In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

1960-1970

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The 1960s tend to be recalled as the age of the mini skirt, which it was. It was also the era of the "baby boom" generation, and the youth culture that had its beginning in the 1950s and manifested itself in the 1960s as a period of divisiveness, the generation gap, social and political unrest, racial tensions, and pro and anti-establishment protagonists. Social unrest always has an effect on fashion, and never more so than in the 1960s.


"Felix" occasion dress, ca. 1965Maine Historical Society

Expensive establishment old style couture or similar high style-type clothing still retained appeal, but only to a shrinking, older, mature market. A new breed of young designers burst on the scene producing clothing to suit the new burgeoning youth-oriented market. Another free-flowing counter-culture garment landscape, largely on college campuses, emerged encompassing a medley of home embroidered and patched blue jeans, tie dyed T-shirts, message T-shirts, pants for women, cheap flowing Indian print skirts and caftans, exotic ethnic garments collected on trips to the far-east, and other non-mainstream, often repurposed items. As yet, other than a few T-shirts, examples of hippie and counter culture garments are missing from the collection.

In the 1960s, as in the 1950s, new synthetic fibers, at this time notably metallic looking lurex, vinyl, and a heavier polyimide, trade named 'Crimplene,' influenced dress. Made in various fabrications, chiefly double knits, washable drip-dryable Crimplene was popular for men’s shirts and jackets, women’s wear, and was ideal for A-line chemise mini dresses. Crimplene became synonymous with 1960s and 1970s fashions.

Two Crimplene examples in the collection were likely conservative special occasion dresses. One, labelled "FELIX, Portland," is a green double knit with a mandarin collar, long sleeves, rolled toggle neck closure, square diamanté buckled belt, and long skirt of narrow permanently heat set pleats. Another, labelled "Porteous, Mitchell and Braun," is pale blue with a heavy machine lace bodice, a belted waist, and long knit Crimplene skirt of narrow permanently heat set pleats.