1968: The Year the Shifts Lost Shape


I’ve been into fashion for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been into fashion history for just about as long. While I’ve always thought of fashion history as being about the influential design houses, I’m hugely enjoying looking at changes in fashion trends through the lens of vintage sewing patterns. I’ve been going through them year by year on the Vintage Pattern Wiki, which is an amazingly comprehensive resource.

I’ve loved 1965-1967, and I was expecting to love 1968, which I went through last night. While I didn’t love ’68, it’s amazing to see the change between ’67 and ’68 through sewing patterns. 1967 was still fairly trim and proper: Jackie Kennedy meets Mod. 1968 is immediately groovier. I was surprised to see bellbottoms, but I guess  the hippie influence was already at work.

One of the biggest changes is found in the shift dress patterns. In my post from a week or so ago, I was noticing that the ’65-67 shift dress patterns consistently featured long french darts. By ’68, the french darts are, for the most part, gone. In many cases, they’ve been replaced by bust darts coming from the armhole (see above).  The shifts are far less shapely – even sack like. The example at the top of this post is typical of the ’68 shifts in depicting a (tie) belt. The raglan sleeves are atypical. A number of examples feature the patch pockets.

Here’s another Simplicity from 1968. Belted View? Check. Patch Pockets? Check. No French Dart? Check. Instead, we have a Dior Dart from a side panel.


I thought this one looked particularly tenty, but then I noticed it’s a Maternity pattern. Still, I think it counts as a shift, and it has the armhole darts.
ImageMcCall’s 9571, still 1968. More armhole darts, patch pockets (here on a jaunty slant), and a belted view. I do quite like the  gap between the collar, which I often see on 60s patterns.  One of my favourite looks ever.

McCall 9571

McCall’s 9327 is reasonably shapely with its princess seams:

McCall 9327

The “Quickie” 9792 isn’t (again, belts…)McCall 9297

I wonder how McCall’s 9385’s stark a-line reads on a body, rather than a fashion drawing. Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 9.19.44 PM

And saving the worst for last:

Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 8.47.00 PM


6 thoughts on “1968: The Year the Shifts Lost Shape

  1. Maybe it’s because I remember clothes from this time (I was a child, but still), or maybe it’s because this style looks like complete crap on me, but I have never liked the shift dress, shapely or otherwise. When I see a dress pattern like these ones, I remember my Mom wearing them and they were all made from that gawdawful fabric. Fortrel. Fugly.

    Interesting though, about the french darts. Is is just me or do we rarely see these in patterns or clothes now?

    1. French darts – or any kind of interesting dart – seem to be a real rarity now, and I’m extra keen to try one out to see what the effect is.

      I’m also not a fan of shifts – although I’m willing to give one a go. I felt rather grumpy over the Colette Laurel love, which got me thinking about this dress shape.

      I’ve never heard of Fortrel! Though I googled it and found lots of vintage ads for it. I’m glad to be living in a time when most of our fabrics, apart from lycra and nylon (i guess?), are named for the substance they’re made from, and aren’t marketed as innovations from chemical companies. I can’t imagine how sticky and hot people were during the age of polyester!

      1. Oh dear, I feel old now (you’d think I’d be getting used to it), be very glad you are unfamiliar with this stuff. It is vile nasty stuff that will hang onto grease stains and smells like you wouldn’t believe, and since it doesn’t breath, you sweat and smell in it. It would make great landscape fabric, it would never tear or degrade. Give me linen, cotton and wrinkles any day.

  2. Thank you so much for this post, very informative. I love VPWiki and I try to do my part but, though I own some vintage patterns, I don’t sew them often enough.

    1. thanks 🙂 VPwiki is so awesome. I don’t own any vintage patterns (well, I guess I have a few from my grandma from the 70s), and I find looking for them on ebay/etsy really overwhelming. I started a pinboard partly so that I can just have a list to search for.

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