The Overtaking of Patterns, Plaids, and Bell Bottoms
Photo on the Left:
Personal Photograph of the Marcus Eubanks' Family (my mother, grandparents and uncle, 1969).
Photo on the Right:
American Decades: 1960-1969. 1995. Edited by Richard Layman. New York: Gale Research International Limited, 159. (Photographer: Unknown.)
The above picture demonstrates two major arrivals of the decade, the all-over pattern, particularly that of plaid and the pants and pants suit for women.
The latter had become one of the biggest fashion revolutions of the decade for women. It did not make its appearance till the latter part of the decade. Although this was not the first time for pants to ever be seen on a woman, fashion designers were now making pants into something that could be worn out on the town or to special occasions rather than just in the home or to attend sporting events, as they had been in the prior decades. However, their arrival was no longer a simple household or sports attire but an everyday state and standard of dress which brought its own opposition. It took years of opposition from country clubs, fine restaurants, and other establishments before women were finally able to free themselves from the requirement of having to wear skirts. (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
Other than the fashion designers’ change in production and the women’s determination, there were a few other factors that lead to the emergence of pants. One of which was the hippie movement. With their unique ideals on fashion through anti- fashion, they sought to go against norms, one of which was the distinguishing between the gender roles of the past. “Along with the conventional view of clothing quality, traditional notions of gender distinct clothing were to be discarded” (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
Another thing was the simple sexual crisscrossing of the decade itself. With the feminist movement promoting so equality and rejection of past norm of oppressing of the past, it is no wonder, that this some how spilled over into fashion. What better exemplifies a woman’s social equality than in her mere appearance alone? As one author said, “the costumes we wear, reflects the costumes by which we live” (Winick 1968). With a push for all this, should not the woman have naturally desired rights to open opportunities when it came to her dress, rather than the sometimes uncomfortable, regulations of norms of the past (Winick)?
Other theories arose also as to why this movement to ambisexuality in clothes. Life itself was becoming more and more that way. Roles in the family, recreational activities, and work, were now seeing a similar change. The 60’s saw a whole new generation of more male like woman, with their “precocity and aggressiveness once associated with boys” (Winick 1968).
With some authors of the time like Charles Winick, theories that this depolarization began as early as WWI, “which provided an urgent occasion for the re-evaluation of social roles, Rosie the Riveter, in slacks became a national heroine. At the same time, many of the 14,000,000 men in uniform, who had a limited number of outlets for their money, began to buy fragrance containing colognes, hair preparation, and after shave lotion” (Winick 1968). He further explains in his writing about why these men may have bought such things, they type of men that bought them, and the circumstances in which they did, such as the military boyfriend bringing home perfume for the girl so both of them could share. He concludes, “With men smelling so sweet, it is no wonder that the constitutionality of New York State statute prohibiting men from wearing a woman’s clothes was challenged in 1964 for the first time” (Winick).
In essence his somewhat negative view and theorizing on what was happening in the world around him, demonstrates that the emergence of pants was the combination of many things, from the shift of the focus in fashion to a more comfortableness, to hippie ideals, women’s push forward in equality, and especially according to this one author, the reversal of not only the man’s roles but that of the woman too (Winick 1968). In essence, we may think that we have simply the woman to thank for our ability to wear pants, but in some sense, we have the men’s fashion to thank too. It was a reversal in the standard for both gender roles that lead to a slightly more equal playing field for that time, whether it was through the man’s ability to wear a “frilled and cough linked shirt,” the woman’s ability to wear a pants suit, or as in the case of the right side picture, the ability for the two to match. The equality in the clothes, served as a mirror to the equality being sought during that time between man and woman (Winick).
The left picture demonstrates another movement of the decade towards all over patterns. The optimisms of the early sixties had led to a desire for bold and fun. What better way to express this than taking the limitation color and pattern from below the hip to all over. Also demonstrative of the outfit is a common practice of the less well endowed families of the time. Many families would follow current trends, thus producing the stylistic clothes that they could not otherwise afford to buy from a store. In the case of the picture, both the outfit of the mother (my grandmother) and the daughter (my mother) were made by the mom sometime in the late sixties.
American Decades: 1960-1969. 1995. Edited by Richard Layman. New York: Gale Research International Limited.
Winick, Charles. “The Beige Epoch: Depolarization of Sex Roles in America.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 376, Sex and the
Contemporary American Scene. (Mar., 1968), pp. 18-24. links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-7162(196803)376<18:TBED...
For further information on 1960 Fashions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960s_in_fashion
For further information on "Bell Bottoms: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell-bottoms
For more information on the feminist movement: