Escapism through fashion: 1960s style onscreen


Last Night in Soho, the recent release from Edgar Wright (Shaun of the DeadBaby Driver), tracks budding designer, Eloise, as she moves to London to pursue her dreams at fashion school. Things take a supernatural turn as, at night, Eloise finds herself escaping to the exciting world of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. A decade characterised by its revolutionary fashion, costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux had the momentous task of bringing the excitement of 1960s London to a 2021 audience. 

Dicks-Mireaux perfectly captures the decade’s daring glamour

With rich experience working on projects such as An Education (2009) and Brooklyn (2015), Dicks-Mireaux is no stranger to mid-century fashion and Last Night in Soho lives up to her previous success. Taking inspiration from iconic 1960s movies, such as Beat Girl and Darling, Dicks-Mireaux perfectly captures the decade’s daring glamour. Highlights include the joyous peach chiffon tent dress and white PVC trench coat, both worn by Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Sandie Collins. The film’s style has been at the centre of its praise, and it would not be a surprise to many if we see Dicks-Mireaux’s work recognised this awards season. 

This is not the first time viewers have been enamoured by 1960s fashion on screen. TV sensation Mad Men (2007-2015) was a hit with viewers for its slick portrayal of the glamorous world of advertising in 1960s New York and had a tremendous impact on trends throughout its run. The slim fit suits and skinny ties of John Hamm’s enigmatic protagonist Don Draper became all the rage, so much so, that according to Forbes, suit sales in the US doubled between 1998 and 2014.

The show’s impact was not limited to menswear; female leads Betty Draper, played by January Jones, and Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks, provided womenswear designers with rich inspiration for vintage luxury. Frida Giannini’s Gucci runways became characterised by their vintage-inspired look, with heavy emphasis on A-line shapes and retro colour palettes. Similarly, Rossella Jardini’s Moschino took notes from the 1960s, with a full Mary Quant inspired Spring 2013 collection. The influence of Mad Men’s fashion on its viewers is perhaps best summed up by a 2010 edition of Hadley Freeman’s agony aunt column in The Guardian, in which a reader asked: “Recently, I met a friend for dinner and we both turned up wearing a pussy-bow blouse, a pencil skirt and high heels. How has this happened?” In response, Freeman coined the term ‘Madmenalaria’: a condition where “one is instantly overwhelmed with the desire to dress like a character from Mad Men”. 

Personally, I am not convinced that the release of Last Night in Soho will have an impact as extreme as Mad Men – ‘Soholaria’ does not have quite the same ring – however, I am sure that Dicks-Mireaux’s gorgeous vintage creations will add to the momentum of 2021’s growing 1960s revival. High fashion brands such as Miu Miu and Gucci continue to turn to the decade’s playful style as inspiration. One of the highlights of the 2021 Met Gala, Emma Chamberlain’s Louis Vuitton ensemble, even took cues from Mary Quant’s miniskirts and Twiggy’s infamous ‘mod eye’. This past summer, the bold florals and colourful geometric prints of the decade also became a widespread sensation in the fast fashion sphere, with brands such as Jaded London, Motel Rocks and Zara promoting the retro look.

But what makes 1960s fashion so popular with contemporary viewers? Fellow Anya Taylor-Joy flick The Queen’s Gambit (2020), which spans the mid-50s through to the 60s, received similar buzz surrounding its costumes last year. Costume designer Gabriele Binder explained that much of Harmon’s sense of fashion is an attempt at imitation as she tries to find her identity in the male-dominated world of chess. 

This idea of imitation and creating different personas can help us dissect audiences’ obsession with vintage fashion

Perhaps this idea of imitation and creating different personas can help us dissect audiences’ obsession with vintage fashion. There is something escapist about recreating styles of decades gone by which helps retro looks maintain relevancy. The 1960s was a groundbreaking decade for women’s fashion. Progressive social movements and the rise of counterculture encouraged the masses to become braver in their fashion choices; hemlines shortened to daring lengths, casual dress became more unisex as trousers increased in popularity amongst women, and the decade even saw the invention of the bikini. I think it is this revolutionary outlook that is integral to the 60s’ appeal; the spirit of the decade promotes originality and experimentation, which means we can continue to innovate as we draw on the past. Hopefully, this means the 60s will continue to serve as style inspiration in decades to come and will be able to transcend the worryingly fast trend cycles which have come to define today’s fashion world. By channelling Don Draper, Beth Harmon and Sandie Collins, like Eloise, we too can escape our current realities through vintage fashion and look good while doing it. 

Image: Luis Montejo via Unsplash

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