Describe and Explain State of Fashion and Haute Couture in the 1960s

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Describe and Explain State of Fashion and Haute Couture in the 1960s

By the 1960s the ‘Golden Age of Couture’ was over, Christian Dior (1905-57) never lived to see the demise of haute couture and the rise of ready-to-wear fashion. Cristobel Balenciaga (1895-1972), however, did and he did not survive the transition, just one of the couturiers who, in failing to adapt to the new fashion atmosphere, therefore failed financially. During the 1950s the Parisian couturiers were the dictators of fashion, most notably Dior, who’s New Look, caused women across the globe to go to extreme lengths to acquire the look. Paris introduced the fashion through its couture shows and the styles trickled down society from designers licensing their names and retailers buying the copyright to manufacture the designs. The concluding style was of the young ‘lady’, young girls wished to be able to wear their mothers clothes, people were in a hurry to grow up and teenage and young adult fashion was limited. However, the 60s upturned this rather nostalgic fashion industry and the fashion houses of Paris faced the greatest challenge of their existence.

In the 60s Paris was losing influence as its conventional role as the dictator of style. The establishment was under attack in the second half of the 20th century and haute couture, as the embodiment of establishment and tradition, came under fire as well. Couture was becoming unpopular as people became increasingly interested in developing their own fashion and in street fashion. Kings Road in London was the trendy place to shop not Paris and for a few glorious years London enjoyed being the centre of fashion, people liked the independent boutiques were one could mix and match their own clothes. Self-expression was the new fashion and the boutiques of London were unhindered by a fashion couture industry and regulations of a couture institution, like that of the Chambre Syndical of Paris. The range of styles was much greater as any designer could begin their own small business because they did not have to meet a certain criteria to get recognition as a fashion retailer. As people looked to the streets for fashion inspiration, the desire to look rich and exclusive diminished. They wanted to look cool and young and since few of the young wore expensive clothes due to their financial insecurity, expensive clothes were no longer fashionable, people wanted to be trendy and haute couture simply was not. The practicality of ready-to-wear also trumped the lengthy fitting process of haute couture; people did not want to go through three fittings and then wait for the actual item to be made. It made no sense to wait for clothing when ready-to-wear clothes were so available. The ‘Youthquake’ (as coined by Diana Vreeland) that hit the sixties meant no one wished to look grown up anymore, mothers now tried to look like their daughters. As haute couture was clearly, a very sophisticated and grown up fashion style no one wanted to buy it. Before World War 2, there were 100 fashion houses established in Paris by 1965 this number had dropped to 40.

This was all down to the explosion of youth culture, which was born out of the social and economic changes that were so prevalent in the sixties. Through these events, the young had discovered a newfound identity and unity as a social group as they began to respond to the political happenings of the time. As the young people were now united by stronger and similar political opinions, they had enough of an identity to want to create their own fashion under the influence of their own beliefs and opinions. During the sixties the Cold War was at its absolute peak according to tensions between the Soviet Union and America, some lived in with the persistent fear of a nuclear holocaust. Another incredibly controversial and provocative event of the sixties was the Vietnam War. Over the course of the decade, the public support for the war dropped significantly as,...
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