In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection


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.

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.

Although Crimplene and other firm knit fabrics were was extensively used for mini dresses, there are no examples in this collection nor is there representation of home-made or purchased typical mini dresses. Perhaps the two closest examples are a young woman's multi-colored patchwork mini skirt, made from leather but lined in synthetic fabric, and a lime green V neck sleeveless dress with a vest-like six button, double breasted bodice attached to a short (albeit too long to be a mini dress) navy and lime green stripe skirt. The latter is somewhat reminiscent of prominent mini dress designer Pierre Cardin's work. Other influential designers associated with the mini and new young ‘swinging’ fashions include English designers Mary Quant and Biba, American Bonnie Cashin, French Givenchy and St. Laurent.

A group of short dresses in the collection, but not truly "mini" dresses, are straight or shapeless with loose, and seemingly optional belts, among them: a green Crimplene double knit with gold lurex braid trimming the neck and short sleeves. The label reads "FELIX, Portland;" A knee-length navy blue dress made of oversized nylon seersucker, with a square neck and ruched, button trimmed front panel; a lined, orange floral nylon with areas of transparent burn out; and a straight white jacquard pique dress printed with a design of blobby primary colored shapes.

Conservative, classic matronly dress and coat outfits of the time are represented by a formal special occasion long-sleeved four button coat and round neck dress of a pale blue and white scrolling design matelassé synthetic; and a home sewn three quarter sleeve green synthetic linen-look collarless coat lined with a blotchy multicolored print matching a round neck, short sleeve dress.

With high waists, probably influenced by Laura Ashley's romantic designs, two late 1960s bridesmaid dresses offer a contrast between ongoing traditional and newer more casual wedding customs. The traditional, worn in 1968, is a long formal bridesmaid dress of lemon nylon taffeta, with a nylon chiffon overdress, high round neck, long sleeves and cotton lace trimmings. The casual, worn in 1969, is square necked, sleeveless and made of a fun lime green very 'sixties' daisy printed fabric.