In contrast to the formal elegance of women’s fashion in the postwar period, trends of the 1960s pushed back against such a stodgy and conservative culture. The beginnings of a new feminist movement, coinciding with the first widely available birth-control pills, encouraged women to embrace sexuality and show a lot of skin.
Youth culture and street fashion began setting the tone for couture, rather than the reverse, with Carnaby Street in London replacing Paris as the stylish epicenter. Androgynous young women like Twiggy, Veruschka, Edie Sedgewick, and Audrey Hepburn became fashion icons.
Designers Mary Quant and André Courrèges, who both claimed to have invented the miniskirt, created edgy womenswear that embodied the bold, simple lines associated with the Mod scene. Besides skirts that barely grazed the thighs, womenswear included youthful looks like shift dresses, patterned tights, knee-high patent leather boots, and suspender skirts, all made in bright primary colors or black-and-white geometric patterns.
Coinciding with the international space race, fashion also adopted futuristic elements, as labels experimented with plastics and other synthetic materials, see-through cutouts, and helmet-shaped headgear. Even disposable clothing had its moment, as a promotional stunt turned into a short-lived explosion of paper dresses.
During the mid-60s, the hippie movement used fashion as a way to protest the dominant capitalist society. Hippie styles included graphic t-shirts, flowing maxi dresses, peasant blouses, bell-bottomed jeans, crochet tops, fringed leather vests and jackets, all blended with a heavy dose of thrifted vintage clothing.