Evening Dresses From the 1960s

Written by arlene mckanic
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Evening Dresses From the 1960s
Even a minidress could be worn at an evening function in the late '60s. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

The 1960s were an interesting time for evening dresses. In the first half of the decade the gowns and dresses looked no different than what was worn in the mid to late '50s. By the end of the decade the look was remarkably different. It was, for example, not considered shocking to wear a minidress to an event that took place in the evening.

Continuation from the '50s

The fabrics of early '60s evening dresses were sumptuous: crepe de chine, satin, duchesse satin and organza were commonplace. A woman could wear a gown of gold lame, with a beaded and embroidered organza top and a low neckline. She might wear an overskirt of black faille, with a sash with a bow tied to the side.

Long Gloves and Fitted Bodice

A woman might wear a cocktail dress of pink silk taffeta with a covering of pale grey lace. The bodice would be sleeveless but fitted and the skirt full and flouncy, with a scalloped, lace-edged hem. Another dress might be an elegant black crepe de chine with a bodice that was not only fitted but boned, with halter straps and a narrow skirt with a pleat and back slit. Women still wore gloves, often elbow length for soirées, possibly in different colours like orange, blue or purple. Shoes had pointed toes and could be gold kidskin or satin.

Decade's End

By the end of the decade, severely-fitted bodices had been dispensed with, as had long gloves. Even dresses were not required for evening wear. In 1966 one might find a woman wearing a man's black velvet suit, complete with vest and jacket, but worn over a blouse with a lace edged Peter Pan collar and cuffs. The outfit would be worn with square-toed black satin boots with thick heels. The year before, the same woman might be seen wearing a semi-fitted beaded dress with big polka dots on a cerise background, with a bib neckline and shoulder straps. She'd be without jewellery and her hair would be in a severe Louise Brooks bob.

The Revolution

A cocktail dress from 1969 was proof that the revolution had arrived. It was a minidress made of plastic and worn with lycra tights. Another evening dress from the same period would look conservative -- it, too, was a mini dress, but made of black wool crepe, with a strap neckline and a flared skirt, worn with shoes with tasteful heels. The woman's long hair would be held back in a black bow.

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