Friday, November 15, 2013

Dressing the Decade - 1963

I spent way to much time this last weekend looking at all the 60s patterns in Etsy, and picked up 3 new pretties to add to my collection. It also reminded me that I need to continue with my series on 60's sewing pattern appreciation...

So here is the next installment of Dressing the Decade - 1963

Socially and politically 1963 was a big year - the Vietnam War was building momentum, JFK was assassinated and Martin Luther King delivered his 'I have a dream' speech.

Pop culture wise we get the debut of The Beatles, Bob Dylan's 'Blowin in the wind' and Doctor Who's first broadcast on the BBC! The continuing rise of the youth culture culminated in the recognition of Mods and the development of their signature style - simple lines, tailored suits and the ubiquitous Parker 

For everyday women's fashion, we continue to see a loosening of waistlines on dresses like in 1962 and the idea of the cinched in waist replaced by princess seamed dresses and the shift dress.

Princess seamed dresses are where the dress is shaped through the cut of the fabric and not just through darts. It still offers the feminine shape while not requiring a belt to accentuate the waist. This was quite easy wear for those not ready to move away from the classic look. 

The shift dress, being the most simple of shapes, was normally straight up and down with a few darts for shaping. Patterns for these types of dresses began to become available. The great thing about a shift dress is that you can still add a belt if you wish to give that small waist look. 

Miss Red is looking rather chuffed with her belted shift

Patterns for the fit-and-flare style were still available - but many of these dresses had a more subdued skirt. The petticoat that had helped accentuate this style since the 50's had been slowly going out of style. 

In reality this style hasn't gone completely out of fashion at all, but its popularity has come in and out over the years. This isn't the last we will see of this ol' girl 

The more relaxed skirt for 1963

What is new to the decade is the empire line dress. The higher waist line normally belonged to children's wear and maternity dresses but was becoming more common to see smocks and other clothing inspired by children's wear for young adults and teens.

Empire line cut on the bias created a fuller skirt

The original Maternity smock
For work it was now more common to see ladies in fitted 'wiggle' dresses with matching jackets. A set of Jackie Kennedy style suits and some soft blouses would have made a decent wardrobe for any aspiring copywriter!

1963 featured the new minimalism of fashion right before things started to get creative later on in the decade. But you can see hints of it in the more high-fashion patterns including shorter hem lines

Relaxed shoulders and a drop waist hem. The high neck and low back are also new

A skirt above the knee? Scandalous!
Outerwear was now also a lot more slimmer in silhouette as the larger skirts had gone out of style. Fitted coats were availilbe to make in these patterns

To cap off this rather relaxing year of silhouettes - a few patterns I wish I had in my stash

What 60s space age child wouldn't be happy with a Teletubbie spaceman suit?

So with 1963 we are left with more relaxed shapes, new bust lines and more youth based fashion coming through. The princess style dress being I think the champion of this year helping to make the transition from hourglass to simple shift as the style of choice.

What are your memories or favourite styles from 1963?

Come back soon for 1964 - things surely will start to become more interesting with rise of Carnaby street and the British invasion!

See the past years posts here

Cat xo 

All images from the Vintage Pattern Wiki


  1. Hi, dear Cat! This is another excellent summary which examines the breaking fashion trends for the year 1963. Please pardon me for correcting you, but the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is next Friday, November 22.

    I very much appreciate the opportunity to learn about the subtle changes in ladies wear year by year. I remember all these styles but I never knew the exact terms used to describe what I was seeing back then as a budding teenager. All I know is that I was girl crazy and appreciated skirts and dresses more than pants and suits. As you might expect I was very happy about the scandalous trend toward skirts above the knee.

    You asked what I remember about 1963. I can tell you this. The JFK assassination was the 9-11 of my youth. It is the one thing I think about first, last and most often in conjunction with the year 1963. That tragic and pivotal event in history marked the end of the age of innocence in America and the beginning of a youth dominated culture, experimentation in sex and drugs, louder and harder rock 'n' roll music and widespread cynicism and mistrust of government, the establishment and the older generation in general.

    Good night, dear friend Catherine, and have a safe and happy weekend!

    1. Oh no! I'm really sorry! i don't know why i didn't check that. I hope i haven't insulted you and the entirety of America!
      Blogging on Friday evening after work with a G&T in hand is not advisable!

      As the only male who comments here it is good to hear your perspective on these changing fashions and i hope im helping you bring back fond memories!

      NEXT Friday we shall both remember JFK. I was wondering why our news channels were not mentioning it, but I'm sure next week it will be all JFK. Did you ever watch the tv series The Kennedys? that was an interesting insight!

      Enjoy your weekend!

    2. Sweet friend, don't worry about insulting me or America by making such a minor error. I can't speak for the entirety of America :) but I am not easily offended. Indeed, I sometimes worry about insulting you by correcting you. Please don't give it another thought. I've made dozens of mistakes on my blog over the years.

      I love Greg Kinnear and am looking forward to his new television series Rake which debuts in January, but somehow I missed him playing Jack Kennedy in the Kennedys mini-series. Thanks for letting me know about it.

      You are indeed helping me bring back fond memories of my teen years in the 60s, and I appreciate all the work you put into your posts. I also very much appreciate the opportunity to have this great friendship with you! Enjoy your weekend, dear Cat!

    3. Oh i don't mind being corrected! Its tricky to write about something you never experienced. Sort of like if you were to start writing about sewing :) Feel free to email me if its something really bad and you don't want to embarrass me and ill fix it up.

      Thanks again Shady! I'm glad you enjoy these posts and this blog!

  2. I sooo love these posts! Oh my gosh... someone had a premonition about teletubbies and onesies in the form of a pattern packet!

    1. haha! i know! i thought teletubbie before space alien, but i guess that shows what generation i belong too!

  3. Oh! The 6969 and 5051 are awesome!!! :)

    1. oh i agree! the colour scheme on 6969 was clearly well thought out!

  4. Oh I love a princess seam! Great post Cat, I'm looking forward to 1964 x

    1. Thanks Sarah! Its slowly getting into more our style of dressing i think. Though 67 will be my favourite

  5. Love the cropped top and skirt combo and that glorious cape! x

    1. such a sassy combo isn't it? I love finding these sorts of patterns throughout an otherwise modest era of dressing. I know they're for the beach but its funny how somethings are ok for the beach but not the street!

  6. Brilliant post! I adore all of these but especially the luscious full skirts with petticoats. <3 xoxo

    1. oh yes! - there really is something about them even though i personally prefer the shift dress. I do actually have a shirt dress with a full skirt pattern which i plan to make soon for Autumn! Its classic style and doesn't really age does it?

  7. LOVE the capes! I also adore bows and ties on frocks, and all the coat variations! I think I currently have a thing for ensembles......such a good year for frocks!!! O, and the HAIR!!!! Quite swoony!
    And a girl can never have too many patterns, surely!!!

    1. Oh yes! Add a bow tie to anything and i love it! and yes the hair! don't you wish you had a perfect coif like these ladies?

  8. Thank you, very inspiring ladies wear


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