The “New Bohemia” Fashion Trend of the 1960s
Take a look at some "New Bohemia" fashions from the 1960s as featured in a NYC museum exhibition.
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As part of the fashion revolution of the 1960s, a New Bohemia trend emerged between 1967 and 1969. The stately women’s fashions in the early ’60s started to transform into bold, exotic and, yes, even hippie psychedelic looks.
It was a sign of the times. A new wave of political and societal trends influenced the way women dressed. The Vietnam war, women’s lib, and Civil Rights created a cultural upheaval that touched every aspect of American life— even fashion.
A new exhibition, Mod New York : Fashion Takes a Trip, premiering November 22, 2017, at the Museum of the City of New York, doesn’t just focus on fashion design like so many other fashion exhibitions. It digs deeper into how fashion design evolved through the 1960s by examining the political, social, and cultural changes that influenced fashion design. During this time, Americans became more politically cynical and challenging of government. Their feelings and mood essentially rewrote the rules of fashion.
As Claire Shaeffer writes in the latest issue of Threads magazine #194 (Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018), a New Bohemia fashion emerged in 1967:
Anything was in. Exotic ethnic designs, surface patterns, military and American western and praire looks, Middle Eastern embroideries, and caftans became popular. Bright silk-screened prints from Marimekko and silver-and-white space-age fashion from Courreges appeared.
Yves Saint Laurent, James Galanos, and other designers elevated pantsuits to high fashion. Thea Porter produced expensive, luxurious caftan dresses. Fabrics ran the gamut from psychedelic prints and flamboyant stripes to muted cottons and pin-striped wools, and from spandex to chiffon, suede, PVC, and embroidered leathers.
This colorful pantsuit by James Galanos combines a tailored silhouette with a bold, ethnic-inspired fabric. Embroidered with straw, the pattern matches at the front opening and the patch pockets.
This couture dress, designed by Marc Bohan for Dior, exhibits a whimsical design that belies the traditional couture techniques used to make it. The dress has a center-back zipper with no visible stitches (see Threads #174, Aug./Sept. 2014, for instructions), a complete underlining of plain-weave silk, and overcast edges on the seams and darts. The plastic flowers are hand-sewn along the hem.
Thea Porter, the daughter of Christian missionaries, grew up in Lebanon. For this chiffon gown, she used exquisite Middle Eastern shawls and scarves trimmed with antique lace and braid to create a rich hippie look. This sheer fabric evening dress is fabricated in silk chiffon with a gilt metallic paisley pattern and trimmed with soutache braid. Porter’s sewing knowledge was limited, so trims and button loops were often hand-sewn.
Shaeffer’s article “Fashion Revolution, 1960 to 1973” in Threads #194 gives a comprehensive look at what the exhibition covers. She writes about First Lady Fashion from 1960 to 1963, Youthquake from 1964 to 1965, New Bohemia from 1967 to 1969, and New Nonchalance, from 1970 to 1973.