Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dressing the Decade - 1960

One of my favourite things to do when I need some sewing inspiration or just some ideas for what to wear to work is to look through the Vintage PatternWiki.

I love pattern illustrations. The fine details in the drawings - the perfect hair, dainty shoes and the fabric choices all give me lots of ideas! Making wool look like wool with tiny little brush flecks is always fun to see. 

Sometime the models can be a bit suspect or being doing some very odd poses - take a look a pattern junkie if you need a good giggle! 

There are of course obvious issues with the illustrations - the models legs can sometimes be a little unrealistic and some illustrations for plus size women are still drawn with the same template as the misses patterns - but that's a whole other kettle of fish that we might discuss another time. As un-PC as they are, it definitely shows how far we have come to be more accepting of other body shapes. 

My favourite years to look at are mostly 1967 to 1968 patterns, but I decided recently to look at earlier years and compare how the styles have changed through the decade.

The sixties was such a creative and innovative decade especially for clothing. Materials developed for the war were being used in new ways. Plastic and paper had been manufactured to a point where they became semi-reliable dress fabrics. The silhouette of women's fashion went from being hourglass, fit-and-flare to relaxed and girly 

Going back all the way to the start, we see that the "swinging sixties" look took a while to get started.  

With a focus on sewing pattern illustrations, let’s begin with the very start - 1960!

 The most immediate thing you notice about 1960, is that it's very much the same as the 50s New Look style. Big skirts with fitted bodices which became typical of the decade earlier were still in fashion. 

Patterns usually came with the choice of making a full skirted dress or a slim skirt. 

McCalls 5357

McCalls 5358

McCalls 5332

McCalls 5687
The two are very easy to change as the full skirt is 2 large squares gathered, whereas the slim skirt is 2 rectangles with darts (in simple terms)

This one has a removable full skirt (or caplet) - the best of both worlds!

Simplicity 3299

Two types of bodice were available also – a fitted tight bodice and a looser bloused bodice. The tighter version was more appropriate for formal or party wear. It was either in a 2 piece or a 1 piece with darts style.

Simplicity 3421 - Bloused style

One part fitted bodice - McCalls 5411

2 part fitted bodice - McCalls 5668
This accentuated a smaller waist. Considering the undergarments women wore, this style was easily achieved.

Necklines were not restricted to fashion and covered boat, square, rounded and modest v-shapes.

Outerwear also followed the previous decade with rounded shapes and relaxed shoulders – either tied at the waist with a belt or open to become a car coat
Simplicity 3312
Women’s work and city wear followed the fashions with fitted shift dresses usually paired with a short cut jacket. The collars were often wide and worn open – perfect for pairing with pearls and broaches. The jacket often ended just above the waist and did not narrow to meet it – again creating an illusion of a smaller waist when compared with the boxy jacket - Jackie Kennedy is probably the most famous wearer this style.

Butterick 9313
Butterick 9312

Butterick 9342
McCalls 5474

Resort/ casual wear featured shorts, shell style tops and narrow leg trousers - and for teens cropped tops

McCalls 5424
Butterick 9383
The relaxed yet refined style of 1960 is easily seen in these patterns with open collars and rolled up sleeves – dresses could work from the home through to the store. While housecoats were still common, the “uniform” of homemakers was becoming less expected.

Butterick 9347
McCalls 5555

McCalls 5701 - this red dress is too cute! 
McCalls 5596
And finally, a few of my favourites!

McCalls 5653 A little Beatnick style

Butterick 9381

McCalls 5677

Vogue 1029

Vogue 1041 - Christian Dior

Vogue 1388

While the early 60s aren't really my favourite, I think there's still something lovely about the 
chic-ness of these early designs. All their little hair-dos and delicate designs make me wish I could make them all!

What's your opinion on the designs of 1960? Do you have a favourite, or do you prefer the later part of the decade?

For more 1960 patterns, visit Vintage Pattern Wiki, or for more info on general American fashion from that year visit Paperpasts page

Stay tuned for 1961!

Cat xo


  1. This is terrific, dear Cat! This post is loaded with great illustrations along with an amazing amount of educational commentary on your part. I can't help believing that I inspired you to take us on this journey through the changing styles of the Sixties. As you recall, I recently made the point that the Sixties was a schizophrenic decade. The early pre-Beatles, pre-mod years were in many ways an extension of the Fifties and the later years reflected the greater power and influence exerted by women in society.

    Thank you for another superb effort, dear Catherine, and have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Hi! Yes I do remember that, and I guess maybe you inspired me subconsciously! It started out as just showing the difference as an image, but then turned into a full blown 10 part post idea because the styles are so different and I think it definitely shows how much change happened through the decade

      Have a good weekend also!

  2. Oh I absolutely love pattern illustrations! I'm not a seamstress by any stretch of imagination, but I love flicking through old Simplicity patterns just for the drawings. They give such good inspiration for hairstyles and accessories as well.
    I think I prefer the earlier styles of the 60's, seeing as I am a bit more of a 50's girl but I really enjoy seeing all your sewing projects. You are very talented and I am quite envious of you dressmaking skills!

    Mary xxx

    1. Thank you! I agree - even if you don't sew there are enough ideas there for whole outs, hair cuts, manicures and shoes. i like to know that they were drawn at the time they were in fashion so they are reliable sources of what was trendy then.
      Thanks for popping in!

    2. My Mom too inspiration from Dior's New Look, so full skirts were her love. And so for me the early 60s are my favourite. Thank you soo much for a lovely post. Jo

  3. What a complete article Cat !
    My favorite years are 1966 and 1967 : fun , easy and coloured fashion. Before it's beautiful but a bit too classic for me , and as 70's years approach , i really don't like the "flower child" fashion .

    1. thank you! Yes it very classic look - no a fun and free looking as the later years.

  4. Oh, I love this, I hope you'll do every year! I prefer the mid sixties for fun clothes--the shorter the skirt the better--but I tend to stick to the early 60s for work, since longer full skirts are better for a bending/reaching/crawling around library job than slim shifts!

    1. thanks! yes, i plan to! i cant wait till the later years! I tend to dress like 64 to 66 for work because I mainly sit down all day - and yes longer skirts are better for moving a lot. Librarian was one of my job wishes when I was little!

  5. It's the late 1960s all the way for me, too! I love the extravagent puffed sleeves and clean lines - never very keen on belts or nipped in waists - too fussy!
    Loved this post, a delight for a pattern whore like me! I always buy old patterns regardless if I have any intention of using them, the illustrations are sheer art! x

    1. I know what you mean! the late 60s are just so over the top! i have a few patterns ill never sew too, just cause their pretty!

  6. I loved the 60s, if nothing else but to look through pattern catalog and drool - I did High School in the early 60s and college in the late 60s, sewing all the while! My fav - that red Nina Ricci cocktail dress. Oh if I had that waistline I'd sew it now! Great post!

    1. wow! you have lived the life i wish i could've! Ill have to pick your brain one day - do you still have any of your sewn dresses?

  7. I think I am more of a fan of the late sixties. That 1967 dress that you posted near the top is so adorable!!!!!

    1. Awesome! Miss 1967 has the best dress i think!

  8. I just love pattern illustrations, I'm like Vix and I buy patterns even if I have no intention of using them, I was actually thinking of framing a few as they are just too nice to be hidden in a drawer.

    I do like the early 60s looks, I often go for that sort of style when I'm out dancing. I honestly just love everything about the decade but I guess in my everyday dress I prefer the late 60s, I actually have the pattern that you used for 1966 - it was the first dress I made!

    1. oh thats a good idea! i forget about things when i put them away =(
      Did you post a photo of the 1966 dress on your blog? id love to see it!

    2. Yeah I did, the photos aren't great but here is the link!

  9. I really enjoyed this post!
    I love the whole decade; it suits my personality! The early 60's appeals to my matchy matchy ladylike self, and the latter part of the decade appeals to my looser, partyish self.
    Old pattern illustraions are the best! Like Vix, I tend to collect them for the pix, not necessarily to use! XXX

    1. i know what you mean! some days i like to be a nice a proper lady with matching shoes and so on, but now that spring is coming i cant wait to break out the looser shifts.
      Have you ever posted your pattern collection on your blog?

  10. What great patterns! I love the late 60's too. It's funny I'm giving away a vintage reproduction 50's pattern on my blog at the moment that is almost identical to the very first 1960 dress, with the shoulder ties and full skirt. It's such a 50's silhouette!

    1. i had a look at your blog what a great giveaway idea! im so happy that they reproduced some of the vintage patterns, but i heard they had changed them slightly to fit modern gals with our slightly bigger waists? (no fancy underpants to hold it all in!)

  11. Love these early '60s fashions! That whole decade rocks my world.

  12. This is an awesome site, Cat! Now I'll be looking around on it all night.

    Small note about fashion illustrations: (not sure if they were following this back then) but I was taught in school that for fashion illustration, you want to draw about 9-10 heads tall. There is a famous fashion illustration book called "9 Heads" we all used to look at in school.

    9 or 10 heads elongates the body and makes the clothing look more desirable. A normal person by contrast is about 8 heads tall.

    So perhaps that is what they were doing. You can never really be too sure though, I'm just going by what I was taught!

    1. oh neat! i didnt know that about the illustrations - thanks for the tip! And yes i guess taller models make clothes look nicer, even in illustrations, so i guess your right. i know in the 60s some people were thinner because of more exercise/ less processed food/ war time rationing etc so maybe they were just reflecting the times?

  13. Gosh... your post took me over an hour to read yesterday evening. First I got distracted with pattern junkie and then I was searching for one of the patterns you pictured!!! Great post though, I very much enjoy reading and being educated in 60s fashion.

    1. oh i hope it was a good hour wasted?! Pattern junkie is such a laugh! i hope you come back for the next one :)

  14. Really enjoyed reading this! It's so interesting seeing fashions slowly change year by year. It will be interesting in a few decades' time to look back and see if it is so clear cut in the 2000s and 2010s - lots of skinny jeans and leggings I think! Think I prefer the 60s :) Really looking forward to the rest of these posts - love learning new things about sewing and vintage patterns and your enthusiasm really comes across :)

    1. Thanks! Im glad you like the post!

      i remember thinking how will the 90s look to us in the future and at the time i didnt think it would be possible. But i realised when we reproduce an era, fashion lovers pick out certain things which make you remember what was hot then and forget all the little cross over bits. Late 90s to early 2000s - im really interested in how kids will interpret that!

  15. Do you know the name of the pattern with the striped orange dress with the bows at the shoulders?


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