1962 Fashion and Vintage Clothing
In 1962 American women were be-ginning 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.
There were other suits. Ben Zuckerman, regarded by many as America’s foremost women’s tailor, designed a white woolen suit with a short, gently fitted jacket that barely grazed the waist and a skirt widened by gores rather than the gathers Norell used. Arnold Scaasi designed a suit in the colors of the American flag, appropriately called “Parade.” The flag-red woolen jacket was double-breasted and fitted from its low V-neck to its slightly flared hipline. The navy blue worsted skirt was flat in front and back but widened at the sides. Scaasi, like most other designers with a sense of timing, obviously gloried in the return of the narrow armhole, the set-in sleeve close to narrowed shoulders.
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.
James Galanos, one of the prophetic young designers who had gone West and helped to establish that area of the U.S. as a source of high fashion, produced late-day dresses that seemed whipped, rather than woven. Thin black silk organza splashed with sulfurous golden-green flowers made a long-sleeved, fitted top and a frothy full skirt, over which floated a sleeveless cape of the same airy stuff. Another late-day print, also long-sleeved and fitted to the waist, then full, consisted of two or three layers of the same print: the top layer mille fleurs on black silk georgette; the lower layers, the same print, same colors on grainy silk crepe. Another Galanos, unprinted but flounced to compensate, had the same T-shirt-styled top and the same full skirt, hemmed with a flounce; the material was black chiffon over navy blue chiffon.
Scaasi, always a masterbuilder of women’s egos, produced several delectable chiffons. One, in greens from grass to forest, fitted snugly in the Scaasi manner to below the waist, then billowed out in panels of fullness; it was accompanied by a long stole of the same chiffon.
Across the Atlantic, Crahay echoed Norell; his best spring suit, in hot pink tweed, featured a shorter jacket (just below the waist), a circular but not dirndl skirt, and a wide belt of the same hot pink tweed. In Paris, however, the best suits seemed to come as usual from the best designers —Balenciaga and Givenchy. The two men had begun to indent their clothes at least a year before any other designer in Paris. Both concentrated as usual on pure line, were not distracted by new trends (they set them!), fabric, or color.
Balenciaga’s narrow dresses, suits, and coats curved in below the bust, but one could hardly describe his collection so simply—each dress or coat or suit was a creation unto itself; each was cut in the best way possible. All was supple, as usual—but some coatdresses were belted, some not; probably the handsomest coatdress seen in years in Paris was an unbelted one of plain brown linen unaccented except for a wide curved inset (unfitted) between bosom and hip. It had long narrow sleeves, as did some other coatdresses.
Givenchy, too, concentrated on whittling down the midriff area, but one had to lie a little to sky that it was this trend that characterized his spring clothes. What did characterize them was, as usual, his perfect taste, his meticulous editing of ideas until only the best remained. One princesse coat, flat and fitted in front, had low, rolled back pleats below the waist. Givenchy’s dresses were slimmer, more tapered than his coats. One in raspberry linen had a wide, flat top, rather like a sleeveless, loose T-shirt, then dwindled down via an arched inset at the midriff and a narrowed, tapered skirt. A late-day dress in navy wool was sleeveless and paneled in back, fluid yet shaped by means of the same arched seam under the bosom.
Yves St. Laurent ‘s spring collection, particularly his suits, was hailed as exceptionally creative rather than masterful. Most of his suits, touted by news, not fashion, experts as “the best since Chanel” (they aped her use of fabric and color combination but not her taste or consistency to an image), had what he termed “a deliberate cowboy look.” The squared jackets, which had set-in sleeves and were laced with fringe, topped low-riding, hip-sitting skirts, often suspended from contrasting yokes. These suits gave St. Laurent publicity, but he had yet to win accolades from his peers, the most critical, most accurate judges of his work.
Other men, more skilled at understated, perfectionistic tailoring, were attempting to go it alone; some were succeeding. The small, fine collection of Andre Courreges (a former Balenciaga aide), the first of his second season, echoed Balenciaga in its insistence on fine tailoring and clean, simple lines, but Courreges lacked the creative vitality of his master. Phillippe Venet, formerly Givenchy’s tailor, came closer to the mark. His suits, collarless, undetailed, were pure, good line, some of it fresh rather than restated, lower-priced Balenciagas or Givenchys.
Spring in Paris also marked the influx of two Romans of note. Roberto Capucci’s first Paris showing proved an instant success. His day and late-day clothes were not too extreme for the re-strained Parisians to wear; and he could let him-self go after dark, as he proved in some of his at-home pajamas—an especially fetching pair, draped like an Indian rajah’s robes, spotlighted printed apricot chiffon with a small, flowing cape attached at the back of the neck.
The second Roman in Paris was Patrick de Barentzen, regarded by many as the Italian Givenchy. His collection held up well even in Paris, although it did not stand out by contrast as clearly as it had in Florence’s Pitti Palace.
After dark in Paris, the biggest news was St. Laurent’s rajah silhouette in luxurious fabrics, a skimpy, collarless coat styled like that of an Eastern potentate. One of the best, in white silk matelassé, was fastened at the bosom with a great clump of bogus pearls and emeralds. The sleeves, no wider than necessary, grew out of the narrow shoulders. Beneath it appeared a dress of white plissé. From St. Laurent’s rajah coat, barely wide enough to meet in front, to the paper-doll stiffness of the famous Capucci coats was a considerable range, and Paris had them all. The back styling of the Capucci coats made news; it consisted of two great triangles, with their apexes meeting at the small of the back. Between these extremes were the loosely fitted, almost wrapperlike coats of Pierre Cardin. Collarless, buttonless, they were lashed asymmetrically by means of one huge buckle at the shoulder, through which a sliver of the coat was pulled.
Back in America, two French-born designers proved their transplantation had merely aided them. Jacques Tiffeau, a man who had created a way for women to look, as well as the clothes to make it possible, did it again—only this time, his carved, high-waisted, high-bosomed albeit soft, soft shape happened to be at the peak of fashion. His coatdresses were as beautiful as anything on the American scene in the spring. Their wide, deeply V’d necklines emphasized the high, round bosom; their gently funneled sleeves seemed to grow, seamlessly, from the bodice. Belted high with soft, crushable kidskin sashes, they moved out below into gently gathered skirts. All of Tiffeau’s work looked so easy, and was almost impossible, even for him: the clear yet soft silhouette, which had remained unchanged for the near-decade that he had been at the forefront of fashion; the seamlessness (there were jokes that he glued his clothes together); the absence of de-tail, even buttons, unless absolutely necessary; the abiding affection for light, whipped fabrics; his love of the Empire silhouette, brought up-to-date, a love he had maintained since his first collection with noticeable effects on American woman and American fashion. For evening, the Tiffeau standard of excellence could hardly be surpassed. For spring 1962, it was news because it emphasized the woman wearing it, exactly as Tiffeau had al-ways done. As usual Tiffeau designed a series of matelasse evening suits—chiffon matelassé, in rose colors. All of them were fluid, uncompressed, lovely.The other French-born designer, Pauline Trigere, continued to design what she felt like de-signing, and usually other designers followed her lead. As with Tiffeau in 1962 and Norell in 1961, Trigere in 1962 was credited with establishing fashion trends; what her partisans forgot was that she had established her feeling about fashion some 20 years before and had gone serenely on. Above all, she created a whole feeling about the way a woman should look, a feeling to which she was true for years, not merely a season. Women came back to her, year after year, for her ineffably elegant reversible coats (later copied in Paris), her capes (Capucci copied them in the spring of 1962), her unadorned, almost severe day dresses, and her perfectly tailored, understated suits. For evening, her seductive dresses were usually pure line, just like her daytime clothes, but clinging line in clinging or opulent fabrics molded where they should be molded. Trigere had always been a great proponent of opulence married to femininity. She was the first designer to use velvet in almost theatrical ways. Her best suits were, as usual, altered little by what other designers were doing or what Mrs. Kennedy was wearing. The jackets were often collarless, often fitted, and fairly long; the skirts were smoothed in over the waist, down, and very subtly out. It was Trigere who had introduced the rajah silhouette in the fall of 1961.
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 in to 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, al-most 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 de-signers 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.
Summer in the U.S. brought echoes of spring abroad : hip-riding pants, shorts, skirts (all a reflection of the St. Laurent collection). There was only one drawback to the hipriding bottoms—they had to fit perfectly, which meant there could be no allowance for the gain or loss of more than 8 oz. by the wearer.
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 ex-pensive 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 every-one, 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.
Dresses for day were supple, simple, and riveted attention to the midriff. Often they were full above as well as below it, as in Burke-Amey’s gold wool jersey, smocked and elasticized at the midriff, frilled out below that in a tiny peplum over a slightly gathered skirt. In addition to untweedy wools or mohairs or plaids, dresses often appeared in suede, in pale, delicious colors. At night, how-ever, they thinned down into columns, often worn under columnar coats. Sometimes the slim dresses had sleeves and high necks and collars, as in Givenchy’s heavy black satin evening dress with a ruffle at the high neck, cuffs on the long, slim sleeves, and a flounce around the narrow, slightly trailing hem. More often the columns were unsleeved but covered at the neck, still news in flat wools or newer still, pastel cut velvets or brocades. (The days of beading were on the wane, it seemed.) Sometimes the dresses carried fur hems—if not, often their long coats had wide fur revers.
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 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 up on 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.