismissed as an unupdated flapper’s hairdo, the flat bangs swept to one side and the close cap of glistening hair emphasizing the shape of her head were far fresher than any of the beehives teased up by the revered hairdressers in the U.S. or abroad. Above all, it was enchantingly young, fresh, and chic. However, it was first seen on an extremely beautiful girl, whose languid grace and nonchalance, as well as unusual bone structure, seemed to suit it and her part, but it was not for every woman any more than the Jacqueline Kennedy look had been. The Marienbad influence lingered, and that, combined with the cumulative boredom and irritation with teasing, caused coiffeurs to come out flatly for the flat, close-to-the-head look for fall. The beehives tumbled down; the teasing combs were broken across hairdressers’ knees; and real, live hair, brushed and shaped and glossy, was back on many women’s heads.
- By fall, the thin, bosomy woman was once again the heroine of every fashion show. Not for many years had there been such emphasis on the mid-riff and, consequently, the area above it. Although designers were creating more kinds of looks to light upon, a normal woman’s first reaction to most fall fashions was to begin dieting.
- There were countless ways a woman could look. She could be man-tailored, in strict suits, in coats, trenchcoats, derbies (ladies’ sizes, in leather, usually), even evening clothes. Or she could appear distinguished and unaffected by fashion, in classic clothes like reefers (the favorite coat of the fall) or princesse dresses or shirtdresses, all guaranteed to look wonderful for five years or more. Or romantic and fragile, in tiny-waisted suits and coats muffled with fur collars and cuffs to protect her from the harsh winter weather. Or like an Indian rajah in the silhouette Trigere and St. Laurent had started; it now appeared both for day and evening. Or she could buy what tickled her fancy and not go too far wrong—there was something for everyone, most of it prettier than winter clothes had been for two or three years.
- The rajah look, although introduced earlier, was one of the strongest leaders in the fashion world. Even such an American purist as Donald Brooks, who won the Coty award for 1962, produced a white matelasse rajah dress, and a convertible rajah at that. It could be worn short, for late-day or informal evening, and came equipped with a narrow white matelasse underskirt that went down to the floor and converted it to full evening dress. Brooks’s white matelassé rajah dress came, as did his lightweight black wool, with a huge bunch of artificial roses at the high bosom. It was shaped in gently at the high waist and then swelled out ever so slightly. Other designers produced their own versions of the rajah silhouette, and aside from Trigere, probably the best versions came from the hands of Gustave Tassell, a designer who specialized in pure line and an absence of detail.
- Turbans were big news in hats, and they arrived in leather as well as fabric; leather to be worn for day and many fabrics to be worn all evening. The other big news in hats was that the pillbox had grown to cossack size.
- Fur was everywhere, in binding oft coats and suits or as its own beautiful self in a coat or pea jacket (another St. Laurent idea, translated by almost every good designer both in fabric and fur). Some unheard-of furs suddenly became famous—snow leopard, Indian Persian lamb (like white broadtail) , kit fox, guanaco—and were used either as luxurious linings for coats or for the coats themselves. Often the coats had hoods or hats to match. There were also the old standbys: mink, being tailored more relentlessly and treated more casually than any polo coat; chinchilla, still being treated with reverence; and sable, an old beauty that had never faded away, shown as a windbreaker cum hood (for skiing or just an airing) or in a classic coat form.
- Evening coiffures were as intricate as dresses were not—a trend which had started in Paris at the St. Laurent fall collection, when the models in his fairly simple evening clothes wore their hair sleeked high and sculpted and lacquered into elaborate shapes. In America, the ladies who owned wigs promptly had theirs transformed into evening sculpture, and the ladies who owned nothing but their own hair gave themselves over to their hair-dressers before any major evening event.
- At the other end, boots were recommended for wear with everything from tweed walking suits to cut-velvet evening dresses. In the first circumstance, they did well, but only the bravest souls went out and bought brocade evening boots. Shoes were still low heeled, oval at the toe rather than pointed or squared, and came in glove-thin kidskin.
- What jewelry there was bigger, more dramatic, and worn one piece at a time. Pins grew bigger, dumpier, and looked richer with their stones set in blackened metal. Daytime earrings were once again upon the ear, but for evening the pear-shaped drop returned to favor. And with the return of long slim sleeves to coats and many suits, gloves had no need to be as long, but they still were—American women had come to like them that way and were evidently reluctant to give them up.
Gache Publishing Co.
1963 Encyclopedia Year Book
covering the year 1962