Swingin' London

Although its origin is disputed, the name Swinging London came about during the early years of Harold Wilson’s Labour government, which was elected to office in 1964. An enormous upsurge in creativity accompanied the economic optimism created by the gradual loosening of post-war austerity. Suddenly London was full of innovators.

There was a whole new dynamism to the fashion industry, centred on Carnaby Street on the northern fringes of Soho, which took in the likes of Mary Quant and Ossie Clark. Other centres of gravity were the King's Road in Chelsea and Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba stores in Kensington. From the mid-1960s on, the young no longer bought clothes from outfitters or clothing stores, but from boutiques.

Styles were mixed and matched with thrilling abandon. The Mod era inspired an instinct for sharp dressing in young men, defined by the well-cut suit topped with American army surplus parka. A more up-to-date look was the man-about-town style which involved collar-length hair, sideburns, three-quarter-length leather coats worn over roll-neck sweaters, and elastic-sided boots.

Women emulated the look popularised by waif-like models, most notably Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. Twiggy had been called "the Queen of mod," a label she shared with others, such as Cathy McGowan, who hosted the television rock show, Ready Steady Go! Apart from the ever-shortening miniskirt, there were bell-bottomed trouser-suits worn over low heels, long knitted tops, little coats with oversized buttons and high-heeled go-go boots.

With hair, anything went, from Twiggy’s short pageboy bob to the long, straight, folksy Mary Hopkin look. There were beehives and bouffants held in place with half a can of Elnet hairspray, while make-up either went heavy – as in the panda-eyed Dusty Springfield trend, with eyes peeping through layers of black kohl and false lashes stiff with mascara – or disappeared altogether in the back-to-nature ethos of the pop festivals.

(text extracts from ICONS a portrait of england)