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Beauty through the ages - the Wild Sixties

A time of hippies and Twiggy, bell-bottoms and mini-skirts

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky June 4 2008

Girl with 1960s retro look

The 1960’s were as wild as the 50’s were conservative, with political and social upheaval and drastic changes in fashion, makeup, and overall style within a short span of time. The rebellion was originally led by youth on college campuses – the hippie generation, who believed in free love, recreational drugs, and communal living. They had a distinctive look, with loose fitting clothing, bell-bottom pants, and natural fabrics.

Women often went from one extreme to another; one day opting for micro-mini skirts and barely-there halter tops, and the next day donning floor length, shapeless ponchos and yards of fabric in flowing granny skirts. Fashion for the male generation in this group was flamboyant, often including unusual prints in bright colors, layers of clothing, and lots of headbands to hold back flowing hair. Love beads were layered around the neck and hoop earrings of all sizes were popular. Mood rings made their first appearance and many switched from golden hues to sterling silver.

Shoes were more functional than fashionable for both men and women. Both sexes regularly chose earthy-looking sandals or sturdy combat boots. The same applied to handbags, which were often handmade macramé totes rather than the small, compact clutches or handbags of the 50’s.

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Hair was a crucial part of 60’s fashion. Flower children preferred to let their hair grow out and weren’t at all concerned with curling or styling their locks, and there was little difference between the way that men and women wore their hair. Long locks were in for both, and many took the look to the extreme. Hairstyles were, for the most part, lacking - long hair was often pulled back into braids or ponytails just to get it out of the way. Bandanas, kerchiefs, and headbands kept it from falling constantly into their eyes while buying another day or two before washing was necessary.

Hair wasn’t the only thing that much of the hippie generation refused to wash regularly. Suddenly, natural body odor was considered acceptable and many flower children conserved water and bucked the establishment by bathing less regularly. Makeup was simple; just lip gloss, or was avoided altogether. The emphasis was on peace and love and not on beauty and style.

While hippies represented the simple life, the rest of the 60’s generation was in tune with the modern craze created in England. Super model Twiggy’s short skirts and closely cropped hair, big wide eyes and unique modern fashion choices caught the attention of young women all over the world. While the flower children went for long hair, the modern woman just as often opted for a short pixie style instead. Wigs also became popular for those women who couldn’t quite achieve the overall look that they wanted. In particular, “falls,” which consisted of very long hair that was attached to the crown of the head and covered over with natural hair, were extremely popular.

While makeup for the hippie generation was simple, makeup for the modern woman was anything but. Foundation was often heavy and skewed lighter than the natural complexion. Blush or rouge, as it was still called by some, was heavy on the apples of the cheeks in a variety of pink shades. The eyes were a major focus for the 60’s. The bigger and wider the look, the better the woman felt about herself and her fashion style. False eyelashes were a must and sometimes included more than a single pair. Suddenly eyeliner was back in a big way. It closely resembled the style once worn by ancient Egyptians because it was drawn around the entire eye rather than just at the top or the bottom. Mascara finished off the heavy, severe look.

Lips were also important, and just about every woman wanted that perfect pouty look that was done so well by the models of the era. Lipstick colors were pale in an effort to make the lips look even bigger, with colors like pale pink and lavender the most popular shades. Some even incorporated a pearlized or silvery look. Natural colored lip liner helped to define the lips well and added fullness to smaller mouths that needed a little extra “oomph.”

Fashion for the other half of the 60’s world was very different from their hippie counterparts. While school fashions remained pretty conservative overall, hemlines certainly made a change; inching well above the knee for the first time since the Roaring 20’s. Outside of school, youth often opted for blue jeans and t-shirts. No longer plain in nature, the new “tee” carried a message - often against the establishment - a symbol of peace, or a colorful pattern. Tie-dye was popular across both sections of the 60’s population.

Those who still wore dresses or skirts headed toward the mini in order to show off as much leg as possible. Women became obsessed with becoming rail thin in order to mimic the most popular models of the day. Many physicians today believe that this decade gave birth to future generations of anorexic and bulimic young women who saw no other way to achieve their weight goal.

Polyester hit the marketplace and many chose it because the fabric required less overall care with regard to starching, ironing or drying; many simply dripped dry and were ready to wear again the next day. The new fabric also took bold colored dyes well and came in the popular psychedelic colors and patterns of the day.

Like their hippie counterparts, this group also liked sandals, although their choice leaned closer to over-exaggerated platforms. Go-go boots also made a major impact on the fashion world that would continue well into the 70's.

No other generation had such a dramatic impact on fashion and style. Many of the trends carried over into the 70’s and some are still popular today.

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