1965 Fashion and Vintage Clothing
The year 1965 was the year of Andre Courreges—the year when the small, neat man got his message (small, neat clothes) across not only to the very few who could afford them, but also to women and girls of every size, shape, and income in every country, particularly the U.S. and England. It was the year when Courreges became the hero of the haute couture by leaving it (for ready-to-wear collections after his spring collection), and the darling as well as the despair of every fashion editor who needed him to make clothes—and news—for her readers.
His clothes were well known enough to be almost a cliche, but somehow they never were. Spare, short, and white all over, they turned slim girls or women into coltish creatures of ineffable charm, lithe creatures who moved freely (because of the cut and the hemlines three to four inches above the knee or the slim, straight pants) through routines that would rip the insides out of any other designer’s clothes.
These styles had been the starting point for a fashion revolution — with New York and London as its chief battlegrounds—for the benefit of the young or young-looking females of the world. No more interlinings, bones, stiffenings. No more fittings. Suddenly the haute couture houses in Paris found themselves short of clients (although this had been happening, gradually, for years), and they too began to design little things for the young that would need no fittings, or one at most.
In Paris the “youthquake” did not work too well for the haute couture (it had been working beautifully in pret d porter for a few years), but in London it had taken place eight years earlier and was still going strong. Good young designers like Mary Quant, Caroline Charles, and Tuffin and Foale had been going so strong that their clothes had been brought to the U.S. for the past three years, where they sold as fast as rock ‘n’ roll records and were often modeled to the accompaniment of them.
In New York the fashion revolution had been a little more diffuse, but no less emphatic. Some great designers (such as Jacques Tiffeau) had al-ways designed for young or young-looking people; no others could wear his clothes with any elan at all, especially his young and swinging 1965 collection. And a whole group of fine young designers had come out hard for easy-to-wear fashions at easy-to-bear prices: Gayle Kirkpatrick of Atelier, Deanna Littell, Bill Smith, Sylvia de Gay of Robert Sloan, Stanley Herman of Mr. Mort, Don Simonelli of PRL, Victor Joris of Cuddlecoat, Leo Narducci of Guy D, and Edie Gladstone of Deebs. Each of them credited Courreges for paving his or her way.
Many other designers tried to climb on the band-wagon and did as well as could be expected, but made no great hum. Some bothered less than others, but there was probably not one designer, either in Paris or America, whose clothes did not alter in some way because of the youthquake and its leader, Courreges.
In the spring collections in New York, tailoring was still uppermost, but it had softened slightly and shortened a lot. Originala, previously famous only for its coats, struck out into suit country with a pair of handsome affairs, each long-jacketed and easy-skirted, each hemmed an inch above the top of the knee. The first was a double-breasted jacket with slightly dropped sleeves, high armholes, and absolutely no shaping anywhere except what the wearer gave it, in navy wool crossed with thick white lines. The second was a white wool twill hatched in black to make neat but not compulsive little Tattersall checks; it was shaped like the other, the only difference being a sash no wider than a measuring tape, of beige capeskin. Another Originala suit, even shorter through the full skirt made even fuller by a wide, apronlike panel in the front.
Sarmi, famous mostly for his evening clothes, turned out a stunner of a suit with one of the roundest, softest shapes of the spring: a gently curved jacket, sleeved just to the elbow, of lacy yellow wool and mohair, over a rounded dirndl skirt of gray-and-white plaid mohair. The effect was soft, sumptuous, girlish, and entirely unbinding. Jacques Tiffeau, that master of the soft young cut, turned out one of his ineffable short-sleeved, round-shouldered suits in brown, beige, and white checked mohair tweed. The jacket, unseamed from small collar to the bottom of the sleeve, came to the hip-bone and curved only slightly at the waist; the skirt was paneled with pleats. Bill Blass provided a very free translation of a spring classic, the man-tailored Glen plaid suit; it consisted of a taut little jacket cut like a man’s shirt, but a short man’s shirt, that reached just four inches below the knee, topped with a sleeveless blouse of the plaid. With all these suits, the things to wear below were white, off-white, or Jordan almond-colored stockings and open shoes (often T-strap sandals) on low, sturdy heels. And above all towered the hat of the spring—a scarf wrapped over a high, conical shape rather like a diminished version of Nefertiti’s headdress.
Coat shapes echoed suit shapes; they were mostly string-straight but easy, unemphasized at shoulder and waist, and stopped two or three inches above the knee. Many of the best spring coats were rain-coats, like Originala’s white vinyl patent, double-breasted from a small, fairly high collar to below its tape-wide white vinyl sash. To wear with it: in good weather, a yellow silk scarf hat, short white Courreges boots; in bad weather, a white patent safari helmet, the same boots. For evening, there was Originala’s coat, the same shape but narrower, in pink-pailletted wool with pink-jeweled buttons, worn over any sort of short, short evening dress with white doeskin gloves, pale pink stockings, and paler pink satin boots.
Dresses were soft but often skimpy too, like Tiffeau’s shrimp-pink wool jersey. Starting at the top with tiny cap sleeves, a dropped round neck, and two vertical seams, it descended in a fluid way to its hem, three inches above the knee. An absolute smash, and nothing to it but know-how and a perfect figure. Everybody was doing it—even Rudi Gernreich, who liked to be different, joined the throng but with a difference. One of his best skimps was for evening, georgette patterned in paisley of turquoise, avocado, aquamarine, and gentle pinks. It had long sleeves and a shortened hem, a round high neck, and nothing else except beautiful flowing movement. With it, he liked turquoise-tinted stockings and low-heeled, ankle-tied turquoise silk pumps. Tiffeau’s late-day dresses were just as short as his early-day ones. An apple-green sheer wool dress with a deep V neck and short cap sleeves had a few folds gathered into the V and flowed gently from there to its short, short hem. B. H. Wragge, the classicist of the deep-country beats, designed lilac linen dress with short sleeves, deep pockets, and a straight but easy-moving shape that stopped two inches above the knee.
And back on the ranch in Paris? There was Courreges, of course, and his last collection was probably his best one. From his enormous slitted white goggles to his open-toe, bow-tied boots, every number in his collection reflected the kind of exquisite engineering and demanding yet flattering cut that one expected of him. Most of his collection was still white, still twill or leather, but pale blossom colors started to show up—perfect blues, pinks, yellows, greens. Some of his best things: a white skimp shirt (tiny cap sleeves, lowered round neck outlined by a welt seam) and suspendered trapezoid skirt (in broad horizontal stripes, gray and white); a white twill suit, the prettiest in the whole collection, with a narrow, short-sleeved, double-breasted jacket over a double-breasted, pocketed dirndl skirt, welt-seamed from its unseen waist to its hem four inches above the knee; a white wool dress with a low, square neck that showed the bosom, wide-set straps, and a gently trapezoid shape interrupted at the hips by a narrow fawn-colored belt; a pailletted late-day dress, its top shaped like a man’s undershirt and pailletted in poison green, the low-starting trapezoid skirt pailletted in white.
And the others? Everything for daytime paled, looked best when it looked like Courreges. At night, there were beautifully shadowy dancing dresses by Dior, short fluffy skirts below long-sleeved, high-necked tops, all organza and yards wide at their short hems. There were, as always, beautiful ball dresses and evening dresses, but little was new except for the return of the strapless evening dress, the continuing zing of the one-shouldered dress, and the definite return of Captain Molyneux to the scene. (The best thing from his collection—an orange wool reefer shaped like a Guardsman’s, with sloping shoulders, narrow sleeves, wide oval lapels, and double-breasted buttoning at the tiny, nipped-in waist above the wide skirt.)
The one-shouldered evening dress was spirally draped, a continuation of the trend started by Balenciaga the previous fall in gold lame. It was copied by anyone who could do it and was the hit of most Paris evenings, in every fabric from white crepe to green chiffon to gold and silver lame.
In America, this dress was immediately copied, and it looked best in chiffon. At a party in Washington, six women turned up in the same dress in the same color—a one-shouldered, beautifully draped dress of apple-green silk chiffon. And the one-shouldered look continued right into summer, in bathing suits, dresses, and evening dresses.
Along with this super-sophisticated look came the youthquake for summer: little-girl dresses in shapes a kindergartener might wear but allowing for a grown-up girl’s shape and making the most of it in an innocent but hardly prim way. All the dresses had hems three or four inches above the knee, many had deep necklines (Jax, Gene Neil, Gernreich) and puffed sleeves, and all came in little-girl fabrics: floral batistes, printed linens or cottons, thick linens in white and pale primary colors.
By fall, everyone was waiting for the news about Courreges and his ready-to-wear collection. It soon became apparent that there was to be no such collection; Courreges was still working on it, and the only examples of his clothes to be seen would be those designs he had sold to Samuel Robert and others. So everyone looked elsewhere, abroad and at home, for news—and for once, there was news in both places. In Paris, many designers were mesmerized by bold linear weaves and color applied as if with a T-square or triangle: Yves St. Laurent with his Mondrian dresses—ivory jersey sectioned off in black, some of the sections filled in with bright red or yellow or blue; or dark gray jersey with bright purple triangles on one shoulder or dark red triangles at the apex of the dress; Ricci’s curved harlequin checks, more than slightly “op” black checks bordered in black waves on white wool, or broad Roman stripes—red, white, black—on a wool jersey coat; Castillo’s knitted geometrical day and evening dresses, all black or brown with brilliant designs in white knitted ribbon laid on in triangles, parabolas, or cubes, all quite marvelous and flattering.
At night there was lace, lots of it, in beautiful little cages of black or brown over tiny crepe slips; or there were the marvelously fitted, sexy evening dresses of St. Laurent (the sexiest dress in Paris was a black crepe with a high neck, no sleeves, and a wide triangle of flesh that began in front at the large pin between the bosom and the skirt and widened into a broad band of flesh in the back above a long, slinky skirt) and the feather-trimmed vampy ones of Pierre Cardin (bias-cut black crepe with a high-rise hem in back and a floor-length swoop in front—all of it furled with black ostrich feathers).
The best suits in Paris were the short-jacketed, dirndl-skirted ones of St. Laurent and Castillo; the best new designer was Ungaro, who made the sort of clothes the young love—welt seams, wonderfully clear paper-doll shapes (one of his best designs was a pale ivory twill coat-dress, the high, wide funnel neck a frame for a fine long throat, fastened with double-breasted buttons marching from the top to the hem in a slightly widening triangle; the sleeves were long and pipestemmy, the shape clear, cool, marvelous—a slender triangle). Probably the best coats in Paris were the wide, wide ones of Balenciaga, small-shouldered, collar-less, and seven-eighths long, full in back and flat in front.
From there the scene shifted to America, where the real news was being made, where the designers seemed to have a new assurance, a freedom from foreign influence. In an about-face, they seemed rather to be influencing the designers in Paris, especially the greats such as Tiffeau, Norman Norell, Gustave Tassell, James Galanos. In the daytime, all was softly tailored, discreetly covered; at night, discretion went out the window and seductiveness and glamor came in, with bareness in new places, superb drapery, marvelous colors, and lots of lace.
To start in the daytime: the newest coat was wide everywhere but at the shoulders, where it was small and neat. Sometimes the coat was a cape, perhaps an eye-high camel’s hair one with a simple conical shape and a hem four inches above the knee (Gernreich), or a swashbuckling, collared black cape fastened with black bone buttons and swinging out from narrow shoulders to a full hem (Trigere). Often the coat came in a very new fabric pattern as well, like Originala’s huge white coin dots (pancake-sized) on black vinyl patent, the handsomest rain or sun coat of the sportif season. (Also not to be missed—Originala’s stretch wool reefers, in stinging red and brilliant Bristol blue.)
The great suit was the dirndl-skirted, small-jacketed suit that Tiffeau had been designing for the past eight years and that had now hit its stride in Paris and America. His oval-caped mustard-and-black checked wool was probably as handsome a costume as there was for fall. The cape was lined in black leather and fell to a little below the waist, the jacket was small-boned and reached just a bit below the waist, the skirt dirndled in the inimitable Tiffeau way. Norell’s idea of the best suit had a long-sleeved overblouse with a hip-riding belt, a long, long jacket, double-breasted low and tabbed from the back, and a short, slim skirt. In contrast to all the young-looking clothes, these suits looked handsome, mannish, and somehow indefinably old, but the tailoring was perfection, the fabrics were glorious, and for the less-than-young figure they were perhaps more appropriate.
Also for the daytime and any age: marvelous country clothes. To be worn with smallish sweaters (as important as they had been for a year—the most popular ones were called “Poor Boy” sweaters), spirited young designers like Atelier showed fur skirts—rabbit, hamster, et al.—or big fur parkas like Walt Stiel’s raccoon one with matching helmet. Knits were bigger than ever, many of them adaptations of St. Laurent’s Mondrians, many others expertly tailored, and still others done softly and gently as if they had been knitted by a chic, motherly spider.
Late-day and evening clothes were the best in five years, from the slinky, covered-up dresses of Larry Aldrich and Geoffrey Beene to the frankly sexy clothes of such disparate designers as Galanos, Gernreich, and Sarmi. Galanos, whom most fashion observers considered America’s St. Laurent, proved it by designing an evening dress quite like St. Laurent’s bare-backed, bra-topped one. Galanos’ was strapless and had a black bra top laden with fake diamonds, rubies, and emeralds above a bare midriff and a gushing long skirt of ombre chiffon. Sarmi, a past master of superb, sexy evening clothes, designed an Empire strapless purple satin evening dress sheltered by a chenille jacket embroidered with brilliants. Here too, Tiffeau turned up a winner with some of the most enduringly beautiful evening clothes of any season. One in particular was of black hammered silk—a fabric unseen since the 1930’s with a high-necked, sleeveless top and gracefully slim, sweeping skirt. Tassell’s white satin tunic, long-sleeved and perfectly fitted, glided down over a wine-red underskirt, slightly flared and equipped with a tiny train.
Late-day clothes saw more and more lace, usually black, sometimes brown. The handsomest lace dresses here, as in Paris, were the cages that floated out over tiny crepe slips; but there were heavier lace dresses re-embroidered so they needed no underpinnings that one could see. Then there were Norell’s smashing blazers, glittering with paillettes and mounted over the simplest dresses—two-piece black wool crepes with elongated overblouses and slim skirts. Among the marvelous dinner suits by Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner, one of the prettiest was a pale pink mohair and wool, the jacket and skirt pailletted with tiny, almost invisible things that glimmered like raindrops; under the simple cardigan jacket, over the dirndl skirt, a slightly cowled pink chiffon blouse. Or his beautiful white satin late-day dress smocked across the yoke like a French child’s, full-sleeved and French-cuffed at the wrists, gently full over the bosom, then tapered to a narrow hem below a widish white satin sash. Or Tiffeau’s magenta Lurex dress, high-necked, no-backed, the straightish haltered overblouse falling to meet a slightly softened short skirt.
Hats were fur or were just not in it, and the newest fur hat was brown Persian lamb, as was the newest fur coat in a fine figure of a reefer, or gray Persian lamb with a Ninotchka kind of hat. Usually the two matched, and sometimes straight little suits had deep fur collars. Bags went right on shrinking, and little ones looked particularly marvelous in crocodile or lizard of pale beige, deep brown, red, and of course black. Shoes had even lower heels than before and were barer than ever, with sandals going on into winter and slingbacks following hard on their low heels. And of course, the Courreges boot kept right on going, looking marvelous with the short skirts and flying hems that abounded. Jewelry was bigger; there was, once again, a trend toward one big piece—or, in the daytime, nothing at all but small dots of earrings, preferably in pierced ears. At night, necklaces of brilliants were back and bigger than ever; sometimes these were substituted for or amplified by big drop earrings of brilliants. Hair was either very long and wrapped close to the head or shorter than ever, with Vidal Sassoon of London the hairdresser of the year.
The fall collection of Rudi Gernreich featured high collars and hemlines, as in this ensemble (above left) of beige flannel with matching cap-scarf. Donald Brooks’ jaguar coat (above center) reflected the lean look that was evident throughout his collection; a buttoned half-belt shaped a fitted front high on the waistline. Gernreich’s high collar went to great lengths in a reversible cape-coat (above right) with wide sleeves and worn with high boots. Andre Courreges designed exotic evening pants-suits such as this outfit (below left) of blue-suede, jewel-buttoned pants topped by a jacket shimmering with silver metallic threads; it was designed exclusively for leather manufacturer Samuel Robert. Another Courreges design for Robert was a two-piece suit (below center) in red calf suede with white kid trimming the hemlines and the wide collar. A short-sleeved Courreges coat (below right) modeled by actress Claudine Auger, was of a white feltlike cotton trimmed in black and set off by a matching hat and white ankle boots