Curious 60s fashion fads: the ankle-length hemline

Pattie Boyd (with The Rolling Stones) in Mary Quant’s Little Miss Muffet dress, 1964

Fashion in the 1960s was pretty fast paced, especially so amongst the mod crowd which, in the early part of the decade, dictated fads that often only lasted a matter of days. As you would expect, these mod trends tended to focus on the little details and, aside from the more well-known examples, I imagine many have now been forgotten.

I’m personally really interested in the lesser-known trends, so I was pretty excited to discover a rare publication called Mod’s Monthly in which is featured an absolute gem of a column by none other than “Queen of the mods” Cathy McGowan. Cathy’s round up of what’s happening on the mod scene naturally focuses on the minutiae of mod fashion and its ever-changing moods, and it reveals some tantalising details.

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Cathy McGowan on ‘To Tell the Truth’, March 1964

In the April ’64 edition, McGowan mentions one such short-lived fad – the long skirt: “Well at long last, long skirts are on the way out. They were great though while they lasted, quite the weirdest thing on the scene for months, but sooner or later they had to go”. Coincidentally, I’d also recently seen a recording of Cathy, from March 1964, on American panel game show ‘To Tell the Truth’, on which she’s sporting a slim-fitting blouse with cutouts teamed with an ankle-length skirt and “granny shoes” (fuzzy screenshot right).

Celia Hammond and Jean Shrimpton, photographed by John French, 1964

I did a bit of digging and came across a few more examples of this short-lived fad, then realised that, of course, I’d seen it somewhere before, namely in the form of Mary Quant’s Little Miss Muffet dress, modelled beautifully by Pattie Boyd (top left) and Jean Shrimpton (left). I’m not entirely sure who started the trend – whether it was Quant or the mod girls on the street – but in his book, ‘Sixties Fashion: From Less is More to Youthquake’, Jonathan Walford says that Cathy was an advocate of Quant’s “granny hemline” and took it with her on her tour of the US in early ’64, so perhaps we have Mary to thank for it. (If you’re interested, Quant’s Little Miss Muffet was 12 inches off the floor, ending mid-calf; Cathy’s skirt – presumably also by Quant – looks slightly longer just skimming the ankle).

I also found a couple of examples of the “granny hemline” in photos from London Fashion Week, 1964, and, certainly, the couture houses were doing their own versions later that year – though, of course by this time, the mods had deemed the style well and truly “out” and had moved onto something else.

The ankle-length hemline seemed pretty unusual for the time. Of course the 60s is synonymous with rising hemlines, and by the time this curious trend had gone out of fashion in early ’64, hemlines were beginning to gradually creep up the leg.

What are your favourite unusual fashion trends from the 60s? Let me know in the comments!


Happy 50th Birthday, Petticoat!

Petticoat, issue 1, 19th February 1966

Fifty years ago today, the first issue of one of my favourite 60s fashion magazines appeared on newsagent shelves across the UK. Petticoat was a spin-off of the hugely successful Honey magazine, and was specifically aimed at a younger teenage market.

The magazine offered its readers a weekly, tabloid-sized blend of fashion, beauty, celebrity, fiction and advice, all delivered in a bold, bright style suited to the times. Its fashion editorials featured young models of the moment, such as Twiggy and Jenny Boyd, and clothes from the most fashion-forward young designers, including Foale and Tuffin, Biba and, of course, Mary Quant.

Issue 1 came with free false lashes: this article showed you how to apply them.

Unusually, the cover of the first issue didn’t feature established models but two friends who’d been specially chosen as the faces to launch the magazine: “Girls like you. Bright, enterprising and full of go”. This clever piece of marketing was designed to appeal to the normal girl on the street: the lifestyle that Petticoat promoted was easily attainable.

Party like it’s 1966!

Alongside all the latest celebrity and fashion gossip, the first issue featured an interview with rising star Michael Caine (“What I like is just having a good time…Smart restaurants, good food and gorgeous women.”), an eight-page fashion spread on the latest acid-toned brights (although, disappointingly, half of the feature is printed in black and white), a preview of the new James Bond film Thunderball, a guide to throwing better parties, and tips on how to perk up a tired-looking bedroom on a budget! Unfortunately, my copy doesn’t have the free gift – “fabulous false eyelashes” – but, never fear, there’s a step-by-step guide to applying lashes to create the latest heavy eye make-up look.

Advert for Polyblonde hair dye. Dig those shades!

One of the things I really love about vintage magazines is the adverts and this issue has some good examples for ‘Polyblonde’ hair dye (right), Crimplene fabric and Celtex sanitary products (“Be miserable in comfort”). Similarly, vintage mags feature some great illustrations, and Petticoat is no exception. Notable contributors over the years included Malcolm Bird and Kasia Charko (Biba), but there were many fantastic uncredited illustrations too, including the example from issue 1 below.

Beauty illustration, uncredited

I have a few more copies of the mag from 1966 and later years, but would love to get hold of a copy of issue 2 and eventually build up a complete set for that year.

Do you have any copies of Petticoat? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a complete set! Let me know in the comments.