Baby Boomer Fashion Trends
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
You need to understand my baby boomer cohort if you’re a fashion designer. Throughout our whole lives, we’ve had manufacturers and advertisers vying constantly to get our attention in order to get us to buy their products. So, women like me (over 50 or 60) are used to finding trendy clothing that looks good on them… and isn’t boring.
I suppose it all started with Saturday morning cartoons and commercials, where companies jumped up and down trying to get boomer kids to lust after sugary cereals, noisy toy guns, and Barbie dolls with never-ending wardrobes of Lilliputian evening gowns… and tiny plastic high heels.
We were hooked.
Then, we experienced the Youthquake, with its British Invasion and Mod clothing. After that, baby boomer fashions morphed into a never-ending timeline of adorable, entertaining trends. And now, baby boomer women like me expect to go online and find adorable, affordable, groovy, cool stuff that we can wear!
Where is it? Why is it so hard to find?
Baby Boomer Women's Fashion
Okay, we’re baby boomer women. We’re spoiled.
We’ve been catered to for so long that it’s a bit of a shock when we don’t have a constant stream of cute, trendy clothing that’s readily available (and flattering) to all of us older women.
Baby Boomer Fashion Trends
If you’re a boomer chick who’s a bit older or a bit younger than me, your experience will be a little different from mine, however I was born fairly close to the middle of the pack… so I think I have a decent grasp of the baby boomer fashion experience.
On the other hand, if you’re a fashion designer, clothing manufacturer, department store buyer, or something like that, and you were born after 1964, you might not understand what boomer women like. So, I’ll do my best to run you through the main baby boomer fashion trends I remember. The more you know about us, the more likely you are to understand what we expect from you.
Note: Boomer Chicks: Please add your thoughts about early baby-boomer fashions or current clothing offerings at the bottom of the page. If you were born in the 1940s or the 1960s, I really need your input.
1950s Fashion Trends
I was a little kid in the 50s, so I was not a huge fashionista, however the most important thing I can tell you is that all girls wore dresses to school. Sure, we wore jeans, pedal pushers, tennis shoes and casual stuff when we were playing, but I remember that everything in my closet was a mini-me version of the boring daytime outfits worn by adult women:
- School dresses with full skirts
- Plaid jumpers (to wear over blouses with short puffed sleeves)
- Full skirts, sometimes with suspender straps
- White blouses with Peter Pan collars
Hey… you might like that stuff, but I hated it. Well, I didn’t know I hated it until the fashion world discovered how lucrative the baby boomer market could be… and they started designing clothing specifically for preteens and teenagers.
1960s Fashion Trends for Girls, Teens & Young Women
I remember that fashion really started to be fun in the early 60s. As much as I loved the music of Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles, 1963 was the year I started listening to top-ten radio and decided I wanted to be a “Little Surfer Girl”. All of the hip and trendy tweens in my town began wearing “surfer” T-shirts with large horizontal stripes. I don’t know what those shirts had to do with surfing, but I do know those tops were never worn by our mothers.
The fashion rebellion was underway… and it’s important to realize that fashion was related to the music of the day.
Baby Boomer Fashion 1964, 1965, 1966: British Mod & the Youthquake
Right after JFK was assassinated, we needed something fun to lift up our spirits and we found it the moment we heard, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles. And… shazzam, teen fashion went into overdrive.
Beatlemania ignited our obsession with everything British, including Mary Quant miniskirts and Carnaby-Street Mod shifts with polka dots and bright, graphic blocks of color. Wow… Technicolor dreams!
The fabulous “little girl” look came to America, where it was personified by Colleen Corby (our version of Twiggy) who seemed to be wearing Bobbie Brooks, bows, and patterned knee socks on every page of Seventeen. Miniskirts and dresses were not overly short during the early 60s (about an inch or two above the knee) and legs were often sheathed in colorful tights. Hey… girls would have been sent home from school if they wore anything too provocative.
And, the best part of the trendy fashions of our youth was that our mothers couldn’t wear clothes like we wore. Our moms were too old to wear the “little girl” look… and our moms were too old to wear granny dresses and granny glasses without actually looking like grandmothers.
Baby Boomer Fashion 1967 -1970: Psychedelic Baby!
In 1967, most girls continued listening to pop songs and wearing Mod dresses with cheery graphic flower prints and other high-contrast patterns. However, 1967 was also the year in which the trendiest girls started getting into a new kind of music… the underground, extended play of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Doors… and the other creative sounds that blasted out of our FM radio stations. Holy psychedelia, Batman!
Suddenly, the rigidly tailored Mod minis didn’t feel quite right, but the free-flowing paisley dresses with sheer, angel sleeves did.
These new fashions had more motion… more movement… more fluidity. And, these new frocks matched the motion of the music.
- Pop-colored flower prints morphed into swirling, electric florals.
- Purple and orange overtook pink and candy-apple green as the colors of choice.
- Hip American-Indian headbands replaced those bubbly hair bows.
- Long prairie dresses (perfected in the 70s by Gunne Sax) took the place of short miniskirts.
Suddenly, it was less fun to go Mod, a style that had been adapted and adopted by the older generation, and more fun to invent your own groovy look by incorporating items found in indigenous cultures from around the world. Well… many girls continued wearing Mod clothing… but the British Invasion was quietly becoming boring and passé.
This shift was an underground, counterculture movement, so the new fashion esthetic wasn’t readily apparent in typical fashion magazine ads and other mouthpieces of “establishment” culture. Many people didn’t realize the trend even happened until it was over.
Baby Boomer Fashion 1972 - Mid 70s: Disco Style
No fashion trend ever happens overnight. I remember wearing platform shoes before 1972, but it seems like disco started around that year. Yes, I know Studio 54 opened in 1977, but I had to look it up on Wikipedia, because I lived on the West Coast.
Anyway… right around 1972 or so, I think a lot of women got tired of being broke hippies.
It was time for a change… and it seemed like music was about to change, too. Have you ever actually tried dancing to Led Zep’s Dancing Days? As much as I loved Zeppelin, the music of the Jackson 5 (while not as “heavy”) was definitely a lot of fun. And, going to a club was way cooler than hanging out in someone’s basement.
So, fashion started morphing again. Out went the fringed jackets, the rattling bangles, the peace sign necklaces, the playful gypsy clothing, and the natural look. In came the sleek and sexy feel of polyester jumpsuits with plunging necklines, the cute and sassy hot pants, the knee-length dance dresses, and the heavily made-up faces.
Baby Boomer Fashion Today
I know there were a lot of other fashion trends that baby boomers wore, but I’ve listed the main ones I remember. Different parts of the country wore these styles at different times… or not at all. I’m just trying to give you a basic overview… without boring you to death.
These days, baby boomer women are just looking for flattering fashions that fit our changing bodies… but I think most of us still want an element of fun in our clothing.
I mean… if you’re a fashion designer who can come up with comfortable clothing with a hip feeling and playful attitude… I think you will make a freaking fortune.
Fashion Trends for Baby Boomers
It would take a whole book to list all the fashion trends we wore, but baby boomers are used to fashion that changes all the time. Boomer women like trying new things.
We don’t want to wear what our mothers wore at this age… and we definitely don’t want to look old… even though we are.
I want all of you fashion designers to check out the outfits we wore in the 60s and 70s, because adaptations of those styles are probably what we will want to wear in our 60s and 70s. Be creative. Give us what we want. It's time to start a new baby boomer fashion trend.
More Fashion Articles for Baby Boomer Women:
Photo Credits: All photos are creative commons images as they are American ads from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
- Main Photo: Toy ad from the 1950s. Colleen Corby in ad for Simplicity patterns 1960s. Hot pants ad 1971.
- Baby Boomer Hot Pants & Mini Dresses - 1970s Simplicity pattern.
- Baby Boomer Fashion Model: Little girl style - Colleen Corby ad in Seventeen Magazine 1960s.
- Baby Boomer Fashion Trends - Late 60s. 1967 ad from the National Cotton Council.
- What Did Baby Boomers Wear? 1972 fashion ad Vogue.
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