Meet the new “sweater girls” of 60s fashion
And while some of those trends were better than others (looking at you, bell bottoms!), there were some great styles to come out of that decade too — in particular, cozy mod sweaters.
60s sweaters stand the test of time
As you’ll see in this article, the “sweater girl” phase of 60s fashion was relaxed (good-bye girdles!), casually elegant and — dare we say — timeless. Has there been any fashion era since where you can go wrong with a comfy sweater, lean-fitting pants and a pair of flats?
Early 60s fashion: Saga of the sweater girl
From the Rapid City Journal (Rapid City, South Dakota) September 11, 1960
Girls and sweaters go together like trimmed roses in a garden — each look nice by themselves, but put them together and you’ve got a ‘winning’ combination.
It wasn’t always so. A casual pullover was strictly for the male more than a generation ago… something he’d wear for athletics or cleaning his Model A.
Then came the twenties — and lots of changes. The boop-a-doop girl now had relaxed airs to assume. She bobbed her hair… went about unescorted. Among the other means to show her newfound independence: a sweater she donned for the first time.
But the wolf’s whistle (or sheik’s, to be more accurate) was still held in check. Our flapper cutie pranced about on the tennis courts with her new casual outfit, but glamour and sweaters were as far apart as prohibitionists and an evening cocktail.
It took the imagination of a Hollywood press agent — and the gracious lines of Lana Turner — to bring about a happy change.
Lana was a newcomer to the screen, and enjoyed a big build-up. “A new Harlow;’’ some exclaimed. Others decided that she was, indeed, something quite unique by herself.
The big difference? Why, a sweater, of course. Miss Turner became America’s first ‘‘sweater girl”, and millions of jealous young ladies followed suit.
The change was as welcome to the girl of the late thirties as it was to her happy-eyed male. Now she could go to that picnic… the movie date . . . the soda parlor, in an outfit that not only displayed her figure pleasantly and discreetly, but was comfortable as well.
But the age of levity was short-lived. World War II broke out and America’s eligible males were donning khaki and navy blue; were being sent to remote areas throughout the world.
Girls back home did their ‘‘bit’’ too; sent V-mail missives to soldier boy friends regularly. And the young man in the trench would — in moments of loneliness — reach into his wallet for his favorite snapshot of the girl he left behind.
His favorite pose? You guessed it — his lady fair in a sweater.
Since the war, our sweater girl has become increasingly popular. The casual pullover now sits folded among an elaborate sweater wardrobe that includes cardigans… shirt styles worn buttoned or opened… evening sleeveless models with matching cardigans and a host of others.
Perhaps the biggest change in sweater styles since Lana walked across the screen came between 1954 and 1956. That’s when astute fashion designers thought a young girl’s fancy for her sweater might stretch into the warmer months.
And how right they were! In fact, during that two-year period, sweater sales increased by two million — from April through August. One consumer survey showed that gals preferred to wear sweaters during spring and summer.
But these were not the same sweaters that their mothers wore — not by a long shot. New, soft fibers had a lot to do with it… so did the sudden rise of air conditioning, of all things.
A girl could carry her light cardigan over her arm on a broiling street, and don it in the cool comfort of an air-conditioned restaurant or movie.
What’s more — they still do, in ever-increasing numbers.
The happy trend continues. Among the latest sweater fashions that still turn a man’s head for a “second look’’ are delicate pastels and gay, clear colors… all-over embroidery and dainty eyelet embroidery in solid hues for an added feminine touch…blouse styles that add new personality to bulky knits.
Today’s sweater girl — whether she wears a bulky pullover on the ski slopes or a light, summer cardigan that can be washed without blocking and has a multitude of fabrics to choose from — is very much a part of the American scene.
And what a delightful scene it is!
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Sweater Girl has a new ladylike look
By Jeanne D’Arcy — Meriden Record (Meriden, Connecticut) November 18, 1961
Sweater girls have a new look — and it’s happily ladylike.
When she first zoomed to popularity, the sweater girl wore a skin-tight pullover that defined and exaggerated her natural attributes, rated whistles from the drugstore cowboys and arched eyebrows from the rocking-chair brigade.
Nifty and neat
That day is past. The modern sweater girl — and women of all ages wear sweaters today — typifies the peak of fashion and good taste. She turns up anywhere and at any time looking nifty and neat enough to rate the best-dressed category.
She wears big bulky wools on the campus, for sports, in the suburbs. )
She chooses soft fur-blend dressmaker-style sweaters for town or office, selects sleeveless wool pullovers for under her suits.
For date-time, she shows up in the knitted wool Chanel jacket over theater and cocktail dresses or dons a sequin-shimmering wool pullover for formal dances.
The sweater is now a wardrobe basic and turns up everywhere.
Sweaters are more varied in styling than almost any other wardrobe item and wisely chosen, can provide flattery for every figure type.
Wool’s secret of making the body look beautiful is in its natural flexibility, It can stretch one-third and bounce back to its original shape. The knitted fabric gives with every body movement, minimizing faults and subtly enhancing good points.
For flattering effect, here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a sweater:
- Select a size that’s roomy enough to ripple gently. It’s an eye-deceiving trick that makes the wearer look smaller than she actually is.
- Sleeves should fit with an easy-flexing freedom, without any appearance of clinging.
- Choose cardigans two sizes larger than your regular dress size to provide ample non-constricting comfort when worn over other garments.
For good value, look for firmly knitted sleeve and waistbands hat will hold their shape, well-made buttonholes, neatly finished seams, sturdy and washable buttons, washable trimmings. Tall girls can wear this season’s “great sweater.”
Often done in fluffy open-stitch wool or mohair, it’s impressively bulky and long, extending low on the hips. smartly worn with slim, tapered pants or flat-pleated skirts, it’s a style the petite girl should skip. She’s lost in it. For her, there are shorter, less bulky pullovers and cardigans that can be color-matched to skirts for an unbroken, figure-lengthening line.
Long, long style
Heavier girls can wear the new long, long sweater style just, as well ag their slimmer sisters. Tunic pullovers in supple fur blends that can be worn free and easy are slimming.
So are V-neck sweaters, available in both pullover and cardigan designs, No matter what your age or figure, there’s a ladylike sweater style for sports or dress-up wear to fill out your wardrobe and dress you in style.
Also see: ’60s lingerie, pantyhose, girdles, garters & more from the 1968 Wards catalog
To wear and to love all summer – Take a sweater, trim a sweater…
… and thereby add a whole new fashion dimension to your wardrobe. A dress or a skirt becomes a costume when it has its own sweater.
You could, for example, line a cardigan with the leftover material of a dress you’ve made yourself, or scatter a sweater with appliques cut from the same fabric as a gay print you are wearing. The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.
Remember that whether you cut an old pull-over into an entirely new shape, sew important trimmings on expensive cashmere, or just add dime-store braid to a $2.95 Orlon, the point is: it’s your own ideas that count. Use them to complete a look that is completely individual.
Sewing and trimming sweaters
Scallops of polka dots frame the cut-out neckline of a black cardigan and cuff its sleeves. The bouffant silk-organza skirt spills graduating polka-dots down to a border hem of scallops, used in trimming the sweater.
Too timid to tackle a sweater? Try binding a wool-jersey cardigan jacket, Vogue design no. 4251, with matching bright pink cotton braid. Wear it over a sheer Dacron like this one, its sleeves and neckline finished in the same braid, its flowers repeated in applique bouquets on the jacket.
1960s fashion: A decade of transition
People often associate the 1960s with hippies and free love; but, as you can see, the earlier part of the decade was a relatively conservative transition away from the even more conservative fashions of the 50s. This transitional style period of 60s fashion was heavily influenced by the elegance of popular figures like Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn.
The beauty ideal was also shifting away from the voluptuous pin-up girl aesthetic to the “long, lithe and lean” mod look popularized by models like Jean Shrimpton and — later in the decade — Twiggy.
60s sweaters: Fashion designer Oleg Cassini on stylish sweaters
By Oleg Cassini in the Baltimore Sun (Maryland) September 18, 1963
Well, here’s a country-inspired trend that I don’t at all mind seeing catch hold in the city (for daytime or casual wear only, of course): sweaters, sweaters, and more sweaters.
Wear them in layers… sweater on top of sweater… turtle-necks under anything… cardigans over everything.
Mix them or match them and you’ll be in the forefront of what I consider to be a refreshing vogue.
Make your under-sweater a high turtleneck or one with an important cowl, cuffed, or carved neck. Top with a pullover or button-up cardigan — sleeved or sleeveless —with a V-, scoop-, or bateau-neck.
Blend them or contrast them in terms of color, weight, and texture. You’ve got cottons, cashmeres, mohairs, nylons, silks, and wools to choose from — and a number of combination fabrics as well.
Or toss caution completely to the winds and have a sweater made of your favorite fur. The feeling will be exhilarating.
Also see: Vintage ’60s flat shoes & fashionable low-heel footwear for women
1960s fashion: Retro sweaters
Helen Harper brown and beige 60s sweaters (1964)
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Vintage 1960s sweaters
60s fashion: Soft sweater effects, ombre colors, crochet edging and more
The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana) October 12, 1965
There are more lacy stitches this fall, flatter textures, softer effects. The cardigan and other jackets are back, to make soft and neat costumes with coordinated skirts.
Regal Knitwear has a whole collection of delightful sweater jackets, from ombred diamond patterns in brushed orlon to a white double-breasted blazer sweater. Crochet edging in white accents a blue crew-neck jacket, while a fluffy mohair-orlon mixture has embroidered flowers at the bottom.
One of Regal’s handsomest sweater costumes is in gray and white, with pleated skirt, pull-over shell and box jacket, embroidered with red flowers. It has that custom look to perfection, in its precise lines and delicate crochet edgings.
The custom look also implies variety. Turtlenecks, crew necks, V-necks are all equally fashionable, and mock dickies, socks and various skirts are available to make up outfits…
In trims, scallops, picket fence hems and lacy loop collar edges are just a few of the ways sweaters are individualized.
Colors, too, have been customized in that no one shade is dominant. Gray has entered the picture, but so has a light and bright lime green, the latter in the special new Rudi Germseich collection for Regal.
The sweater girl is back!
by Rosalyn Abrevaya — Denton Record-Chronicle ( Denton, Texas) September 19, 1965
In 1935 a 15-year-old girl in a tight sweater was “discovered” sitting at a soda fountain. As movie buffs know, Lana Turner soon skyrocketed to fame as “the sweater girl’’– and the clinging sweater became the rage.
Since then, the “sloppy Jane” of the 1940s (worn four sizes too big), the Italian flat knits, and the bulky mohairs have edged out the all-girl look. Until last season, that is, when France exported the “poor boy” sweater, ribbed to cling so tightly that a strip of film couldn’t separate it from its wearer.
The sweater girl was definitely on her way back from obscurity. This season’s sweaters aim to keep her — on the scene — with styles that can be Shetland smooth, ribbed (but Jess fitted), hand crocheted, or simply cut out. Here is the latest from the sweater world, modeled by two actresses, dark-haired Martine Beswick and blonde Molly Peters, who sizzle their way through the newest James Bond thriller, “Thunderball.”
60s fashion: Sweater girl back in style
By John Robert Powers — The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) November 11, 1965
Feminine response to the “Total Look” — as expressed in the current coordination of sweaters, skirts and pants (plus matching socks, scarves and similar accessories) — has put the sweater-girl back in style.
But it takes more than coordination to put style into a lot of the sweater girls.
It takes just the ‘‘right” sweater for the individual figure. It takes a correct size, neither too baggy and bulky nor too tight. It takes a properly- fitted brassiere. And it takes elegant posture.
Most women will agree that nothing beats a sweater-and-skirt combination for a fashion that’s at once comfortable, sensible and versatile. Yet, along with its universally flattering appeal, few other fashions can expose figure faults quite so cruelly as the unbecoming, ill-fitting sweater whose wearer fails her posture test.
How does a woman pick the ‘right’? sweater for her? The rules follow the same guidelines she uses in selecting a dress. If he wants to give balance and harmony to her figure, she must consider the prospective costume as a whole, curing herself once and for all of that tendency to look upon separates as “parts.”
The woman who buys her wardrobe in parts, then dresses in parts, inevitably turns out a smorgasbord effect.
With a variety of coordinated skirts to try with the sweaters, fittings are simplified. Many times, the explicit cut of a skirt will help determine whether the matching sweater should be bloused or fitted, whether the neckline must remain plain or requires added “interest.’’
The woman with the pear-shaped figure, hoping to camouflage her heavy hips with an A-line skirt, may decide that the sweater topped with a cowl or a collar gives her contours the illusion of harmony.
Must see: Vintage Women Coloring Book: Top Fashions of the ’60s
Contemporary a go-go: Trendy 60s sweaters
Ladies’ Home Journal – May 1966
Sweaters with modern motifs, blazing colors, striking contrasts, surprising textures — ranging from a fluff of angora to polka-dot bobbles, stripes, zigzags, Valentine hearts — each sweater with its own this-minute look.
1960s fashion: Stylish sweaters
FINNISH contemporary sweater has a knit-in medallion design repeated on the loose stand-up collar and a wide band above the lower edge. Alpaca.
DANISH discotheque pullover has knit-in stripes and flowers on a white ground, with downy Angora wool worked into the yoke design. Knitting worsted.
SWEDISH long-line Valentine pullover has an all-over design of hearts; raglan sleeves, ribbing at cuffs. Mohair/Vinyon.
SPANISH t-shirt has a knit-in-design of football jersey stripes; ribbing at crew neck and cuffs. Wool.
FRENCH poor-boy sweater is long-line, ribbed all over. Set-in sleeves; contrasting edging at neckline, cuffs, lower edge.
AMERICAN op-art sweater has knit-in stripes with reverse stockinette stitch between them. Bobbles create a polka-dot effect. Wool-Vinyon blend.
WEST GERMAN continental pullover has textured panels of diagonals on body and sleeves. Ribbing at neckband, cuffs and lower edge.
ITALIAN hipster pullover is worked in a dazzling zigzag pattern with scallops at lower edge and ribbing at cuffs. Wool.
Ice skater Peggy Fleming in an ice-blue Geist & Geist ribbed sweater
On or off the ice, skater Peggy Fleming has a show-stopping natural beauty. It’s the casual, unaffected beauty that goes with the relaxed look of a thick ribbed sweater and soft, easy hair.
“I don’t like every hair in place or using that much makeup,” she says.
Most of the artifice centers around her eyes. “I like them to look wide open,” she explains.
The trick here is false lashes on lower lid, a narrow band of dark eyeliner and mascara for the upper lid.
Peggy’s base is lightweight, slightly tanned. On her cheeks, a glowing pink gel, and on the lips, a pale cast of pink a shiny gloss. Outdoors, skating or skiing, she adds special skin slicker to protect against windburn.
Also see: Novelty fashion fads of the ’60s: paper dresses, foil dresses & a dress-in-a-can
60s fashion: You can call them sweaters
By Mary C. Jackson — The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California) November 23, 1969
Long, lithe, lean — you can call them sweaters if you like, but the 1970 versions are no relative of the sweater girl of the ’30s.
Way back when big bands played for people to dance, films like the Gold Diggers danced across the screen — and soda fountain “sweater girls” moved on to star for the “silver screen” — sweaters were fashion news.
And now — again this year — they do a repeat.
Seen and talked about wherever fashion-minded people gather, today’s sweaters are a part of the “sound” of the times. But they come on as a new way of dressing, a total wardrobe concept.
Patterned, plain, textured, ribbed — sweaters show up as coats, dresses, jumpsuits — and when they keep right on going until they become floor-length they are an ultimate in after dark casual but clinging allure.
What fashion concept could be more right for the “now” scene? The casual, uncontrived, body-aware easiness of sweater-knits is universally wearable — and naturally feminine.
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