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"there's simply not,
a more congenial spot,
For happily-ever-aftering, ~than Camelot!
Richard Burton

Kennedy wins 1960 election
1961 The Cold War threatens
April 1961 Soviet Yuri Gargarin the first human to orbit the planet
May 1961 Freedom Riders focus on civil rights movement
Kennedy creates Peace Corps 1961
October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
November 22, 1963 the Assassination of the President
Lyndon Baines Johnson sworn into office
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Beatles appear on Ed Sullivan 1964
March 1965 Marines land at Da Nang
1965-1968 The Vietnam War escalates with the Tet Offensive
April 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
1969 Nixon takes office
July 21, 1969 Armstrong walks on the moon
August 17, 1969 Woodstock

The 1950s BACK   NEXT The 1970s

1961 House of Bianchi
Pellon lined Wedding Gown.  Bonwit Teller


The 1960 election, won by John F. Kennedy, brought an added dimension of glamour to the White House that seemed to have been missing during the Eisenhower administration.  The Camelot mystique began with the soft spoken, socially adept gracefulness of Mrs. Kennedy and continued into the decade as a sense of pride for American women. 

In 1961, Oleg Cassini was appointed as official designer to the first Lady.  American women seemed to approve as they admired Jacqueline Kennedy for her upscale style and instantly adopted her sense of fashion.  Jacqueline Kennedy's appearance at White House State dinners wearing a fitted sleeveless sheath with a bare neckline and opera length gloves, caused a huge media stir.  Previously, sleeveless garments were considered too informal for black tie.  Her silhouette of a slim fitting sheath was striking in contrast to the full skirts of the previous decade.

American wedding wear designers, not yet ready for sleeveless gowns in 1962, adapted the sleeve to cover the shoulder as a cap, creating a wedding gown that combined Grace Kelly's wedding style with an updated look.  Below: 1961 Life Magazine showed Weddings Around the World

The gown was a modified bubble sheath with banded waist and scooped neck.  This style was a homogenized version of the Balenciaga and Givenchy inspired sack and varied only with the fullness of the skirt and height and width of the rounded neck. Usually relying on superb dressmaking details, the silhouette lasted until 1964, when the A-line made its first ready to wear appearance.

Above: Priscilla and Elvis were married May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Aladdin Hotel

Christos for Galina
A-line Sheath and Matching Wedding Coat


Pillbox hats and shortie gloves were still the staple, but that would change by the decade's end.  Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the English fashion explosion that would come to be known as the Mods was led by the British designer's Hulanicki (of Biba fame) and Mary Quant.  The Mods personified what the early years of the swinging sixties were all about; highly individualized, gimmicky style.  With the success of the Beatles, it wasn't long before the "birds" mini skirt, once again attributed to Quant, found it's way to America to be sold in small boutiques.

After the tragic assassination of the President in 1963 and the subsequent dourness of the Johnson administration, the lights were silently extinguished at Camelot and our hey day of refined glamour was no more.  Without our soft spoken muse, we had to look to Twiggy as our fashion goddess, and by late 1965, the Mini skirt as bridal wear was now considered acceptable, albeit too avant garde for middle America.  The A-line cage gown however, perfectly suited the fresh look and was heartily accepted, possibly because it offered women a release from the dreaded girdle that had packed them into the 36-24-36 obsessed 50's.  It fell from the shoulders and had no hint of a waist.  Sleeves were three quarter or eliminated completely, only to be accessorized with formal gloves.

At Left: This daring Christos gown bravely cut a smart, chic, strapless silhouette. The pieces show their lineage from the structured pellon-lined silk peau gowns from the 1960s.  Here, the stiffness is cut into an A-line but simply falls from a delicate neckline of lace. It was sold with a matching wedding coat for additional glamour and tasteful modesty.


As she had done once before, Elizabeth Taylor epitomized the new sophistication.  Her starring role in the 1963 film Cleopatra had given American women an exotic heroine, and soon thereafter evening wear designers began to display the rather distinctive influences of  Egyptian design.  Sequined and beaded collars with softly draped  fabric, the hair pulled back and piled high on top of the head, eyeliner worthy of an Egyptian Queen.  Wedding wear on the other hand, was less likely to reflect exotic tastes, but that was all to change when the Vietnam war began in 1965.   

       1965 to 1968

Sensing a rather duplicitous presidential administration, young people in the sixties felt alienated from a society already suffering from its overdose of commercialized domestication and greed.  Combining that distrust with the fear of compulsory military service for a war that no one understood nor wanted, the hippie movement became an alternative lifestyle for those seeking a spiritual path.

With the emphasis on freedom, peace and love, hair was now being left long and unstyled, and toward the end of the decade, the hemlines went to the complete opposite of the Mod's mini; now called the "Maxi" and an ankle length "Midi."

Wedding wear took on an almost caftan look, a mix of Empire and Victorian inspired A-line Dresses some with flowing bell sleeves and flower trims.  Watteau trains were often attached at the upper back shoulder and were made from the same fabric or sheer net that was embellished with Venice lace. Bathing cap style headpieces with an under chin strap made for an interesting and futuristic yet fearless flyer appearance.  Hemlines nearly always skimmed the ankles while the train fell out behind in a courtly manner.


"We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden."
Joni Mitchell

Theatrical Hollywood movie interpretations such as The Taming of the Shrew (1967) Camelot (1967) Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) created period styles that shared a good run in late 1960s wedding fashion. Cage gowns and Watteaus falling from the shoulder were regal fantasy for the unsettling times.



At left: In the East room of the White House, first daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson marries Marine Captain Charles S. Robb in 1967. 

Here, Lynda wears a Camelot cap, extremely popular at the time. It differed from the Juliet cap in that it increased in height at the back of the head and held the veil outward until it dropped with a cascading length of veil.  Both styles were the height of fashion during the latter part of the decade.  Wedding dresses were overwhelmingly cage silhouette, with a high waist just below the bust.  This style particularly suited the petite figure, because the body of the dress fell from under the bustline rather than the natural waistline, giving the impression of height to the wearer.  Lynda Byrd chose a Watteau train that fell from her shoulder blades.

Wedding wear had evolved into flower child romanticism toward the end of the decade that was extremely creative and hip.  Hemlines were ankle skimming, hence most brides choose to wear flats or even go barefoot, wearing a wreath or headband hairpiece of real flowers for a natural, organic look.  1968's Summer of Love had weddings designed to be completely natural and carefree, all the way up to changing your name to moonbeam and living on a commune.

Naturally, not everyone adopted the carefree alternative hippie lifestyle, many women still used copious amounts of hairspray and rat tail combs in the 60's and continued to do so into the 70's.  Higher and higher beehive hair was the end result and soon the pillbox that had perched so precariously on top of the head began to look ridiculous.  This prompted Emily Post to advise:

"If you are one of the many women who feel that there is no hat in the World becoming to you, settle for a little veil or a band or bow on those occasions when it is necessary to cover your head.  You must wear a hat to all Roman Catholic ceremonies, and it is always correct at Churches of every faith."
Emily Post

Alas, her advice was all for naught, as the pillbox suffered it's ultimate fashion demise by the end of the decade, put to rest by young women who had enough of being told what to do long enough. The societal demand that a woman wear gloves for daywear soon was silenced. Rest in peace. Fashion was now anti-fashion.

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