Four Fashion Trends That Defined Style in 1968

For the U.S., 1968 was a sociopolitical crossroads at which a war, political schisms, activism, youth culture, style, the arts and the widening gender gap all converged in a fast moment of change. The exhibit 1968: The Year That Rocked History, which officially opens to the public on Saturday, February 7 and runs through May 10 at the History Colorado Center, brings all of those divergent directions together; in advance of the show's debut, we're rolling out a suite of lists to prep you for the 1968 experience.

In fashion, 1968 marked the rise of clothing both geometrically precise and soft and romantic, as well as the fall of some experiments like the doomed midi skirt. Top designers began to launch ready-to-wear lines that brought affordable high fashion to the hoi polloi in the streets, and everyone's sense of style was touched by a youthful air of revolution. Keep reading for our primer of 1968 fashion trends.

See also: 1968: The Year That Rocked History at History Colorado

Mary Quant and Carnaby Street

Hand in hand with the musical "British Invasion" came the mod fashion equivalent, and the youthful style of London's Carnaby Street boutiques. Right at the top was designer Mary Quant, who might or might not have invented the miniskirt, but either way, she did much to popularize the short skirt in the '60s, along with the stylish patterned tights that London girls on the street wore to ward off the chill of the fog and rain. Another Quant invention? Hot pants. And what goes around comes around: Short skirts, dress shorts and patterned tights all have a place in plenty of modern-day closets. In addition, Quant also helped launch the sleek geometric haircuts created by stylist Vidal Sassoon, and could easily have been her own best model.

Space Age Fashion: Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne

The Space Age Fashion trend was characterized by geometric shapes -- often simple a-line minis (Courrèges challenged Mary Quant's claim to the invention of the mini) -- and the introduction of hard-edged, modern materials used for prominent zippers, goggles and stylish plays on space helmets. Cardin employed appliquéd symbols in shiny vinyl and plastics, while Courrèges championed the go-go boot (including one style that mimicked the Mondrian aesthetic), crash helmets, acid colors and PVC garments in a palette of primary colors and metallics. Fashion bad boy Paco Rabanne's claim to fame? He draped his model's bodies with a kind of chainmail of connected plastic or metal discs or rectangles, and he also famously created Jane Fonda's space-age sex-kitten costumes for Barbarella.

Continue reading for more dish on 1968 style.

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