Men's and women's fashions continued in their parallel trends—both were heavily influenced by the art deco movement of the thirties—and the accent was on classic style with distinctive variations.
The costume party was over. Women didn't pile a five-tiered skirt over a dozen layers of crinoline, embroider every visible inch of blouse, bandanna their heads, and jangle on enough chain to scare Marley's ghost. Instead, they took it easy, picked a few things from the gypsy chest or the thirties or the sporting classics, and adapted the rest to suit. Clothes melted from authentic period stuff into 1969 natural and became more relaxed and more eclectic.
Shapes. Some people called it the year of the body, not because more anatomy was on display than even before, but because body-hugging clothes made the headlines. Gentle jersey shirtdresses went snug and were tied close at the waist or slimmed down with smocking. Long sweater-jackets slunk closer. Ribbing pulled everything closer. (The French discovered more curves by ribbing lean little pullovers under the bosom.) Cardigans wrapped, coats wrapped, dresses wrapped, skirts wrapped—and it all showed that the only structuring was the wearer's.
Bonnie and Clyde. The thirties toughness of the notorious Barrow Gang finally evolved into something softer, more natural. Limpid little butterfly-sleeved dresses V'd down to there. Chemises and wraps prevailed; a dress wasn't a dress unless it clung here and there and moved when she moved. Most were creamed out of cushy, clingy fabrics—crepe, panne velvet, babied knits, silk chiffon, jersey. Suits took it easy, too. Long blazers rode over ripple-pleated skirts and over pants with stalk-straight cuffed legs. Hip-long sweater-coats (sometimes mid-calf or ankle length) flapped over sweater-pants—both lean, both shaped to the body. Some dresses took up coats; some took up pants (and turned into tunic-dresses). Seen on the summer boardwalk were midriff blouses with long Dietrich pants or with Grable shorts; wide-strapped, clunky-heeled plat-form sandals, and out-and-out clogs.
Women rediscovered spooky old colors—murky darks, album-faded pales. Rediscovered, too, with a bang, were the funny prints of the 1930's—spots, geometries, flowers, wallpapery patterns, one-of-a-kind bolts printed with a flurry of little squiggles, waffles, acorns, jacquard knitting, Fair Isle knitting, and argyle, argyle, argyle.
Accessories. The thirties remained strong in accessories, too. Yards and yards of Isadora Duncan scarf were tied around the head or curled about the neck (or both), with ends flying a monogram. Heads were covered with little pops of stemmed berets. Jewelry looked like treasures from a thrift-shop window—old gold, mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell, pearls that were seed small or soap-bubble big. Women carried slouchy shoulder bags, slim envelope, or enameled mesh purses on chains that did come from a thrift shop. Sheer shiny tights covered legs down into chunky-heeled spectators, ankle-strapped shoes, or well-heeled city sandals.
Art deco, by art nouveau out of the Bauhaus, was geometrical, asymmetrical, and wild. There were art deco prints, art deco pins in metal and flat enamels, art deco earrings shaped like junior pilots' wings. If one print wasn't pow enough, they slapped on a second and a third.
The sporting classics. Glen plaids, herringbones, houndstooth tweeds, foulards, Oxford shirt stripes—all made the scene, tailored with an aristocratic snap the duke of Windsor might envy. But for more snap, stripe and dot were struck against plaid in a very untraditional, very 1969 match. Knits and jersey softened crisp edges (part of the year's melting trend) in splashes of argyle, Fair Isle, and intricate jacquards.
To make the look, women popped on a shirt—a skinny, French polo, a shiny T-shirt, a close-cut body shirt—over a small skirt with built-in details. Skirts sported little tabs, buttons, accordion pleats, box pleats, or—best of all—stitched-down pleats. Lots of kilts were seen around, too. Women could backbone their wardrobes with wide trousers, cuffed and impeccably creased. To pull everything together, there was the vest. Vests came short (snug weskits that stopped at the waist), long (bottom-covering), and super-long (the vest-coat). There was one—fringed, mirrored, pin-striped, ribbed—for every persuasion.
New additions. Women lapped on layers of sweatering. Starting, for instance, with lean sweatery trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, they laid on a short-sleeved pullover (Paris especially loved layering sleeves in reverse like this.) Then, maybe, a sleeveless sweater-vest. Then a long-sleeved sweater-coat that swept all the way to the ground. Then a muffler. And a stretch of knit cap.
Leathers were lovely. Glazed crinkly patents, antiqued leathers, buckskins, and suedes were popular. For every real hide jacket, there was one in fake leather, trimmed with bogus fur, like the World War II aviator's jacket lapeled in fake shearling. Fake furs came collared in real furs. Real furs turned up belted or ruffed with other real furs.
France sent over two crowd-pleasers in time for springslickery cire battle jackets and jeans in new colors, vivid and pale, and in new fabrics—velours, uncut corduroy.
The coats that cropped up to cover everything were in all sizes, colors, and fabrics, from
the classic argyle maxi, to Yves Saint-Laurent's World War I nurse's midi, to the short belted trench. What they had in common was shaping—skinny arms and shoulders, a slight flare starting just at the hip. Most of them belted close to the body. Anything longer than standard short looked best with dark, sheer stockings.
Shoes grew taller but remained chunky-heeled and be-came less clumsy. Clanking hardware yielded to more discreet buckles, trapunto, and scrollwork. There were refined fringed clunkies for country clothes, shellier shoes for soft little dresses. Pants were sensibly rooted in long-tongued pant shoes or jodhpur boots.
Ethnic exotica. Three trends that shaped up last year melted down into exotica—the mysterious East (India, Morocco, and Arabia), Indian affairs (American Indian, that is; the young and the hip loved it), and the gypsy or peasant look (the chic admired its richness and extravagance). This year's exotica wasn't quite so jingle-jangle. Instead, it was gentle-folk embroidery, smocking, puff-sleeved muslin tunics, bandannas, homespun prints. Beads—all kinds, from tiny strands to Moroccan beading —appeared on dresses. Women wore sashes, embroidered belts, and occult jewelry—amulets, snake rings, and poison rings. Exotica meant a simple little tunic-dress with a tangle of chains, coins, crosses, medals (all delicate, bazaarish, seemingly one of a kind). Leather vests dripped fringe. Sandals laced up. But women wore exotica one at a time, as a seasoning—not crashed together as if they were escaping from a fire with all their worldly goods.
Pants. Pants at last achieved respectability. Softer and wider (they had to plumb down straight from the hip, covering all of the shoe but heel and toe), they even made it to offices and restaurants. The leanest and most limber were jersey or ribbed worn under a coat. Sometimes pants grew up into jumpsuits ( they were jacketed, too). The wide pants—the flares, the elephant legs, the bell-bottoms—weren't quite as distinguished looking, but they were very sporty for summer. Pants had to be worn with staunch pant shoes to avoid looking wobbly.
The hem. The hem was the same place it was last year—everywhere. Couturiers pegged it all the way from micro to floor level. "Mini" was a word of the past; what had once been minimum (2 to 4 inches above the knee) was now standard.
Actually, there were five fashionable hem categories, as nearly as anyone could pin them down. Micro (mid-thigh or higher) looked best in sports outfits. Standard short (the one once known as "mini") was seen in most daytime clothes. The "kneesie" ( from the knee to 2 inches be-low) was extra special, for narrow thirties coats or after-five slinky dresses, at their best with dark shimmery stockings and tall-heeled shoes. The midi ( at mid-calf) was a whole new show. In original World War I proportions, it drooped. In 1969 proportions, the way Saint-Laurent put together a midisuit, it clicked; punchy little battle jackets topped long lanky skirts: Midis also came in raincoats, in at-home dress-wear, in deep-winter coats. Last, the maxi (2 to 3 inches above the ankle) made an evening dress devastating, a daytime greatcoat swashbuckling.
Unisex? Yes, but there was largely one-way traffic. Men's clothes were tailored for women. Coats were narrower in the shoulders; vests dropped down to cover a round female bottom. There were his-and-her shoes; hers were scaled down, taller heeled. Nevertheless, sometimes one couldn't tell the players without a scorecard. Just about everything was more relaxed in 1969.
If there was a single trend running through most of men's fashions, it was the classic style, updated for the new look of now. The updating was accomplished by the use of new and unusual fabrics and by different approaches to detail. Nowhere was this trend stronger than in suits and sport jackets tailored with the look of the thirties. Shape continued to hold the spotlight, with waist suppression accentuated by squared or roped shoulders, broad lapels, and wider trousers —increasingly cuffed. Other outstanding looks included the safari style, a classic for more than a century. From Stanley and Livingstone to Hemingway and Ruark, the look has remained the same, with periodic changes in fabric to update its look in or out of the bush.
New ideas in evening wear were relaxed, refreshing, and often remarkable. The waistcoat look and the shirt-suit, important fashion ideas in 1968, maintained their popularity in 1969.
There was great excitement in greatcoats. The maxi-coat, which had the handsomest and most practical length for outerwear, was much in favor. Newer still was the super-maxi, anywhere from ankle length to a real floor-sweeper. Many European designers favored the Hollywood look of the thirties, epitomized by the long, wraparound polo coat, cinched and sash tied at the waist, and often fur-lined. The astonishing impact of furs in 1968 doubled and redoubled in 1969, with inventive new approaches to handling the look of luxury, rapidly becoming an essential, item in the international man's wardrobe.
There was an explosion of printed and woven patterns in every area of men's fashion. However, this was not an "anything goes" pattern explosion but rather a disciplined, subtle, and sophisticated use of art deco, the great directional force in decorative design that flourished in the 1920's and 1930's. Based on the principal shapes of the Bauhaus school—the circle, triangle, and square—art deco was evident in the de-signs of Bakst and Klimt, among others.
In shirts the sheer, the sheath, and the updated classic made still another fashion point, both in dress and in sport categories. Gimmickry was gone: the shape of the shirt was classic—long- or short-sleeved, button down or spread collared. What gave the shirts the look of the seventies was their close-to-the-body cut and a fantastic array of new and unusual colors, patterns, and fabrics. Dress shirts had multiple and multicolored stripes, both printed and woven. Ties and scarves, more imaginatively designed than ever, were worn in so many different ways that they could not be grouped under the name of neckwear any more. The wide tie—anywhere from 3 1/2 inches to 5 inches—became a staple, and the direction was toward less exuberant designs and colors.
The variety of shape, styling, color, texture, and material of shoes was endless. For the most part, toes remained broad and blunted—whether rounded or square—but there was less emphasis on the bulky look.
Strapped shoulder bags were very popular throughout Europe. Their practical aspects were undeniable, since they freed the hands and unloaded the pockets, and from a de-sign standpoint they were a giant step forward from the ultraconservative attache cases so many men use to carry their lunches.
At the beginning of this year, the most popular hairstyles were those which emphasized the natural head shape. The hair was pulled back off the face and caught in a chignon or a queue at the nape of the neck. The top and sides were flat and very sleek. Tiny tendrils around the hairline brushed the cheeks, forehead, and neck.
As the year progressed, more softness in hairstyles developed. In a look reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century Gibson Girl, the hair was styled to frame the face in a souffle-like puff. All hair was loosely pulled to the back of the crown, to end in a tiny knot at the peak. Tendrils or wavy guiches were left free to frame the face in a very soft, sexy manner.
With the prevalence of this softer hair, more width and height were necessary. This was achieved through the use of fillers, or rats. Mesh cushions or crepe wool pads were sometimes placed under the hair to give it a soft fullness without teasing.
Short hair, popular throughout the year, was very often cut in two levels—long at the back, with neck-caressing tendrils, and shorter on top. It was worn in swirly curls or in a smooth, cloche shape.
The clear-off-the-face look to hair gave way to bangs toward the end of the year. They were worn either thick or wispy and were seen often.
Synthetic hair looked even more like the real thing. Wigs made of synthetics were within every woman's budget, and wig sales saw a large upsurge. Most of them were on stretch caps, allowing a woman to approach a wig bar in a department store, select a wig of her choice, and wear it out of the store, much as if she were choosing a hat.
Synthetic braids continued in popularity. They were braided very small and added as decoration to a more elaborate style or cadogan, or one thick braid was attached to the crown and allowed to cascade down past the shoulder.
Women still continued to color their hair for a very natural effect, attempting to create highlights instead of one shade. Most were very conscious about hair health. Hair care products continued to increase in sales.
Men's hairstyling establishments had been on the upswing for several years. Barbers were using more elaborate methods in cutting hair aided by the use of dryers, hairnets, hairspray, lotions, and conditioners. This resulted in men wearing longer hair and more flattering styles.
Makeup was used to achieve a very natural look. Women still wore false eyelashes but wore them in single lashes or in tiny clusters. Eyeliner became thinner and shadows paler. Lipsticks gave a very moist look to the mouth with the addition of light, bright color. The look to the face was one of good health and freshness. There was also a trend toward the use of makeup for the body.
Choose your fashion year below
PAPER TRAIL: YEAR BY YEAR ADS
How hemlines changed and the maxi vs the mini
Do you have an idea for a website of your own. Everything you need is at the link below.