Monday, June 8, 2015

In Passing: Julie Harris, Helped Bring 'Swinging London' to US

In a recent post on the hard-hat riots of 1970 we wrote about one dimension of the 1960's counterculture: youth politics. Today we have an excuse to write about the decade's defining fashion look with the recent death of Julie Harris.

On the set of 'A Hard Day's Night', 1964

Julie Harris was a costume designer for British films from the late 1940's to the the 1970's. But it was her work in three films in the early '60's that helped bring the fashion style of "Swinging London" to the US. These three films were A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help (1965), and perhaps the most influential, Darling (1965).

British youth culture in many ways lead the US version, most famously the "British Invasion" which re-exported rock music back to the states. And so too, with women's fashion. Mary Quant and the "Chelsea Girl" look (the subject of a future post) began evolving in the early '60s with bolder colors and ever rising hemlines.Women's fashion in 1964 America was more like the conservative look of the 1950's.

Then in August of 1965 John Schlesinger's film Darling was released in the US, winning a handful of Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Costume Design. Julie Christie plays Diana Scott--the "Darling" of the movie title. Scott is shallow, self-centered, young, beautiful and fashionable. The movie traces Scott's path through the film, advertising and media strata of Swinging London and its Mod culture.

Mses. Harris and Christie channeled the then fashionable look of 1960's London into Scott's screen style of short pinafore dresses, miniskirts, and knee socks. The look gave girls an everyday uniform for the fun, free and sexually liberated youth culture of the decade that clearly separated the generations. Older women were shocked by the look and found it difficult to incorporate into their lifestyle.

Julie Christie as Diana Scott in 'Darling', 1965

The effect of the Beatles on fashion was more limited at the time. Suits became a little tighter and lapels a bit narrower. Some in the US wore the Chelsea demi-boot that was part of the Beatles look. But after all, the boy's were rockin' suits in the movies and men's fashions were moving in a decidedly less formal direction.


For the New York Times obituary for Julie Harris, please click here. For something about Mary Quant and the "rise" of the miniskirt, click here.

If you'd like to see some photos of Swinging London fashions or from the movie Darling, please visit the KultureKat Pinterest board below.
Follow KultureKat's board Julie Harris and the Look of Swinging London on Pinterest.

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