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The Year That Upended Women’s Fashion—and Nearly Everything Else Print-ready version

Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and other icons of the era reconstruct the fashion revolution from mini-skirts and calf-high boots to bell-bottoms and Afros.

by Sheila Weller
Vanity Fair
March 2017

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Nineteen sixty-seven: rarely has there been a 12-month period when young American women changed so dramatically. The year before had seen the helmet-haired, Pucci-clad Jacqueline Susann promoting Valley of the Dolls to best-seller status. It saw California beach-blanket movies . . . and Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, at New York’s Plaza hotel. Earlier in the year, miniskirted Nancy Sinatra Jr. had turned calf-high leather footwear—the kind that Dame Mary Quant, pioneer of the miniskirt, made famous—into a meme, thanks to her No. 1 single “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’. ”

But a radically different look and sensibility were beginning to take root. The long-gowned, straight-haired Judy Collins would soon make a Top 10 hit of “Both Sides Now,” a plaintive, self-examining, gut-honest ballad by an unknown songwriter—the long-gowned, straight-haired Joni Mitchell. The song would become the anthem of a new kind of woman: content to live alone but not lonely, sexually open but not “promiscuous.” (That judgmental word would be banished.) Nineteen sixty-seven also ushered in the so-called Summer of Love, when tens of thousands of young free spirits flocked to San Francisco. The females in this cohort, as critic Janet Maslin once put it, were the “butterfly bohemians,” who had suddenly sprung up in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and London, marking a revolution in women’s fashion, attitudes, and sexuality. In a single year, Mad Men babes had been overtaken by incense-burning soul seekers.

For women of color, there were stylistic changes as well. A stunning Detroit girl, Donyale Luna—the first black model to appear on the covers of major fashion magazines—became a member of the Andy Warhol crowd and dated Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. In London, Marsha Hunt, a Berkeley student turned British Vogue model, would star in the U.K. production of Hair (the 1967-defining rock musical), date Mick Jagger, and serve as inspiration for the Stones song “Brown Sugar.” Hunt’s huge, resplendent Afro visually augured the look that would exemplify 1968 and the Black Power movement.

This new solemnity, tinged with a new kind of glamour, had been earned. “Every young woman who lived through 1967 deserves to be admired for getting through it,” says actress Peggy Lipton. “When we finally ran the gamut of the ‘free love’ stuff, it was ‘I have to feel secure and good about myself or I will die.’ ”

Here’s how some of the women of that hour recall the exhilarating—and bumpy—ride across a year that, half a century later, still marks the divide between “then” and “now.”

NANCY SINATRA, singer, actress, activist:

I knew it [“These Boots Are Made for Walkin” ’] would be important from the moment the band played it through. I had shopped at Mary Quant’s boutique before the record was released, and the clothes fit the attitude the song portrayed.

DAME MARY QUANT, British fashion designer:

The miniskirt had evolved, getting shorter and shorter. Eventually, I had mannequins designed to look like Jean Shrimpton rather than “Mrs. Average,” with her tight curls and red lipstick. People banged on the window of Bazaar, our boutique on King’s Road, and traffic came to a standstill!

NANCY SINATRA: The timing was perfect . . . . I think Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton and I captured the fashion of the time best.

DAME MARY QUANT: The early 60s were a frenzied tornado of energy, and the overriding mood was one of fun and excitement. Sexual freedom had arrived with the pill, giving women choice they had never had before. Everyone loved the mini—it made people feel happy! It was a big breakthrough.

NANCY SINATRA: Music changed radically, a reflection of the Vietnam War . . . . And parties involved drugs and bedrooms. I never took part in any of that stuff, but my friends did.

PEGGY LIPTON, actress:

In 1967, I changed my life. I moved out of my parents’ house—I’d been a “good girl,” going to school and auditions—and into a teetering cabin in Topanga Canyon. I read Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary and drove a little red Porsche, and my neighbors and I stashed Acapulco gold under the house. Sometimes I wore jeans and sometimes those new, big, flowy skirts . . . . At the beach, it felt sensual to feel the wind all up your legs. My transformation came at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Monterey Pop—June 16 to 18, 1967—was America’s first major rock festival. It featured three days and nights of music by, among others, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Otis Redding, and the Mamas and the Papas. Many of the young concertgoers turned up wearing vintage clothes from a new crop of boutiques in Haight-Ashbury and Los Angeles and from thrift shops. The look—knowing, languorous—became aspirational, as if this sexy new culture were a select club that the few chosen ones were let into.

MICHELLE PHILLIPS, singer, the Mamas and the Papas; actress:

There was champagne flowing and the best food in any greenroom—lobster tails and crab and steaks. Lou Adler [the record producer and festival planner] flew in thousands of orchids from Hawaii and put an orchid on every chair for every star and every guest, and the cops wore orchids in their motorcycle helmets. The performers were mingling with the audience as if they all belonged together, which they did. The festival marked a transformation for us. The Mamas and Papas were now “rich hippies”—Bel Air people wearing long, diaphanous clothes.

PEGGY LIPTON: Monterey was amazing because you saw people just like yourself for the very first time. All these gorgeous guys in bandannas and no shirts. All these long-straight-haired girls—I looked just like them and they looked just like me! It was glam. We were glam. It was like suddenly being with your family in heaven.

MICHELLE PHILLIPS: I threw myself into work on the festival, which was the idea of our pot dealer. We each got to nominate an act to appear. I said, “Otis Redding!”

VIVA HOFFMANN, Warhol “superstar”; writer, painter:

Otis Redding! I had a private screening of [D. A. Pennebaker’s documentary] Monterey Pop. I totally fell for Otis. I arranged to meet him at the Bronx Zoo. Otis reached to the bottom of my soul . . . . He was the essence of masculinity and tenderness. We had a love affair in his New York hotel. I spent most of the evening squeezing his blackheads. Then I went home and took my phone off the hook so I wouldn’t have to get up early to go to New Jersey with him the next day to pick out the plane he was going on tour in. He died in a crash of that plane two days later. It was tragic. He was 26, with young kids.

The two queens of the ‘67 San Francisco rock scene appeared at Monterey Pop. One was the cool, sarcastic Grace Slick, the stunning, black-haired singer of Jefferson Airplane. Slightly older than most Haight denizens, she was the socialite and department-store-model daughter of a Bay Area investment banker. The Airplane’s hit “White Rabbit”—written and sung by Slick and released a week after Monterey Pop—blared over FM stations all summer. Slick signaled to debutantes that they could trade their headbands (and their dull fiancés) for voluminous blouses, leather bell-bottoms, and LSD.

ALI MacGRAW, fashion stylist, assistant to Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, model, actress:

Grace was her own person, insistently unique—and in that way she influenced a lot of us. She was this gorgeous, educated aristocrat who suddenly just let it rip.

GRACE SLICK, singer, songwriter, Jefferson Airplane:

They called me a hippie, but I wasn’t a hippie. I wore lots of makeup and shaved my legs, and deodorant clogged up my armpits . . . . But if I had not worn makeup and had not had braces and not had contact lenses, if I hadn’t taken my kinky black hair—my big frizz mop!—and wrapped it around my head in big rollers every night, Janis [Joplin] and I’d be in the same boat. In fact, she would have been better-looking!

Joplin was the other San Francisco queen. She was needy, soulful, and wild, a University of Texas dropout who’d struggled with drugs. She wore a pantsuit at Monterey (not quite like Hillary, but almost)—a touching indication of how naïve she was about showmanship. Within weeks that would change: she would be festooned in beads, feather boas, floppy hats, shimmery blouses, and velvet bell-bottoms. Most of it came from San Francisco vintage shops, such as Volunteers of America, on Haight Street, or Velvet Underground, on Broadway, where she bought her famous gold fishnet vest. Janis’s overnight fame helped turn her look into a nationwide trend.

MICHELLE PHILLIPS: Janis stole the show. Before Monterey, no one outside of San Francisco knew who she was. Her [rendition of] “Ball and Chain” was the beginning of her international career. When she left the stage, she did this little dance: “I did it! I did it!”

LEAH KUNKEL, attorney, sister of the Mamas and the Papas’ Cass Elliot:

I’m sitting next to Cass at Monterey and we’re watching Janis with our mouths open. We’d never heard a white girl sing like that! She killed. Cass met Janis afterward. They were very sweet, holding each other’s hands, leaning in, talking softly. They had each survived a lot to get where they were. Janis was a lot quieter than you would have thought. She was a very shy, introverted person.

PEGGY CASERTA, Joplin’s lover; owner of the Haight-Ashbury boutique Mnasidika:

A scraggly girl walks into my store and says, “Can I put 50 cents down on this pair of jeans and you hold them for me?” I recognized her as the singer I had seen at the local club the Matrix. Her band was put together with spit and paper clips, but when she sang “Bye bye bay-ay-bee” I just about fell out of my chair. So I’m thinking, This girl with this much talent has only 50 cents for $4.95 Levi’s? I felt sorry for her. I said, “Just take ‘em.” She said, “But that would be stealing! And”—she didn’t know I owned the store—”won’t you get in trouble?” There would be many other Janises I came to know over the next four years. But I think what came through to Cass was the earnest girl who had 50 cents toward a pair of jeans and, even when everyone in the Haight believed in “free” merchandise, said, “But that would be stealing!”

In 1967, Jane Fonda filmed Barbarella, a campy cult classic, directed by her husband, Roger Vadim, in which she starred as the title character—a sexy, space-age government agent. Barbarella’s skintight bodysuits with futuristic breastplates and thigh-high boots made Fonda’s character, as The New York Times later put it, “the most iconic sex goddess of the 60’s.” Barbarella’s cartoonish sexuality, though, struck an odd note amid the emergence of the butterfly bohemians, just as the sexual revolution itself didn’t always play out according to the idealistic, Aquarian values of the time.

PEGGY LIPTON: Jane! She was so advanced and chic and beautiful and famous.

JANE FONDA, actress, activist:

I remember being made to feel “bourgeois”—a major negative at the time—by Vadim if I exhibited discomfort with the freewheeling sexuality of the [era]. It was about pleasing the man. For some women free love was probably freeing, for others more of a trap. And on some occasions, it could be one or the other for a specific woman.

ALI MacGRAW: It was a very, very sexual time. After having spent your girlhood, like I did, trying to be Miss Perfect in New England in the 50s, it was great to sleep with whomever you wanted. To be free! That was a big thing!

PEGGY LIPTON: If someone forced himself on you, it was almost as if you had to pay for your sins; you accepted it. At one point that year I was pushed up upon by a couple of guys. Rather than fighting, you just closed your eyes and gave in. A lot of times you were too high to do anything about it.

JANE FONDA: I don’t remember if I thought of Barbarella as misogynistic at the time I was making it. I know that I thoroughly disliked the experience, mostly because of my distorted body issues. But it never occurred to me that I could say, “No, I don’t want to do this,” like Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren had done when offered the role. No. Vadim was my husband, and he wanted to make it, so I did.

STEPHANIE COONTZ, anti-Vietnam War activist, scholar on the history of marriage and family:

We were suspicious of the Summer of Love and the rock ‘n’ roll culture that practically made it a duty rather than an option to say yes to sex . . . . You started to hear guys in S.D.S. [Students for a Democratic Society] talk in hostile voices about “balling chicks.” When the women in S.D.S. stood up at a meeting and said things had to be more equal between men and women, guys yelled, “Take her off the stage and fuck her!”

MIA FARROW, actress, activist:

I saw the radical changes of that year in a deeply personal way. I had married Frank Sinatra in 1966. I was 21 and he was 50. There was the vulnerable, tender man I loved very much, when we were alone together. And then there was the Frank in Las Vegas: a different Frank. Frank drank a lot there. His Vegas friends would bring in young women—Frank and the others called them “broads.” I would sit with them. I felt uncomfortable for them. They were cast-asides, treated as worthless people. When I was chosen to star in Rosemary’s Baby that summer, it was the first time I felt my work was meaningful. Frank didn’t want me to be away from him. But if I quit to be with Frank, then what was the difference between me and those poor women who they called the Vegas “broads”?

ALI MacGRAW: In 1967, I was still wearing micro-­minis [that were] so outrageous I once gave a truck driver paroxysms just by crossing the street in front of him. Yet there was a sweetness, a guilelessness to those dresses—a hopeful, naïve, idealistic freedom to them, and to us. So different from the cookie-cutter A-line Courrèges dresses of the Ladies Who Lunched. I also shopped at thrift stores for beautiful old fabrics and got into fantastic Romanian blouses, long chiffon-y skirts, my hair wrapped up in tribal scarves.

The look pioneered in Haight-Ashbury vintage shops and among the rock crowd was now seeping into Hollywood—and beyond.

MICHELLE PHILLIPS: The “rich hippie” look really went into full bloom. Mia [Farrow] and I went together to a store in Beverly Hills, Profils du Monde. Toni, the owner, bought these beautiful saris from India and Pakistan, and Damascus brocades, and made us flowing custom gowns and harem pants and robes. We dressed like fantasy creatures from [faraway] cultures.

BETSEY JOHNSON, designer at the New York boutique Paraphernalia:

I was making longer, romantic clothes, too—clothes with flowy sleeves, not just minis for [the singer] Nico and Edie Sedgwick [both of them models and Warhol muses]. Elvira Madigan had just come out—such a romantic movie! I had loved that look since visiting the boutique Biba, in London, standing in line to get into that wildly popular store. The Mary Quant look was over. The cool people loved Biba.

BARBARA HULANICKI, Biba owner and designer:

My romantic clothes were historical: Victorian, mid-, late-19th-century. Some of the California girls were much more romantic than even we were—their softer, hippie look. We influenced each other. Julie Christie wore my Biba clothes, and the movie she made that year—Far from the Madding Crowd [based on the 19th-century Thomas Hardy novel]—was so influential. Even more so was Bonnie and Clyde [which featured] Faye Dunaway in those Depression-era Dust Bowl dresses! When we saw Faye in the movie—boom! The skirt length dropped. The Beatles’ and Rolling Stones’ girlfriends wore my dresses: Jane Asher, Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithfull.

JUDY COLLINS: singer, songwriter, activist:

We female folksingers dressed like a combination of gypsies and princesses. I wore Mexican wedding dresses, and I decorated them with flowers. I was very romantic-looking. It was so important to us to be feminine—but in an ironclad way. And I needed to be ironclad that summer: I had lost custody of my son. Mothers who worked, who were performers, were frowned on by judges. I was very depressed.

In New York, where Collins lived, another sisterhood formed among a trio of young, educated women, living under the same roof.

ALI MacGRAW: I lived with [artist and designer] Barbara Nessim and her roommate, Gloria Steinem, on and off. Whenever I broke up with a live-in boyfriend—we did that a lot and we made a bit of a mess ending those relationships—their door was always open for me and my dog.

GLORIA STEINEM, journalist, feminist activist:

My hope of doing more political writing came home with me from living for almost two years in India in 1957 and 1958 . . . . I couldn’t really do political reporting until after we started New York magazine, in 1968. Before that, the most distant I could get from lighthearted women’s-magazine subjects were profiles—often of writers I admired, like James Baldwin or Saul Bellow.

ALI MacGRAW: Gloria was this incredibly kind, gorgeous person. She was always typing fiendishly. I remember her wafting around the apartment in mini-skirts or hip-hugger bell-bottoms, with her killer body and, by the way, the most beautiful hands and feet in the world . . . . Every intelligent, accomplished man in New York formed a line around the block for Gloria. But she had something that made women like her.

GLORIA STEINEM: Ali seemed unaware of being beautiful. I remember thinking it was like living with the most magnificent and graceful cat. It was proof of her warmth and kindness that in those pre-feminist days, when we were all supposed to be in competition with each other, I don’t remember a female human being who resented her.

We looked out after each other. I remember worrying that Ali was living with a guy who got her to bleach his jeans in the bathtub and that Barbara was going dancing with the messenger instead of finishing her drawing. I’m sure I was doing things that worried them, too.

Amid the freedom, the worry, the intelligence, and the newfound sexual confidence, a wistful new song—and a new artist—emerged to sum it all up. One night, at three A.M., Judy Collins got a phone call from Al Kooper, the keyboardist who helped give Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” its memorable sound.

JUDY COLLINS: I was sound asleep. Al put Joni Mitchell on the phone. She said “Hi,” and she sang a song she’d written—”Both Sides Now.” That song put me in the middle of myself as no song had before. I wept. I said, “Oh, my God!” And then I said, “Can I come over tomorrow?”

MICHELLE PHILLIPS: That song expressed who we were. From “rows and flows of angel hair” to “I really don’t know love at all”—that was a young hippie girl moving to maturity after a lot of social and political and personal upheaval.

JUDY COLLINS: “Both Sides Now” just spoke to me. Later, I would see—Joni and I and other women were struggling against demons and taboos. Women being unconventional, being artists; mothers losing children . . . . There was no way in those days that I could know she had also suffered the pain of having to give up a child in the years before we met. Her “shameful secret”—being an unwed mother—I would only learn in later years . . . .

The next morning I called Jac Holzman [president of Elektra Rec­ords], and I took him to Joni’s apartment. She was wearing a long, beautiful, diaphanous skirt and the apartment was full of stained glass. So feminine and self-assured, in that new way. Jac and I talked her into letting me record “Both Sides Now” and to include it on the album I had almost completed, Wildflowers [released in October 1967].

For the cover of Wildflowers, Collins was photographed in soft focus in a velvet dress. The wild daisies; the long, natural hair; the serene, unsmiling face all signaled a 180-degree shift away from “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” “Both Sides Now” was released as a single in October 1968, reaching No. 8 by year’s end and earning Judy the cover of Life magazine.

MICHELLE PHILLIPS: Judy had the most beautiful voice. Everyone I knew wanted to be like Judy!

JUDY COLLINS: The song was everywhere. It gave me great personal comfort to sing it.

NANCY SINATRA: My music was left behind in a way . . . since I was never embraced by my peers. I was stranded, on my own, to fend for myself . . . . I remember, years later, meeting Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow at the Clinton White House. They virtually snubbed me. I was hurt.

“Both Sides Now” would win a 1968 Grammy. That same year, Joni Mitchell became a star and an artistic eminence in her own right, and Jane Fonda’s political activism moved into higher gear. Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra split up, with Farrow jumping on a plane to India to meditate with the Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (Her performance in Rosemary’s Baby would earn her a Golden Globe nomination.) Gloria Steinem became a political columnist at Clay Felker’s New York magazine, through which she eventually co-founded Ms., taking “women’s lib” mainstream. Marsha Hunt was cast in the West End production of Hair, and Peggy Lipton in TV’s The Mod Squad. (She wore a long Thea Porter dress when she won a Golden Globe for her role in the show.) Ali MacGraw began filming her breakthrough movie, Goodbye Columbus, and was on her way to becoming a style icon (culminating in 1970’s Love Story, bringing long, straight hair to Middle America).

“These Boots Are Made for Walkin” ’ was old news, rendered as campy as teased hair, minis, and go-go boots. And yet 50 years on, that feisty song, about a woman who won’t take crap from a man, is considered a two-and-a-half-minute harbinger of women’s empowerment—a classic.

PEGGY LIPTON: It was a feminist song!

JUDY COLLINS: We were all re-writing the song, the novel, the poem of women’s lives—all of us living that year together. We said, whether to lovers or to the culture that still frowned on unruly women, “We are going to intrigue you—and gain the upper hand. Because we are iron and lace at once.”

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