“Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution” on View at FIT

Trimfit tights “inspired by Twiggy” in original packaging, nylon, paper, 1967-69. USA, gift of Dorothy T. Globus. Photograph ©The Museum at FIT.

New York—As “Mad Men” makes it much anticipated return to the small screen this month, the styles and themes of the 1960s are once again influencing popular culture. But a new exhibition at The Museum at FIT focuses on the styles, icons and cultural touchstones of the “Swinging 60s” when a generation rebelled against the establishment.

Entitled “Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution,” the exhibition features more than 30 garments, accessories, videos, and other related media, all of which explore the dramatic impact the 60s youth culture had—a generation whose motto was “never trust anyone over 30.”

Youthquake! is presented in conjunction with  the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Master of Arts program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice.

As part of their curriculum, candidates for the Master of Arts in Fashion and Textile Studies present an annual exhibition at The Museum at FIT. They serve as conservators, curators, educators, exhibition designers, publicists, registrars, and researchers, drawing primarily from the museum’s collection to create the exhibition.

London: the Rebellion’s Epicenter

Dress with photograph of Bob Dylan by Harry Gordon, paper, black ink, 1968, England, gift of Estelle Ellis. Photograph ©The Museum at FIT.

The term “youthquake” was most famously used by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. However, the epicenter of youth-generated style during the 1960s was London, where young shoppers began flocking to the new fashion boutiques that energetic, equally young designers seemed to be opening almost daily.

As this powerful consumer class starting to take shape,  similar boutiques began opening internationally. Some of the designers whose garments were sold in these shops began developing lower-priced specialty lines in order to reach a broader audience 

“Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution” will feature clothing and accessories from both cutting-edge boutiques and mass-market labels, as well as high fashion ready-to-wear and couture. Exhibition highlights from groundbreaking boutiques will include a metallic copper mini-dress designed for New York’s trendsetting Paraphernalia boutique and a Day-Glo man’s shirt by pioneering British designer and boutique-owner John Stephen.

Regardless of which youth group was redefining fashion at the moment–the early 1960s Mods or the Hippies later in the decade–their styles were quickly appropriated by mass marketers and couturiers alike. Mass producers made affordable versions of the new designs and hired young celebrities to sell them. A perfect example from the exhibition: a pair of Trimfit tights “inspired by” fashion icon Twiggy. The influence of music on 1960s fashion will be represented by a pair of Wing Dings shoes featuring a Beatles motif and a paper dress stamped with Bob Dylan’s image, which also exemplifies the literal disposability of the era’s fashions.

Couturiers Join the Revolt

Wing Dings, boots printed with images of The Beatles, cotton canvas, 1964, USA, museum purchase. Photograph ©The Museum at FIT.

The exuberance of youthquake fashions also found expression in the work of forward-thinking couturiers. An example of Yves Saint Laurent’s now iconic 1968 Safari tunic from his Rive Gauche boutique will be shown. A man’s bespoke suit by Ruben Torres, which features a Nehru collar and a bold animal print, will attest to youthquake’s infiltration of made-to-order clothing.

As the decade drew to a close, the Mod style ceded to that of the Hippies, who, in accordance with their anti-consumerist beliefs, championed shopping at thrift stores. Nonetheless, as evidenced by a 1968 suede vest and printed cotton maxi-skirt ensemble by New York-based designer Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, Hippie style was quickly “commodified, marketed, and sold at various price points.”

Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, ensemble, suede and cotton, 1968, USA, gift of Marina Schiano. Photograph ©The Museum at FIT. Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, ensemble, suede and cotton, 1968, USA, gift of Marina Schiano. Photograph ©The Museum at FIT.

Youthquake! is on view through April 7.  Co-curators Tracy Jenkins and Cassidy Zachary will give public tours of the exhibition on March 14 and March 19, as part of the museum’s Fashion Culture series. A website created in conjunction with the exhibition will include educational resources and further information about fashion in the 1960s.

Visit fitnyc.edu/museum.

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