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Aug 7, 2011

Mid-Sixties Style or "Glamour's Last Gasp"

Fun find at the flea market this morning, friends!  Three mid-Sixties pattern magazines, all dating from 1964-65.

This was a fascinating time in fashion.  Styles were about to change in a big way, but on the surface we were still in the late Fifties "Populuxe" era of shantung cocktail ensembles and white gloves.  It was glamour's last hurrah, but who knew it at the time?  Let's take a look!

There's a sense of  affluence in these magazines that reflects the United States in this "Great Society" era.  The middle class was doing better than it ever had before.

These magazines are full of ads, not only for sewing machines (and there are a lot of those) but for buttons, thread, interfacing, new synthetics (like Kodel Polyester), stretch fabrics, and more!

The sheath dress and shift were very popular, and everything is ladylike in the extreme, though more relaxed and suburban than a decade before. 

As you'd expect, the Vogue pattern magazine has an emphasis on Paris designers, though the silhouettes are very similar to those in the McCall's magazines.

I love that the Vogue fashion shoots are not studio-bound, and there's a great spread of a romantic adventure in NYC with musician Skitch Henderson.  (We must get a dashing mature man to escort Cathy in her next photo shoot.)  I love the copy too!

"A tunic designed to melt over your figure and garner many an approving glance, beautifully stated in Lesur needlepoint wool."

"A float of chiffon, almost out of this world -- but completely realistic about arousing every Galahad instinct.  Exotic color-over-color, new feminine triumph, in silk chiffon and surah by Liberty of London."

Who writes like that anymore?!

At this point, in 1964-65, there's just the smallest inkling of some of the psychedelia that's to come later in the decade... 

The McCall's magazines include patterns for Barbie and troll dolls -- fun!

We complain about a dearth of men's patterns today?  In three magazines there is only ONE.

There is, however, a fair amount of focus on mature fashions (fashions for "women"), a rarity today.

I think this is one of fashion's forgotten eras.  It's too much like the late Fifties, and doesn't yet feel like what we've come to associate with the Sixties.  I can't think of any vintage sewers who really seem to relish this era's fashions other than Susan of Spare Time, who can really rock a sheath dress.  If you sew mid-Sixties patterns too, speak up!

You can see more photos from these mid-Sixties pattern magazines here.

Friends, what do you think?   Do these styles seem too quaint for today, too prim and proper?  Why do you think this period is so unloved (if you agree that it is)?

If you grew up watching Doris Day movies like "Send me No Flowers" and "Move Over Darling" or TV sitcoms like "Bewitched," you were fed a staple of these looks from an early age -- maybe that's why they still resonate with me. 

Anything here you really like -- or hate? 

Jump in!


  1. I can't pull it off, but I've always liked that look. This was also the era of Helen Lee for kids' clothes. Her stuff is somewhere from mid-fifties to mid-sixties, and I've sewn some of it for the Bit. In kids' clothes, little girls, really, A-line was the be all and end all. That continued to the late 60s, actually. Almost every little girls' pattern from that era was somehow a-line, and some of them were really exaggerated, too!

  2. Wow - very interesting - and not just for the fashions! My father was in the printing industry and worked for McCall's at the time these magazines were published. He brought these magazines and pretty much any pattern she wanted home to my mom from work!

  3. There were patterns for troll dolls!?! I now hate my mother. Where was she on all this?
    This stuff mostly reminds me of Edward Scissorhands. Just the sight of that picture in the McCalls with the wide head band and the flipped up hair makes me want to climb back under that rock I was forced to live under while my mother still had control.
    I guess this is not my favorite period. And I don't actually hate my mother.

  4. I was a little girl in the 60's and had no control over my fashion. I remember my First Communion dress was an A-line dress with a matching coat - boring!

    I think that's what I think of when I think of the 60's and early 70's fashion - everything was sort of straight and boring. And I don't like those styles with the sort of off the shoulder neckline/collar thingy.

    Guess this era isn't one of my favorites - obviously. Still, I enjoyed the post!

  5. Paula, according to the Vogue pattern magazine, "collars are finely shaped and set away from the neck for a sudden emphasis on a stem-like throat rising to a small, elegant head."

    Don't you want to have a small, elegant head? LOL

  6. It's "The Delicate Look" -- the "best fashion story in years." (according to Vogue)

    The look is "totally new, totally refreshing, and above all, totally appealing to men."

  7. This era is one of my very favourites! I love the 1950's and 1960's and populate my closet with these styles. I have a love of ladylike fashion, though mine is less tailored than the sheath dress/jacket combinations featured here.

    I love the bateau neckline dresses, the 3/4 sleeves, the bows(!), and that gorgeous chiffon dress!

    Thanks so much for sharing, Peter! This is just the eye candy I needed today!

  8. Fifties fashions were womanly, but the sixties were ladylike. I prefer the sixties because they were comfortable and cool in hot weather. And they were more flexible. You could dress it up or down depending.

  9. I love looking at the photos, my mom wore lots of dresses like these. Gloves, high hair, and light pink lipstick...tres chic. Many of these dresses seem 'bulky' to me, and not very flattering to the female body unless you are Twiggy.

    P.S. I have lots of Trolls with some of these homemade clothes. When I was 9 or so a friend of the family who was 6 years older than I, gave them to me..and I still have them.They live with my Barbies. Not much of the clothing has lasted, but there are one or two items that I still have.

  10. When the gloves came off, fashion died.

  11. Lorenakitty here - tired of reconfiguring this work computer on Sundays so to heck with me as anonymous

    When I was alive during the 60's (cough, cough - get me my respirator) my mother made most of my clothes and all of her dress and semi-formal attire. She probably had some of those patterns.

    Mom looked so stylish in her dinner ensembles that skimmed her frame but, I also remember she had some very similar looks to that 64-65 photo spread. Mom had it goin' on, I guess....

    Maybe now I can better appreciate the era and really enjoy a well cut sheath but, I deeply dislike the stiff suburban hair styles. Just freaky.

  12. I was overjoyed to see pics of Barbie dolls. My mother made amazing clothes for my my dolls and as I learned to sew, I made a lot of Barbie doll clothes too. I loved dressing Barbie.

    It is only a week away from MPB day! I will be there with you in spirit. I will have to miss it this time, what with all the royal preparations underway. (my DD is coming home from her epic travels abroad)
    (and I need to find an air mattress or something for her to sleep on)

  13. oooh, the era of mod clothing... luv it! I can't pull off that look anymore, curves in the wrong places, but pre-menopause I rocked McCall's Misses and Junior Dress in Three Versions 8706! I still have the pattern in my stash. I should plan a give-away to find someone who might love it as much as I did in the past.

    And talking about men's clothes... I recently had a pattern giveaway that included Ann Person's Men's Slacks & Shorts (uncut), circa 1969 when men looked stylish in no-pleated front pants. Mod-delish!

    Cool post & pictures.

  14. I was born a decade later, but I love early- to mid-sixties fashion, and have been sewing up a lot of the styles from that era lately. I've gathered quite a little collection of patterns from that time period, and many of them have unusual seaming details and flattering cuts. They are less dramatic than fifties fashions, to be sure--but that's what makes them feel so fresh and wearable today!

  15. And they're still cheap and plentiful (on Etsy and eBay).

  16. OMG! Do those Barbie pics really show her with SHORT red hair? My sister (now 50+) had a Barbie doll which has since passed to my neice (almost 3) and which has since lost her head, that had short red hair a la Lucille Ball, but I've almost NEVER seen any photos of one to compare and had begun to wonder whether perhaps she originally had the longer, ponytailed hair and had been victim of a haircut, perhaps courtesy my brother.

  17. I love 60's fashions. Not all, but many. I grew up around these styles. I have made my dd several 60's items of clothing this year, and she loves loves them. Zippers up the front, zippers up the back, jump suit (short and long). I made one for her friend who loves the dresses with darts also.
    It was good practice for zips. I havel lovely pics of my mother as does my husband dressed for an evening out in elegant chiffon.


  18. I'd die if I could go back to 1960s. I really don't know why I obsess about it. The influence of the new space age, the bright colors, simple dresses with unique details, the casual sportswear? Meh, probably not. I guess it really reminds me of my mother who grew up during the 60s, she had the best bouffant growing up in South Kansas, and made a lot of her dresses too. Plus, once and a while you can still find items from the 60s in the thrift store, which I can't say much with other earlier decades. I'm slowly getting done with a short stint in 40s sewing, I'll always be a mod girl.

  19. I started high school in 1967. It definitely was a time of transition. Bubble and bee hives were in when I started high school and by the time I got out, every girl in my graduation class had long straight hair, parted in the middle. Sheathes and shift dresses were in as was double knit polyester which was my generation's introduction to sewing with knits. It was a great time for learning to sew. Simple, a-lines and tent dresses. Ooooooh, takes me back

  20. Hmmm..."Bewitched"-- I watched that everyday when I was a little kid. Also the beginning of "That Girl" when she throws her hat in the air. Is that where this came from for me?!

    My husband has told me this week it's time to move out of the sixties! Maybe for this Fall but until that thermometer stays in the 80's I'm wearing my cooler 60's dresses.

    I'm thinking of making some bohemian looks next. (Progressing through the decade?) Middle age and my frizzy hair might be playing a factor in that.

  21. I usually say the early 60s is my favorite era for dress patterns, because they are still so feminine, but often don't require the gazillion yards of fabric for full skirts that are harder for me to wear. Thanks for sharing the pics!

  22. That's one of my favorite eras! I've sewn some dresses inspired on the period, but never had my hands on a real vintage pattern. I'd love to find some of those around here...

  23. Wow! I think I have some of those Barbie doll patterns :)

    As for the clothing, I was a child in the 60s and remember my mother had dresses similar to these. Not sure how I feel about them though. I tend to prefer the 40s and 50s.

  24. I find the early 60s fashions to be a little more forgiving for us plus-size gals ;-) More slimming, more slenderizing, more sleek. And, as others have pointed out, more comfortable. They still have some of the pretty, feminine touches from the 50s, but don't demand as much from the wearer. I do love the bateau necklines as well, all the better to show off the one "small, elegant" part of my body ;-)

  25. Not my thing - I tried to wear sheath dresses when I was a teen and 60's stuff was trendy (in the 90's), but I could never get anything to fit over my bottom. I feel I look best in dresses which highlight my waist. Mum looked great in her dresses in the 60's though, she was always thin and not very curvy.

  26. Pure Glamour!!! Absolutely love the suits and the straight thru styles.... Which I find quite slimming...:) I would definitely buy patterns for some of these if they were around.....
    I totally hear you re patterns for the "mature" woman...... Seriously there is not much around in the way of "stylish" patterns for those of us getting towards that vintage.... :) and soooo wish that Vogue etc.. would do something designer / couture style .... for the mature woman again... !!!! Honestly how many women can wear those body hugging short designs??. Especially the over 40's????
    And I wish that the Pattern Makers would go back to using a few European Designers again.....
    Great post! Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. When I was a little girl my oncle in America has sent me one of the first Barbies with original clothes and other stuff, like shoes, bags and more. I really loved to play with this doll. I still have it and my Barbie is in such excellent condition, so the clothes are. They were made with such little zippers and buttons and they are so fine and I still love to have a look at this glorious style.
    I just found your blog and your posts are really great. Thank you very much for it!
    Best greetings from Germany

  28. Always loved the look from the early 60s but its not really my style. I collected Chanel style jacket patterns a few years back and got a lot of nice ones from the 60s. The suits are my favourites, especially the first pink one.

  29. Thanks for taking me to my childhood. My sisters and I made so many of those troll clothes we copied and re-copied the patterns onto cardboard to many times to count. Believe it or not that is a set of patterns I would love to own again...e-bay here I come...

  30. Ooh those culottes! In 1963 I failed sewing a sleeveless shell top at school, but a year later began a long and happy career of sewing with a sleeveless all in one culotte like the Vogue pattern.

    It might have been the bloodstains from where I stabbed myself while hand sewing the hem that caused the fail, though my teacher muttered something about ‘never seen such terrible crooked seams' and 'had I paid no attention when she told us to press as we sewed’) . Anyway I was allowed to drop sewing and was all set to become a total non- sewer, just like my mum. Then, in 1964, I wanted, no passionately desired, no DESPERATELY NEEDED culottes to wear to my friend Pam’s party and my mean mother refused to buy me a pair, with some ridiculous excuse about ‘ can’t afford them because of the school fees’. So with my birthday money I bought a pattern- very similar to the Vogue one in your magazine, but I think it was more likely to be Simplicity - some green and yellow floral patterned cotton and a long zip and set intrepidly to work.

    They ended up a tad difficult to get into, being almost skin tight round the tum. (No, of course I didn’t realise that you could make darts smaller to give more room in a garment – that came years later!). And the zip at the back somehow skewed towards the left shoulder, which didn’t help entry and exit. Plus there was a small hole in one of the inner leg seams where I’d had an unpicking accident, and yes one teeny bloodstain as a result of that accident, but who’d see them at the inner leg and amidst the floral riot?

    I certainly stood out in the party photos, the only sophisticated kid in culottes amongst the crowd in jeans beaming proudly while clenching my stomach and with one leg in front of the other to make sure the hole stayed invisible. But almost fifty years later I’m proud of myself. I learned a lot about reading patterns from boldly going where no 13 year old with any sense would go unassisted!

  31. I love the elegance of mid 60s fashions! Alas, they're not always the most flattering for me; I own only a few vintage pieces and patterns from that portion of the decade. Something about the straighter lines just never does it for me. But the details are always something that catches my eye: whether it's the color combinations or how a bodice is ingeniously seamed, I love it! I'm fortunate to own a Vogue pattern counter book from 1964, and love paging through it--especially the international couture designs.

    I think perhaps the reason mid-60s fashions seem so forgotten is because they're sandwiched between the 50s New Look and late 60s Psychedelic era--two vastly different and radical looks. One tends to forget (unless one is a student of fashion history!) that there was a transition between these two periods. It's a really neat period to study visually because you see hints of what was to come, but silhouettes that still echo the elegance of the late 50s.

  32. Jenerator, perhaps that is the Midge doll you are remembering? Barbie had a red haired freckled friend named Midge and she had a red "bubble" hair style.
    These are the styles of my youth, and they didn't flatter my apple bottom body. I was uncomfortable sitting and trying to keep my skirt near my knees was impossible. Not a fan.

  33. I made and wore all those cloths in the 60's and loved them! I had a silver "pleather" raincoat, and all those little straight skirt and button down the back sleeveless tops made in silk shantung and linen! remember those little net things we wore over our bouffant hair? Were they called "wimseys" or something? Good grief! But then the paisley jumpsuits and bell bottoms came in with bare midriff. I was right there!

  34. the early 60's - early 70's is my favorite fashion era, so much change in so little time, dress reflected your social status, political beliefs, femininity, progressiveness (as in space age mod fashion), etc...there was a lot of experimentation in this era and it was new, even down to fabrics and prints, today the democracy of fashion has created a level playing field, either we all shop at the same stores, OR stores carry similar items... not necessarily a bad thing,...but it took away the "fashion" in everyday dressing.

  35. I love the blue suit with bows on the older lady. I don't know what it is -- the color, the fabric, the hat -- maybe I just dig the model's aristocratic eyebrows and air of sophistication. Nah, I like the bows on the suit.

  36. Love, love the mod clothing. I'm working on my second "wiggle" dress right now. Looking for a perfect coat pattern. I bet Cathy would fit in some of my stuff, I'm 6'3"

  37. Love this post! Loved the mid-60s adult clothes. As a young child back then, though, I didn't like the straight A line dresses, preferring my older sister's flouncier late 50s dresses hiding in the closet. Grew up watching Bewitched and That Girl and loving those Doris Day movies. Most of those clothes, though, were worn by tall slender women, whose body style was similar to the top fashion icon, Jacqueline Kennedy. For them to look good on curvier or shorter women, a good tailored fit was key. Plus a girdle and long-line bra. As the 60s ended into the 70s, the more "establishment" clothes and hairstyles became even more structured and stiffer and just look uncomfortable.


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