Mod Minis and Hippie Headbands: The 1960s Youthquake Resurfaces at the Museum at FIT

Wing Dings, boots printed with images of The Beatles, cotton canvas, rubber, 1964
(Photo © The Museum at FIT)

The ’60s marked a cultural coup for the disenchanted children of the prim and proper ’50s. Dresses became shorter and tighter. Miniskirts revealed more skin. Young people turned to counterculture as a form of rebellion, beginning the decade with the bowl haircuts and hip suits of the mod scene and ending it with the long hair and bell bottoms of the hippies. The Museum at FIT pays homage to the era with an exhibition titled “Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution.”

Diana Vreeland, who was editor-in-chief of Vogue at the time, coined the term Youthquake in 1963 to describe the new youthful cultural phenomenon that combined music, fashion, and political discontent, and was shaking things up in the United States and Europe. The show, which runs through April 7, opens with a 1965 quote from the magazine: “Under 24 and 90 million strong in the U.S. alone. More dreams. More doers. Here. Now. Youthquake.” Bob Dylan’s face greets viewers through a 1968 Harry Gordon paper shift dress covered by his photo.

The exhibition leads visitors through the Carnaby Street boutique boom in London and the iconic New York shop Paraphernalia, where Betsey Johnson got her start making dresses for Edie Sedgwick, who was the store’s house model. Tear sheets from Life and Vogue show models like Lauren Hutton and Pattie Boyd in pieces by Johnson and iconic mod designer Mary Quant. “Youthquake!” also explores how high fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent and mass-market labels such as Trimfit Hoisery ­– represented by a bright blue pair of tights that, according to the package, are “inspired by Twiggy” – interpreted the style of the times. In total, more than 30 garments, accessories, videos, and other memorabilia bring the ’60s back to life. The show might have benefited from some appropriate music – perhaps a bit of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, or the Who – but a wall display of album covers paid necessary tribute to a handful of pop and rock icons of the era. 

Click on the slide show to see more images from “Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution.”