By Brenda Anderson
January 26, 2010
Blue tights tucked into clear plastic boots give way to a bright
orange miniskirt, fastened with an emerald green belt. A purple
turtleneck tucked in at the waist is topped off by a black plastic
overcoat, while an orange clutch purse, orange-framed sunglasses and
a black hat complete the outfit.
This, er, eye-catching ensemble is just one of about 30 examples of
the fashions that were flying off the racks and gracing runways in
the 1960s, pulled together by a pair of Vancouver fashion historians
and on display at Langley Centennial Museum until March 21.
Plastic Fantastic: Men's and Women's Clothing of the 1960s takes
visitors on a sometimes psychedelic tour of the decade that ushered
in the era of free love.
But long before hippies hit the scene, the 1960s were a decade
characterized by huge social and political change all of which can
be traced through the clothing people were choosing to wear at any given time.
"It's not a heavy-handed message, but the message is there," said
Ivan Sayers, who in 2008 mounted an exhibit of '50s clothing titled
From Ducktails to Dior at the museum.
He has returned with a whole new set of outfits from his extensive
collection. And this time, he is joined by fellow collector Claus
Jahnke, who has also contributed pieces to the display.
Among the garments on exhibit are elegant strapless floor-length
gowns, a sleeveless mini dress printed with yellow page
advertisements, a nearly see-through chiffon hostess pantsuit, a
Nehru jacket and a paper dress and bikini, each designed for one-time wear.
Although the exhibit isn't overtly political and it doesn't focus on
the vast social changes of the era, style can't help but reflect
developing attitudes and ideas, Sayers noted.
The transformation from the ultra feminine form that dominated 1950s
fashions to the change that characterized the '60s is explored in
three distinct eras.
What Sayers refers to as the "bouffant" period, from 1960 to '63, was
characterized by Barbie doll fashions that carried through from the
'50s, with a focus on the ultra feminine high heels, crinolines and
Around 1964, however women's styles took a boxier turn as they
entered the Carnaby period.
With the unmistakable influence of the British Invasion in music
making itself felt in all aspects of North American life, fashion was
"Anything British became headline news," Sayers explained.
British designers, like Biba, began producing garments in stylized
geometric shapes, tunic dresses with shorter hems "the body shape
disappears and you see more leg" and man-made materials: plastic
jewelry, wet-look vinyl coats and PVC were the order of the day.
Men's clothing, meanwhile, became slimmer and slimmer, portraying an
adolescent rather than the adult physique that had previously been
By the late 1960s, with the growing counter culture, North American
fashion took an about face, ushering the hippy look characterized by
loose, flowing styles created from natural fibres, including caftans,
leather pants and sheepskin coats.
The hippies saw themselves as the "fantastic" people real people
dressing to depict the concerns of their generation and showing the
beauty of the natural rather than the wonders of technology and
science, and loathed those they referred to as "plastic" people
tied to their traditional economic and social spheres.
Because only 40 or 50 years have passed since the garments on display
were everywhere from streets to store fronts, Plastic Fantastic will
offer a trip down memory lane for many visitors.
"I think a lot of people (viewing the exhibit) are of an age that
they'll remember them nostalgia is a big part of it," Sayers commented.
"The clothes are certainly very colourful, as the '60s were, it was a
pretty dynamic time, and that shows up in our show."
Sayers is once again planning to bring his display onto the runway,
with a pair of fashion shows on Feb. 27 at the Fort Langley Community
Hall, starting at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"We'll show the good, the bad and the ugly," Sayers laughed.
Langley Centennial Museum curator Kobi Howard, is thrilled to have
the fashion historian back for another exhibit one that has been in
the planning stages, at some level, for the past two years.
"Ivan is really personable. He does a great show," she said.
"The day the '50s show opened the idea began to do a follow-up '60s
show," said Howard.
"The Museum of Vancouver wanted to do a '60s show (with Sayers) but
he said, no, he was bringing it to Langley."
Tickets for the Feb. 27 fashion shows are $21 each and are likely to
sell out quickly, warned Howard.
To reserve seats, contact the Langley Centennial Museum at
604-888-3922 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
There is no charge to view the Plastic Fantastic exhibit, however the
museum, located at 9135 King St. in Fort Langley does accept donations.