Growing up in the 60’s, my fascination for fashion was centered on what was coming out of London, England. It was not like anything I had seen before, with styles that were young and hip. Skirts were really "mini" and designs were brash and innovative. Color played a big role in defining the look. The muted and pastel palette of the fifties gave way to bright, bold colors and geometric patterns.
The Brits set the tone and the world followed. From London, the mod look spread to the globe’s fashion centers. Carnaby Street, located in London’s Soho district, was where both mod and hippie styles originated. No geography was more famous for swinging boutiques than Carnaby Street and King’s Road.
Carnaby Street is less that 200 yards from end to end, and in 1960 was filled with independent fashion boutiques owned by designers and entrepreneurs. John Stephen, who started the hipster-trousers and floral-patterned shirts trends for men, was the first to establish a fashion store for affluent teenage customers. Another well-know name associated with the 60’s is Mary Quant, who popularized the swinging sixties look and brought the miniskirt to the mainstream. Besides boutiques, there were underground music bars where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones appeared. When they weren’t playing, they were shopping and hanging out in the coolest of fashion destinations.
During the 60’s the fashion revolution was youth-oriented and youth-driven, and began in the streets rather than the old-line couture houses. The Baby Boomers were coming of age.
My favorite icon of the era was Twiggy, dubbed "The Face of 1966." Twiggy dominated the covers of fashion magazines. She was also featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek with stories related to Swinging London. I was all of 92 pounds and often mistaken for a boy. I even competed in a Twiggy lookalike contest. I didn’t win, but still have the photos that were taken by my dad with his Polaroid camera. I learned how to apply false eyelashes and paint lashes below my bottom lid. I even got the gamine look down with a cropped haircut and pouting lips.
Fifty years and fifty-plus pounds later, I re-visited the street of the 60’s.The curved sign welcoming people to Carnaby Street is still there, along with interesting shops and English storefronts. A few chains have infiltrated the scene, but the independents still reign with stores whose names shout outrageous like David and Goliath: Marshmallow Mountain, Sweaty Betty and Fur Coat No Knickers.
After a half a century, Carnaby Street remains one of London’s best-known shopping destinations with stores still making a go of it with one-of-a-kind fashion on a street that still has a really cool vibe. The British Invasion was such a part of my life from style to music, and this girl from the Midwest took it and made it a lifetime of fashion independence.