“The fashion year was a varied one, with enough trends to provide choices for even the most individualistic woman. The Italians feuded about whether Florence or Rome should be their fashion center; the French were the French—minus the famous Andre Courreges, who forsook haute couture for ready-to-wear; the English stayed with their Mod look; the Americans, as usual, combined originality and mimicry.
Mondrian in the Limelight. The couture sweepstakes was won by Yves Saint Laurent ( with the help of Piet Mondrian). Saint Laurent’s playful shift dresses of Mondrian-inspired color blocks swept through the international fashion world with as much strength as did the Courreges look. And, like the Courreges look, the Mondrian look appeared in all price ranges and all kinds of garments, from shifts to hats—and sweaters, pants, and kerchiefs.
Fall Couture. On the American side of the Atlantic, haute couture was producing a different version of the no-waist dress—a much older one. Norman Norell, harking back to the Roaring Twenties, produced period dresses complete with bugle beads, fringes, spaghetti straps, flat bosoms, and waistlines that sat around the hipline.
Other American designers chose a more romantic look for fall. Evening dresses glittered with jewel beads, jet, sequins, and rhinestones, or swayed with the undulation of feathers. Fabrics ranged from lush velvets and satins and cire brocades to understated wool flannel. Ensembles—dresses with matching coats—were popular for day and night. And the long dress again dominated the evening.
The most popular styles for evening were a Western version of the sari, the one-shouldered long dress that every-one liked, originated by Oleg Cassini for Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, and the straight-across strapless neckline on a floor-length dress. Discotheque dresses got steadily decreasing attention as the discotheque fad went into its, last stages.
As the year wore on, interest in the ultra cute little-girl dresses waned. In its stead, the big news was a dress that had no name. It was rather loose, well-cut, and skinny, sometimes with smocking at the top, usually with long, fluid sleeves and contrasting bands of jewel beads at the wrist and neck.
Spring. The spring look in sportswear was mostly variations on a theme by Courreges, as American manufacturers ground out look-alikes in all price ranges.
Sharing the spring spotlight was that English import, the Mod dress—high-waisted and loose of skirt, with contrasting patterns such as dots and stripes. The poor-boy sweater, a skimpy, clinging, ribbed knit, was also popular with the younger ladies.
Summer. With summer came the first real breath of fresh air, as fishnet suddenly appeared and caught the popular fancy. Bathing suits, beach jackets, and jumpsuits all used the meshlike fabric, to the apparent delight of millions.
The beach ensemble was another frequent sight on the beach. It consisted of a swimsuit and a matching jacket or short shift for cover-up protection and a coordinated look.
Off the beach, brilliant prints—Tahitian florals, but most especially vivid paisleys—were used in everything from streetwear to evenings at home. And once the sun sank, so did the hemlines; long dresses became de rigeur in some circles for at-home and patio entertaining as well as for the more formal activities of evening.
The packable, crushable, washable shift that has long been a summer favorite extended its reign. This design, made famous by Emilio Pucci, is also made well by a number of American clothing houses, one of them Wilroy. Usually in vivid patterns on silk or a light synthetic, these dresses are the answer to a traveler’s dream, and serve equally well for office or street wear.
Fall. As the Christmas holidays approached, the world of sportswear turned silver. Silver jumpsuits, metallic mesh skirts and blouses, aluminum-like dresses and slacks, all brightened up the look of winter.
Pants were as ubiquitous as ever, but this year bell-bottomed trousers were the vogue in everything from denim to crepe.
Two of the fads that moved the younger set were a continued rage for pierced ears and the “granny” dress, a new discovery, which is just what its name implies—a loose, ankle-length cotton dress with puffed sleeves and a plain neck. Its use was rather limited to very young people at beaches and resorts. Their elders, meanwhile, went in droves to where the boys were—to Army Navy stores—where they depleted supplies of hell-bottoms, Navy pea jackets, and chief petty officers’ shirts as fast as they could.
Accessories. Patterned stockings were in favor throughout the year. Sheer textures and bulky wool cable knits attracted women; wildly patterned stockings or high sox fascinated the younger ladies, particularly when the hosiery matched the blouse in what was called the “total look.”
Furs looked different, too. They shed their seriousness in favor of frivolity, whimsy, and a decidedly sporty look. Some had holes like Swiss cheese, some were polka-dotted or patterned in stripes or paisley. Ermine was unusually popular, even for daytime, and such lesser items as monkey, rabbit, and a variety of cats became chic.
Hats changed little. Fur, especially mink, was as desirable as ever. Kerchiefs were the rage, in vivid patterns in the warmer months and even in fur for the fall. As for cloth hats, a few helmet types were seen, some even with chin straps—but mostly it was a year of kerchiefs and fur.
In a sense, hair was more important than hats. Vidal Sassoon, the rage of London, opened a salon in New York, and countless women had their locks cut into a short, sharp, angular cap that featured uneven bangs and points in the back. Also seen, during the warm months, was the Tom Jones—a casual coiffure with hair carelessly pulled back, much like the period look from the movie of the same name. Wigs and hair pieces were in frequent use, along with detachable individual curls.
The full blossoming of at-home wear was a fact of 1965. Women were confronted by a vast, bountiful array where previously there had been little. Floor-length skirts, robes, and culottes were very popular, along with monks’ robes, in fabrics ranging from quilted velvets and velours to crepe and dotted swiss. Feathered and even furred peignoirs, robes, and bed jackets were luxuries reserved for a moneyed few.
The year was one of great femininity in hairstyles. Very pretty, soft, yet highly organized styles prevailed. Heads were small. There was little or no backcombing of the hair, which was sculptured to follow the shape of the head but not to cling. Shaped to give controlled bounce and freedom of movement, it moved in fluid lines without toy ringlets or loose flying ends. Hair length was either very long or very short.
The very long hair ( worn predominantly by women under 30) turned softly up around the shoulders. The stick-straight look was out. Though the hair was organized, there was lots to shake, and shake they did—at discotheques and dinner dances. Expert cut allowed the hair to be quite flexible. It always fell back into place in the prettiest possible way, without tangles or separation. Even though long hair required constant care for a healthy sheen and a neat appearance, the young loved it and long hair became more and more popular.
But a paradox was at work. Men, too, were letting their hair grow longer. As a counter to this trend, a very short masculine cut for women appeared. It was no unusual thing in 1965 to see frugging partners with the girl’s hair shorter than her male companion’s.”
Compiled from period encyclopedias, yearbooks and catalogs subject to fair use or public domain. My own edited versions of public domain material including edited images is protected by copyright.