A Sixties look? Sure, which one?
On a recent shoot for the cover of one of my favorite magazines, a publication that is the legitimate authority on beauty, I had the pleasure of working with an absolute dream team: an über-famous and accomplished hair stylist, a photographer known for his impeccable taste and gorgeous light, and an iconic editor who’s knowledge of the written and unwritten history of fashion-and-beauty is the stuff of legends. Our subject of the day was a beautiful, young, sought-after actress. We were exploring the idea of turning her into a 1960’s girl. As we discussed details and ideas, I realized we all had a somewhat different conception of the theme. But because we are all well versed in the various styles of the Sixties, we were able to align our vision to create the intended image. However, the process made me realize how simple the concept of the Swinging Sixties sounds, and yet in reality even experts can get confused and sidetracked by hokey clichés. Why? Because there was no such thing as ONE single look in the Sixties. For the first time in history there was a myriad of co-existing, fascinating looks, reflecting an incredibly turbulent and exciting time in society. We often believe that the creative and extravagant makeup creations found in the pages of Vogue of the time were the looks women wore in the streets – but it wasn’t as simple as all that.I think of the Sixties as the most creative and fasted-paced decade of them all. As the rigid look of the fifties with it’s winged eyeliner and red lip faded, the younger generation brought about an absolute revolution. There was more variety and change in women’s looks than ever before. The decade was about liberation and self-expression, and the “youth quake” brought on by a rebellious younger generation was felt by everyone. I may have been just a toddler at the time but my fashion radar was already up and fully functional. I remember distinctly how the women around me looked quite different from each other. My mother, though she was in her twenties, was definitely aspiring to a chic, sophisticated look, with teased hair and coral lipstick, that echoed the polish of Tippi Hedren and Capucine. My babysitters were Mods, they wore black slim pants, leather jackets, straight long hair and rimmed their eyes with heavy eyeliner. My eighteen year-old cousins were Op girls, experimenting with makeup on a daily basis. Through them I witnessed the magic of false eyelashes, white eye shadow and the black peel-off eyeliner that complemented their futuristic sensibility, complete with short two-toned jersey dresses and white go-go boots. But change came fast and furiously and within ten years, the influence of the hippies and the women’s liberation movement had transformed women’s looks again, laying the defining black cake eyeliner to rest indefinitely.
Here is a gallery of “types” that existed side by side in my favorite era in fashion-and-beauty history. These benchmarks of iconic references have been a never-ending source of inspiration for the fashion industry throughout the years. Some of these looks are so timeless they actually never went away and we see them all around us still half a century later!
The emphasis was on the eyes and the goal was to make them big, sexy and sultry. Eyes were lined top and bottom as well as the inner rim of the lash line, either with cake-eyeliner or with a pencil. Most used colors? Dark brown for blondes and black for brunettes. Another line was drawn on the crease of the eyelid, and the space then filled in either with the pencil or with eye shadow. The lashes were coated with thick mascara. The lips were lined with a brown pencil, then carefully blended inward. The lips could be colored in a light pastel shade but many girls preferred to dab on some concealer or a sweep of beige cocoa butter to get just that perfect shade of pale.
The new pixie haircut showed off the childlike, fragile side of women. Therefore the makeup was often a simple affair of eyeliner, either discreet or exaggerated and some lip color. For girls working the ingénue angle, a stain-like natural lip shade did the trick or for the fashion forward types, a pastel pink would be the ticket. A popular trick was also to paint youthful little freckles on the face.
The word comes from “modernist” and represents the crowd who had adopted a mix of American “greaser” fashion and a French existentialist attitude. The look is minimal. The face is left bare, the lips are natural and the eyes are rimmed top and bottom with an “Egyptian” style eyeliner. The mascara is present but not overly important. This look eventually evolved into the smokey-eyed rocker chick of the next decade.
They took the Mod style and revved it up. The trend was to celebrate individuality and originality. And this applied to makeup as well. “Flaws” were accentuated, not corrected: round eyes were made much rounder, droopy eyes were sloping dramatically and a big nose was celebrated. The art of eyeliner was in full force.
The Black Muses
The Sixties saw a number of trailblazing Black women move into the public eye in music, TV, fashion and politics. At the beginning of the decade, Black women tended to follow the white beauty standards with bouffant hairdos and pastel makeup colors on eyes and lips. The Black is Beautiful movement encouraged them to embrace their identity and beauty. The first makeup line for women of color, Flori Roberts, was introduced in 1965, quickly followed by other brands.
The Chic Lady
If you were married (or on that track) and/or a good girl, you would aspire to look respectable, chic and lady-like, a look epitomized by Jackie Kennedy. The makeup had to look effortless and natural. A whiff of powder on the skin, a touch of peachy-pink blush, mascara and a discreet trace of eyeliner, well groomed eyebrows. To top it off, pastel lipstick, preferably in shades of pink or coral. Anything else would have been considered “common”.
The Good Girl
This is a younger version of the Chic Lady. This girl was more brazen and didn’t mind using concealer, foundation and powder. She also wanted to show off her eyes but it just couldn’t look too crazy. She liked the pastel creamy eye shadow bullets that were popular in pale blue, ivory, lilac or jade. She really worked the lash line with several coats of mascara on the top and bottom lashes to bring out the doe-eye effect. Another popular trick was to use a white pencil on the inner lower rim of the eye. The eyebrows were groomed and natural looking. The lips were generally natural or slightly pastel.
The Fashion Creatives
Creativity was exploding in music, movies and fashion. Models traditionally did their own hair and makeup on fashion shoots, but as the looks became more and more elaborate, magazines began hiring makeup artists and hair stylists for the shoots. But both Peggy Moffitt and Verushka were the main pioneers, famously transforming their faces into exquisite works of art.
The Late Sixties
Only a few years after the popularity of excessive eyeliner and baby pink lipstick, the fashion pendulum swung to the other extreme. The Hippie and Feminist movements had a profound influence on the look of women, starting around the pivotal year of 1968. Many women chose to show a less artificial, more natural side of their beauty. The Sixties had opened the door for the Seventies to be extravagant, expressive and gender-bending, allowing for a variety of wildly contrasting looks to co-exist, from radical bare-face to glitter rock.
The Sixties Today
Why is the Sixties beauty legacy still so fascinating? Why do twenty year old girls today adopt the look of their grandmother’s generation? In Fashion, there has always been a glance over the shoulder towards the past. The Fifties flirted with turn-of-the-century silhouettes, the Seventies was inspired by the Thirties, and the Eighties had a big Fifties revival moment. But these retro-trends didn’t usually last very long and were often adopted by trendsetters and fashion-rebels only. In contrast the Mod and the Gamine exist today in barely altered versions from the original. The Bardot/Seductress is practically the norm for a sexy girl today and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Perhaps this is the answer to the riddle: the Sixties was fashion and beauty by the young for the young. The obvious artifice, the deliberately applied black eyeliner, distinctive hairstyles, and the nude lips still give women the feeling of being ultra-feminine. The magic for the average twenty-year-old girl, for instance, who grew up in t-shirts, jeans and sneakers, is how these looks can transform her into an incredibly cool, young and glamorous creature, elevated from her casual self to an approachable fantasy.
Featured in this post:
Adele, Anita Ekberg, Ann V, Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Brigitte Bardot, Carrie Underwood, Catherine Deneuve, Capucine, Cher, Diahann Carroll, Diana Ross, Donyale Luna, Edie Sedgwick, Esperanza Spalding, Françoise Hardy, Goldie Hawn, Jane Birkin, Jacqueline Bisset, Jacquie Kennedy, Jean Seberg, Jean Shrimpton, Kate Moss, Kati Nescher, Michelle Williams, Marianne Faithful, Marsha Hunt, Monica Vitti, Nico, Peggy Moffitt, Penelope Cruz, Penelope Tree, Raquel Welch, Romy Schneider, Sofia Loren, Tippi Hedren, Twiggy, Veruschka
On the topic of fashion and beauty in the Sixties, I recommend the films Blow Up by Antonioni and Who are you Polly Maggoo by William Klein.
Ann V by David Roemer, Catherine Deneuve by David Bailey, Peggy Moffitt by William Claxton…
Disclaimer: I apologize for not crediting more photographers in this post. Unfortunately, the new search engines don’t automatically bring up the name of the photographers when displaying images. This isn’t right.