1969 Fashion and Vintage Clothing
As the year began skirts rose higher than ever — many were no more than elongated tops that barely covered ladies’ bottoms; as 1969 ended, the maxi coat and dress were trailing along the ground. The last months of the year saw a rash of clothes of every length between mini and maxi.
At the beginning of 1969, the unconstricted body was already all-important. It was supposed to combine a long neck, a high, small poitrine, and small waist with rounded but small hips, and long, slim legs. The best bodies went it alone under clothes. The clothes that best showed off the ideal body were the clingers — jersey, silk, chiffon; and the transparents — for example, the transparent black georgette top, sleeveless and spare, by Sarff-Zumpano, or the open-topped cutaway dresses by Deanna Littell and Oscar de la Renta.
The clingers were everywhere. The best clingers of all, as always, were Puccis; no one had yet cracked the Pucci fabric formula, which consistently produced silks lighter than air, yet opaque. Coming fairly close on Count Pucci’s heels were the quasi-Puccis, the better ones created by good designers who used their own prints rather than aping Pucci. These clingers came with long sleeves, as almost all good dresses did in 1%9, and very short hems. They were washable, packable, unwrinklable.
Suits were still in a decline, having been replaced by dresses with coats, or shirts and skirts with coats. And the best coats in this spring of 1969 were the short, belted ones, such as Originala’s belted wools in strong, clean colors — red, green, navy — and the best possible neutrals — gray, beige, taupe.
The only suits with éclat were pants suits, now accepted in the city, if not in all city restaurants, and deplored by leg-watchers every-where. The handsomest pants suits of spring came in neutral colors. Halston teamed a creamy jersey jacket, impeccably tailored, with an argyle pullover, long-sleeved white shirt, and widened pants (pants remained bell-bottomed until the fall collections, when most of them became narrow).
For evening, transparency and bra-lessness enjoyed a degree of popularity, and were at times combined in an intriguing uncovered look. Evening pants remained popular, and some were so full they looked like skirts. Bill Blass designed a handsome navy silk-crepe pleated dress that could go it alone or carry on over similarly pleated navy silk-crepe pants.
Shoes were still chunky, with high, wide heels. The only interesting shoes for spring and summer were sandals, and even these had lost delicacy; their straps were widened, their heels were the same high, wide heels all other shoes displayed. To balance the narrowed body line, spring and summer handbags were bigger. More satchels were visible than for several years; many of the best were of canvas trimmed with contrasting leather. Jewelry, too, was laid on by the pound to offset the skinny silhouette; the favored jewelry with shirts and sweaters was yard upon yard of gold chains, antique gold if possible.
In the fall collections, designers once again essayed floor-length coats and skirts for day-time wear, and this time the maxi took, especially with the young, a major factor in American fashion consumption. In the fall of 1969, the American young and many of their elders snapped up the maxis and called for more. And suddenly it was apparent that the true taste-makers of the fall were not the haute couture, not even the American haute couture, but the bas couture: Leo Narducci, Victor Joris for Cuddlecoat, Stanley Herman for Mr. Mort, the Paraphernalia stable, Jax, etc. Their customers were young, or young in attitude, and the designers themselves were young. These trail blazers, often seconded by their elders in the design world, showed a wide selection of jump suits, the best of them knitted in thick cables, like the B. H. Wragge gray wool number, or in ribs, but all of them knitted to follow the body from start to finish. The young couture showed soft, fluid clothes, clothes in line with the new body-consciousness and the no-bra movement among the young in body, if not in years. Their clothes clung languorously but closely and often were designed in 1920’s fabrics: silk jersey, panne velvet, crepe-backed satin, light, glittery brocades and laces. All these clothes had waist-lines that were distinctly marked, in the daytime often by means of wide leather belts, or at night with wide, soft sashes.
Fewer tweeds were seen, but jerseys and ciré for coats, pants, skirts were in abundance, as were sweaters and skirts. The sweaters and skirts were skimpier than anyone would have dreamed of wearing a few, years back; “poor boys” were now poorer and tinier than ever, usually turtle-necked and tucked into narrow pants or mini skirts, occasionally maxi skirts, and often under the maxiest of coats. Some of the best maxi coats were designed by Victor Joris for Cuddlecoat. One, in taupe wool, was frilled all around the neck, down the front, and round the hem with silver fox, and was held in at the slightly raised waist with a taupe leather sash. These coats were sensible for American winters, night or day; but maxi dresses went over better at night than in the daytime, when they had to compete against the fall crop of smashing minis. Among the many variations of hemlines, which included the midi-maxi, and the midi, the maxi and the mini seemed to be the most popular.
The cone coat, narrow at the shoulders and then swirled out into a 360-degree circle at its hem, was the short coat for fall. It looked best collarless and buttonless, as in George Halley’s pearl-gray coat and dress.
The layered look, an American specialty, was seen in pants suits as well as sweaters and skirts; it was everywhere except in formal evening clothes. One great set of layers, all rib-knitted, consisted of a long turtle-neck pullover, slimmish pants, and a long cardigan, all designed by Jane Justin for Don Sophisticates. The fall handbags were, for the most part, only slightly larger than last year and looked best in hair seal, lizard, or a marvelously thick walnut-colored Italian leather that seemed to bear the patina of centuries. Among shoes the best retained a classic quality exemplified by Fiorentina’s snub-nosed pumps in glove leather or lizard.
Evening dresses, short and long, went in two directions. One direction was organized clutter, as in the layered look or the layered gypsy look (sheer, low-cut white blouse over a multitude of patchwork skirts — patchwork was a fall status symbol). The other direction was glitter and gold or silver, seen in some of the airiest brocades ever to weigh into any closet. Out-standing were Adele Simpson’s gauzy gold mini shirtdress, transparent through the sleeves, lined elsewhere, and Geoffrey Beene’s scarlet-lace dress sprinkled and embroidered in gold, with a very high waist and a scalloped mini skirt.
Evening dresses were long-sleeved, some languorously slim down to the floor, some with tiny waists and skirts belling out from there. Often lace was further embellished with a dusting of glitter, as in Sarmi’s brown-and-silver lace top, mildly frosted with silver, over a wealth of crinkly, rustly brown taffeta skirt.
The newest evening hairstyle was la Goulue, or the Gibson Girl. Hair was loosely piled on top of the head on a small chignon, with small tendrils deliberately pulled out here and there about the face. It all went with a new sort of femininity, as did long ropes of pearls, or dog collars of same, or gold-filigree dog collars. Jewelry now looked organized and precious, rather than flung on in batches as in the spring. Along with the frankly nostalgic hairdos and jewels went evening shoes that often were more like treasured antiques than contemporary shoes; they featured high, exaggeratedly curved heels, long vamps, and often had elaborate scrolling in either gold or silver on dark, shiny satin.