Grace Mirabella’s vogue proclaimed that modern fashion was more about “freedom,” “identity,” and, “personal expression.” Indeed, the fashion of the “ME” decade, as coined by author Tom Wolfe, was all about a new sense of individuality, but it didn’t take overnight.
Through the 60s, the industry adhered to a model that allowed Paris haute couture--literally translate as "high sewing"--to proclaim what was fashionable. Couturiers dictated--from head to toe--the exact clothing people should wear and the styles they should emulate. In this method, clothing is created very meticulously from sketch, to draping, mock-up, three or four fittings and then finishing by hand, all with the best techniques and materials, made-to-order for each individual client. Indeed, haute couture made garments that were perfect, but had little street appeal.
With the help of artists like Yves Saint Laurent, the focus shifted from designer to consumer and the proliferation of wearable designs for everyday use. Saint Laurent was known for his fluid designs that emphasized a modern woman. He was the first couturier to embrace ready made clothing. However, this new pret-a-porter or “ready-to-wear” clothing was still not terribly accessible.
By the 70s, the mass-market finds polyester and--with new production techniques--delivers affordable clothing at every price point, from those found in luxury ready-to-wear boutiques like Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche to department stores like Sears. While polyester didn’t always produce the most tasteful garments, it did give fashion to everyone.
So, after years of vigilant mindfulness when dressing, designers realized that busy, modern women needed an uncontrived look that brought ease to their sophistication. Instead of brands following distinct shapes, fashion ebbed and flowed through a profusion of trends that allow the wearer to create their own look by combining easy to wear separates, versatile accessories, and their own natural beauty.