Sunday, January 2, 2011

Handbags 1960s ( history of fashion )

At a time of unprecedented affluence and diminishing parental control,not least over appearance,they could look forward to an extended adolescence.Bying a classic handbag from a stuffy department store held no attractions for these new teenagers,because handbags belonged on the arm of the Queen or for old people over 30!They had no interest in status dressing,or longevity and quality of materials.British designer Ossie Clark famously sewed a little pocket inside his dresses for emergency money,in case the evening hadn't turned out as planned.If every thing more was required,then the handbag became a matter of personal choice,not a branded appendage.

Chrissie Shrimpton


ossie clark quilted coat, 1965

In the film Billy Liar,the teenage icon Judie Christie represents freedom and a dread of conformity,swinging her shoulder bag as she flees a provincial town in the north of England for the bright lights of London.

Julie Christie in Billy Liar

Only the "blissful girls and crazy dollies" could wear the skimpy futuristic fashions of this era.These new clothes were not cut to conceal imperfections,but to reveal.Only the young could claim them for their own.

Shrimpton in a Mary Quant dress

In the early years of the 1960s the classic structured handbag with sort handles remained popular,with the emphasis on good quality materials and fine workmanship.Carried on the wrist,it was an accessory in keeping with the still ladylike fashion of the day epitomized by America's first Lady Jackie Kennedy.



As social hierarchies broke down with the emergence of "Youthquake",and the subsequent counter culture and hippie movements,handbags feflected the informatlity of the new order,and became free-form,commodious and idiosyncratic.


culture movement

culture movement

hippie movement




The classic handbag with its snap closure,often constructed in patent leather or crocodile in black,navy or tan,never fell out of favour with the older,more conservative consumer,however handbags became subject to the same speed of change as fashion itself.The miniature hatbox bag and the 'mod" pastel patent shoulder bag in orange,pink or turquoise gave way to the futuristic chainmail purses of Paco Rabanne,which were then superseded by th homemade patchwork or crocheted shoulder bag and kelim carpet bag on the hippie.

 Chain Mail Handbag Purse Paco Rabanne

Materials ranged from stamped and decorated leather and suede,and natural fibres such as raffia and straw,to fashion fabrics such as velvet and embroidered silk.Decoation included the ubiquitous floral motifs of flower power,the psychedelic imagery of Pucci and the emboiderd box bags of American designer Enid Collins.

 Vintage Purses - 1960s Velvet Pucci Handbag

emilio pucci velvet purse bag

 "Owl & Pussycat" wood box bag designed by Enid Collins

 Enid Collins bag


But change was afoot,a new freedom from the contstraints of 1950s foundations,pointy bras and restricting girdles- was more to do with modernity than seduction.This liberating attitude towards fashion represented new social hierarchies,when youth triumphed over age,anything seemed possible.

Marilyn Monroe style pointy bras

This new social order included the democratization of fashion.Friends sold to friends in the boutiques that spang up on the periphery of all major cities.Boutiques as Mary Quant's Bazaar changed the nature of shopping,from being a peripheral activity to a social occasion,it was central to the experience of being young,attractive and cool.
The entrepreneurial ethos of the 1960's that resulted in teenagers "doing their own thing",meant that the young costumers could also become the new producers.

Mary Quant's boutique, Bazaar, 1959

Mary Quant's boutique, Bazaar, 1959

Bright new patterns,appropriated from th Op and Pop artists of the day,infiltrated all aspects of design and were used on products as diverse as paper dresses and plastic handbags.
British artsit Bridget Riley's first purely optical work appeared in 1961,through the term "Op Art" wasn't used until 1964 when Time magazine used it to describe those optical illusions that utilized bizarre perspectives.Ossie Clark's coat of swirling black and white Op Art petterns and Mary Quant's self-confessed "first crack at handbag design" comprised two monocromatic "dolly" bags,both inspired by Op Art.
One of them featured her stylized daisy logo and both had log,thin shoulder straps that could be worn across the body.

The labelled "Chelsea look" was a mixture of the black stockings,elongated jumpers and skinny jeans of the Beat Generation allied to the sort of garments most often worn by children.These included pinafore dresses,knickerbockers,knee socks,shorts and pleated gym-slip-like tunics.




The designer played with scale,lowering th "V" of a jumper to the waist,enlarging a football shirt so that it could be worn as a dress,and scalling up cardigans into coats.Her 1963 Wet Collection included a classic trench coat in PVC (polyvinyl chloride),a fabric for the space age (modern,shiny,impermeable nad wipe clean) that was embraced enthusiastically.

Marry Quant's trench coat in PVC

The dramatic shift in hemline changed the entire proportions of the garment.A shorter skirt demanded narrower shoulders and a higher waist.This streamlined silhouette emphasized the midriff,which in turn was accented with wide,low slung belts,the insertion of a contrasting fabric,ot cut-outs that left the midriff completely bare.
When John Bates launched his Bikini dress,with a revealing mesh panel over the midriff,he might have caused shock waves in the national press,but it was designated "Dress of the Year" by the fashion industry.

John Bates

Bates was the designer for the television show The Avengers.
Diana Rigg's outfits,reflected the character she played,all in one jumpsuits streamlined PVC and jersey and gabardine shift dresses featured motifs from Op and Pop Art,including targets,stripes and monocromatic patterning.Rigg was a new kind of Heroine,modern,fearless under pressure and provocative without bein submissive.
Her style influenced a nation of aspirational young girls.Fashion was no longer about the exclusive or the expensive,wearing the same thing as everyone else was proof that you were "cool."

Diana Rigg


Diana Rigg

Russia's Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961,and gave birth at the space age era and to the futuristic style in product design,interiors and inevitably fashion,fashion and handbags.A group of designers based in Paris,including Pierre Cardin,Andre Courreges,Emanuel Ungaro and Paco Rabanne,reenergized French couture with space age fashions that utilized the latest high tech synthetic sports fabrics.Andre Courreges produced his Moon Girl range ,thigh-high mini dresses that bypassed the curves of the body entirely.The densely woven fabrics formed a carapace of cloth that could famously "stand up on its own" due to the right construction.

Andre Courreges Cosmic Girl

Andre Courreges Cosmic Girl


Andre Courreges with model

The "alien warrior" mood was further emphasized by the astronaut hemlets,outsize white sunglasses and mid-calf boots with cut out toes.Handbags became an extension of the body,Courreges designed miniature bags to hang off the belt of the dress,but it was Paco Rabanne who exploited new materials and techniques,his first "body jewellery" collection in 1966,was constructed with a pair of metall cutters,pliers and a blowtorch,rather than a sewing machine and thread.This iconic chainmail bag reinvented the mesh bags of the 1920s for the space age and later on Rabanne constructed another type of chain mail formed from miniature triangles of aluminium and leather held together with flexible wire rings.
Handbags were rarely sold as part of a "total look" or purchased because of the prestige of label,instead were featuring cosmic-strip graphics,the British flag,dazzling Op and colourful Pop art and those made of metallic mesh and silver PVC became another way of the teenager to express 1960s style.

The term coined by Vogue editor and icon Diana Vreeland in 1963 for he spirited 1960s movement that sparked energetic changes in fashion,music and popular culture,was Youthquake.

Vogue editor and icon Diana Vreeland

The most famous of all boutiques flourished in Carnaby Street and Camden was Biba(in an Art Deco department sore on Kensington High Street) the first British boutique to enter the popular consciouness and change the way ordinary girls in the high street dressed.Young women finally had access to high fashion and low cost,unlike the preceding decade,status was no longer lay in the price of something,but in the immediacy of the design.Fashion was no longer just about garments but about body shape,posture and attitudes.Biba was not only attracting the "mods" but also pop singers,film stars and the aristocracy,all in the pursuit of the unique Biba look.

Towards the end of the decade,the glamour 0f  1920s Art Deco was reprised,using lush and seductive fabrics such as Satin-backed crepe,knitted cotton jersey and jumbo cord were dyed in a unique colour palette of blackberry,maroon,amethyst,plum and "dirty" pastels.The clothes were all colour matched to arange of accessories that included tights,hats and handbags.The bags featured Art Deco styling with ornate flames and clasps and exotic fabrics,the most popular being faux leopardskin.The store even sold leopardskin suitcases for the travelling man.

from the book indicated below

The photos and the texts on this blog are sourced from books and by various sites from the internet (apart from the ones taken by me). Original source is always mentioned. If you feel your photorights have been violated or they have been presented in a negative way, please send me mail. I´ll remove them from my blog immediately.
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