Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dressing the Decade - 1964

It's been a fair while since the last installment of Dressing the Decade, and I do apologise as I've just been too busy to spend the time researching and so on. But this weekend was a lot more relaxing. Catching up on blogs, baking and catching up on some TV shows has been really nice while writing this post. 

Speaking of which, if your in Australia I hope you've marked Mondays at 8:40pm in your diary to watch Love Child! For those not familiar with the show, Love child focuses on the lives of the Nurses and girls at a women's hospital in Kings Cross, Sydney set in 1969. The main story line focuses on Nurse Joan Millar who has just moved from London back to Sydney and discovers her new place of employment engages in illegal forced adoptions on un-wed mothers. A poignant and sensitive topic for Australian women's history as forced adoptions were something practiced quite often - so much so that the government was compelled to make an apology in 2013 to the Mothers and Children involved in the practice. I highly recommend watching it not just for the story line, but also for the music and of course costumes!

Anyway, so back today's blog post. I last left you in November with 1963. That year we started to see the emergence of youth fashion with silhouettes slimming down and the cinched in waistlines almost disappearing 

So lets continue now 1964!

1964 was the year of the British invasion - the Beatles conquered America and along with their English musical counterparts changed American music significantly.

Also in 1964, the first Biba boutique opened on Abingdon Road in Kensington, driving London girls crazy for the new and fresh clothing styles. Mary Quants' popularity in London had hit a peak and her name was becoming more meaningful in New York. Paraphernalia didn't open until 1965, but as America became more fascinated with the British music scene, it wasn't long till the fashion, movies and culture of London also became popular, with the youth driving the change

Sewing patterns from this year start to gear towards this fresh youth market with sweet shift dresses in bright colours and easy to make shapes. The dresses themselves being so simple, needed something additional to make up for their basic shape and so many include cute collars, bows, pockets, belts and buttons as a feature

McCalls 7245

McCalls 7563

McCalls 7228

McCalls 7522

Simplicity 5824

McCalls 7657

McCalls 7655

The simple shapes of 1964, arose from the fashion industry turning their attention to the teenagers of the time. Wasp waists and big skirts were for the old folks - teenagers wanted clothing comfortable for dancing, shopping and wearing all day without having to change for dinner. The original mod look, in its own subculture had achieved this simplicity early on, but it was now that fashion designers started to pick up this minimal look for themselves and teenagers and young women across the world loved it!

Work wear in 1964 also incorporated the simple silhouette, with suits and smart work dresses. Most tried to match their male counterparts with deep Chelsea collars and ties worn with tailored jackets and skirts 

Simplicity 5782

McCalls 7419

Simplicity 5659

Choose your collar! McCalls 7632

McCalls 7316

A take on the double breasted suit - McCalls 7290

McCalls 7356

Skirts were usually slim fitting tube skirts and jackets were cut to stop just at the hip. They were wider so that when they were buttoned up they were still loose around the body. 

This was a similar style to 1963, though what would have made them more current for the wearer would have been the colours used as well as the small details such a buttons, collars and belts

Simplicity 5566

McCalls 7473

Day wear for women had also moved far since the practical shirt dresses of the early 60s. Women still wanted practical outfits that could be dressed up or down for shopping or lunching

Often a belt, scarf or necklace was enough to dress up these simple dresses. 

Hats had dropped in popularity as hairstyles became a fashion statement of their own. The time spent on a perfect bouffant would have been wasted if crushed with a hat. The pillbox hat was still a good choice for a formal occasion or church, but for the most part hats were not as often worn.  

Formal wear had a variation of looks from fit and flare to slim, seductive cocktail dresses. For younger girls a lower waist line was introduced - the drop waist. This allowed girls both the slim fitting shift style and the pretty full skirts that they were used to

Simplicity 5502

McCalls 7239

McCalls 7281

McCalls 7443

Outerwear started to take a bit more of a fitted shape after the full cocoon coats of the early 60s. Princess coats, made of double cloth or wool took the new slim look from dresses to coats. They were often not fussy, but the colours and decorative pieces were all you needed to dress them up.

The empire bust line - which started appearing in 1963 was still a popular choice - but now with a variation on the bust line. Patterns started featuring the seam line above the bust in a kind of smock style. They could be worn loose or with a belt and harkened back to the cute smock dresses of the wearers childhood.

One of Barbara Hulanicki's early dresses for Biba - a brown chalkstripe dress, featured a higher bust line and was sold in her new Kensington store, selling out in hours

Simplicity 5402

McCalls 7225

McCalls 7227

I also just had to show you this fantastic pattern! 

Simplicity 5554
As soon as I saw this one- it seemed to have a Beatles feel about it. Don't you think? The collarless jacket with a thin tie looks similar to the fab fours grey collarless suit jackets.

> The Beatles. 1964

When the Beatles hit the big time - the merchandising surrounding their fame was available every where and fashion for teens became available to dress just like them - and I have little doubt that this pattern may have been designed with them in mind 

And of course to finish - some favourites

Perfect college studying attire McCalls 7593

McCalls 7249

5 year old me is in love with this one! McCalls 7453

McCalls 7385

McCalls 7334 - focusing on the collar as point of interest

McCalls 7383 - with matching sweater knitting pattern!

A casual drop waist dress for teens McCalls 7192

McCalls 7306

McCalls 7261 - I have this pattern and I will attempt those pants at some point this year!

Simplicity 5717 - A low cut shift - something that would be come popular in later years

So what do we understand of fashion in 1964? Dresses were cut simply without accentuating the waist, allowing the details to do the talking. Sweet additions such as bows and collars were popular and fashion designers continued their focus on the youth market. 

Hem lines were generally still at the knee, but the more adventurous girls started to wear slightly shorter skirts.

Waist and bust lines moved from the waist to the hips and bust and jackets became longer - hitting the hips and continuing that illusion of height and simplicity. Smart, neat suits and shift dresses for office working women and chic dresses and fitted coats for the ladies of leisure. 

1964, continues the drive towards minimalist dressing. What will we see in 1965?

See the other years here;

Is 1964 your year? What's your favourite pattern? I think McCalls 7392 is my pick - mainly cause the illustration is so chic! 

Cat xo

P.S - Thanks for reading all the way through this mega post!

All pattern images from Vintage pattern wiki


  1. Oh I just love the illustration on McCalls 7392 as well - I could definitely see myself wearing that coat! I love the fashions of 1964, for me personally it's when it started to get a little bit more interesting. Great post! x

    1. I agree! i can start to see hints of all the pretty dolly dresses that are to come!

  2. Hi, Catherine! This is another educational and nostalgic installment in your series and I thank you for putting so much work into it. One of the key points you made in this post was about hats. When I was a child, men and woman alike wore hats for every occasion. They didn't feel completely dressed w/o one. Everything changed in 1964 when the Beatles turned pop culture upside down and one of the casualties was the hat. As you stated, hair styles became more varied and expressive and most women didn't want to hide their hair under a hat.

    Another key point you made is about the rise of the youth movement. In the wake of Beatlemania and the British Invasion, young people no longer wanted to look "grown up" and resemble their parents' generation. They demanded their own identity and their own fashion styles. Power shifted toward youth. Teenagers were recognized as an important consumer block and were targeted by marketing campaigns.

    America became obsessed with all things coming out of the UK. An excellent example of the phenomenon is the strange case of the Australian band The Strangeloves. Ever heard of them? The trio of Aussie brothers scored three top 40s hits on the U.S. chart including "I Want Candy" which reached the top 10. As it turned out, The Strangeloves were not brothers and were not Australian. The band was a complete fake, a studio group that consisted of three veteran New York songwriters/producers. They made up an elaborate and totally false cover story about being Australian sheep herders, correctly predicting that they could grab more attention and sell more records if U.S. record buyers thought they were the latest hot act from the UK.

    Thank you again, Cat, for all you put into your articles. Good night, dear friend, and enjoy the rest of your week!

    1. Thanks Shady! im glad you liked it. and thank your for confirming my notes about the hats and youth marketing.

      I had never heard of the band The Strangeloves (though i do know the Loved Ones) i had a look at them and i can see why they came up with such a bizzare story! But Australia did ok on our own - The Easybeats, The Bee Gees and The Seekers all reached much higher heights than the fictional strangeloves =)

  3. This post (and the whole series) was so interesting and informative! Thank you! :-)

  4. O, certainly slimmer lines coming through! So many gorgeous details!
    I am rather besotted with McCalls 7522.
    Fascinating social history!! XXX

    1. Ooh yes, that is a nice one! The little bow and buttons are sweet!

  5. A good year for patterns, my oh my! I love the silhouettes of most of these dresses (the shifts and sheaths) and feel that style flatters my personal shape the most. Love it!

    1. I love the slimmer lines too! I much prefer them to the big poufy skirts! i cant wait till 1967 though - that's my year

  6. Very nice! i especially like the first two patterns. This is a very interesting year. I just love all the colors on the pattern drawings.

    1. oh i know! i could stare at patterns for ever - they're so dreamy!

  7. Hi there! I found your blog via Rosie Wednesday! I'm new to blogging and new to sewing, it's great finding fellow aussie bloggers. Yours look really interesting and I'm looking forward to having a read through! And by the way, I LOVE the show Love Child, it's so awesome!
    Lou :)

    1. Hi! well welcome to the blogging/sewing world! Youve started off really well! that lemon sewing machine cover is a great idea. I really should make one of my own.
      Im really loving Love Child so far! I even bothered to pay for it on itunes so i can watch it forever!

  8. I love this series of posts and the detail you put into them- very informative! I'll also be sure to check out Love Child :)

    1. Thanks Anneka! You can watch the previous episodes here - http://www.jump-in.com.au/show/lovechild/episodes/
      im hoping now for more 60s style clothing in the stores - especially the shoes!

  9. Thanks for this! Interesting and useful information, and such detail! You are awesome.

    1. Hey! no worries! im glad you liked it!

  10. Fantastic! I love this post series that you are doing. I am looking forward to the next one. You've got a fantastic collection of images that outline the fashions of that year so perfectly. Great job! My favourite would have to be the very last one, so pretty! Though Simplicity 5824 also caught my eye, looks like one of Mary Quant's dresses modeled by Jean Shrimpton!

    1. Thanks Lucy! The years (and fashion) are getting better. Its a fun work up to the later half of the decade which i much prefer
      I know the polka dot dress your talking about - I think Pattie Boyd modelled it as well with the Rolling Stones!

      That last one is really neat too - it kinda crosses over into 1965!

  11. A wonderful blog :))
    Kiss from Italia,

    1. Thank you so much! youre very kind =)

  12. I like what you're doing Catherine. I love this decade too.

    1. Thanks Maria! Im happy you came by to visit my blog =)

  13. This post is brilliant! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the key looks of the decade. McCall's 7655 is possibly my favourite. I LOVE Chelsea collars! Thanks! Suzy :-)

  14. Wow! What a great year in patterns! I love so many of these, I don't think I could pick a single favourite!

  15. Thank you for sharing excellent information. Your website is very cool. Fully useful your blog post... Women's Clothing Online Shopping


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