The Swinging Sixties were an era defined by innovation and social liberation — and naturally, the epoch’s fashion reflected those cultural sentiments. Women hellbent on breaking free from the cult of domesticity (i.e. the conservative expectations of the 1950s) found power in skin-revealing cut-outs and tailored skirt suit sets. There was the space race, too, which spawned an innovative class of fashion creatives designing for what they assumed was the next frontier. So now, in 2022, as subversive social rebellions percolate and a serious conversation about space travel unfolds, it makes sense that several ‘60s fashion trends are back in full force.
One style that’s certainly been resurrected (and, one may argue, reinvented) is the mini skirt. While you’ve likely been inundated with discourse about the flirty bottom’s connection to the ‘Hot Aughts,’ the silhouette actually emerged many decades prior to the years of bedazzled Blackberrys and Juicy tracksuits.
“The first micro skirt publicly seen on the street dates back to the 1960s,” says fashion curator and historian Michelle Tolini Finamore. She credits an emerging youth culture and the sexual liberation movement — which began in the ’60s and continued throughout the ’70s — for inciting the thigh-grazing silhouette’s popularity. “Skirts were at their shortest in history because of the ‘youthquake,’ which challenged the formal, more buttoned-up styles of their parent’s generation. Now, Finamore muses, the ultra-micro silhouette has returned as a result of the body positivity movement. “Like in the 1960s, [the trend is] driven by a younger generation that’s more comfortable in their skin — and more comfortable showing it!”
Agus Panzoni, a trend forecaster and cultural analyst, provides an abridged break down of the ‘60s space race and the fashion movement it spawned over email to TZR. “Advances in space travel in the 1960s inspired designers to push boundaries in terms of materials and silhouettes,” she explains. “People were excited about a future of space exploration and flying cars — a future far away from the threat of a nuclear attack from the cold war. André Courrèges, in particular,” cites Panzoni, “utilized his engineering background to create a new look that blended new materials with architectural geometry and sports classics.”
“With current wars, the looming threat of a climate catastrophe, and a worsening economic context, we are looking for a new hope for the future. Capitalism is answering these prayers with the metaverse and space travel,” Panzoni continues. “Whether that’s what we need or not is a different story.” But in terms of the specific sartorial aspects popping up in response to all this ongoing innovation, the trend oracle says, “modularity is having us rethink traditional silhouettes and the rise of digital fashion [opens] the doors to a new revolution of design, one that isn’t bound by the laws of physics.”
Ahead, learn more about the other trending aspects of 2022’s revival of ‘60s style, as well as a retro-forward edit to shop.
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While ‘60s-inspired florals are prevalent in summer 2022’s lineup, Finamore says you can’t extrapolate the origins of the natural graphics from its current redux. “The flower patterns from the 1960s reflected both the back-to-the-land movement” — a social phenomenon that surged mid-decade and encouraged people to migrate from cities to rural areas in the United States — “as well as the rise in environmental awareness — the first Earth Day was in 1970,” she explains. “Those florals are also related to Pop Art and its wonderfully bold graphics, which found creative expression in dressing.”
For those wishing to connect with nature — or perhaps use their clothing as a symbol of or plea for eco-consciousness — turn to this season’s crop of flower-centric pieces. Tyler McGillivary’s Alix halter mini dress is a maximal and surrealist interpretation of modern-day flower power, while Carolina Herrera offers a more preppy-feeling take with its seersucker midi.
“Designers such as Mary Quant in England, Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne in France, and Rudi Gernreich in America were all at the forefront of the mini craze in the 1960s,” Finamore says. “Since then, the micro-skirt has resurfaced various times over history — in the 1980s and the late 1990s: think Carrie Bradshaw’s ‘naked dress’ and other ultra-short dresses in Sex and the City.” In 2022, though, you’ll find clear midcentury references through streamlined shift dresses, A-line mini skirts, and plaid prints reminiscent of a retro spirit.
“New tech frontiers such as the metaverse, new eco-materials — mushrooms, for example — and advances in space tourism are inspiring us to think about a newly liberated approach to fashion, one driven mostly by technological innovation and not the constant influx of nostalgic microtrends,” explains Panzoni. As a result of 2022’s brewing neo-futurism, the analyst states Courrèges has welcomed a new cult following, particularly from the Gen-Zers on TikTok. “Today’s interest in Courrèges comes from that newfound hope for the future,” she describes.
For space age-inspired pieces, look to Barbarella-esque accessories like Loewe’s sculptural metallic belt and am:pm’s booties in an eye-popping, extraterrestrial green. Courrèges’ slick vinyl coats, a defining signature of the brand, also make for a relevant choice.
Graphic Mod Prints
Ronny Kobo of her eponymous label often turns to the bold graphics of the ’60s for design inspiration, precisely due to their powerful mood-boosting effects. “[‘60s graphic prints] just spoke to me coming out of this [two year] cloud,” she tells TZR. “The colors and psychedelic patterns are bright and joyful. I want my customers to look in the mirror and feel happy and energized — and that’s what these prints do.”
Contemporary manifestations of the decade’s signature patterns include sultry going-out tops and voluminous puff-sleeved blouses. “I created modern silhouettes with very obvious ‘60s-inspired prints to create a more relevant and relatable vision,” explains Kobo.
Life In Plastic Isn’t Fantastic
As for the jewelry of the 1960s, colorful plastic pieces reigned supreme — think electric, clunky bangles and costume earrings made of acrylic. This year’s revival of the decade, however, leaves behind the harmful synthetic, instead favoring more earth-friendly materials that achieve a similar highly saturated, shiny effect.
“Tech advancements in fashion are bringing us new and exciting materials,” Panzoni offers. Dinosaur Designs, for instance, makes resin jewelry developed from by-products of the oil industry, turning what is essentially waste into wearable statement pieces. Other labels achieve plastic’s highly saturated, shiny effect through colorful ceramic enamel — like singer Dua Lipa’s beloved Bea Bongiasca accessories.