The 1960s was a decade of transition from the classic tailored and feminine silhouettes of the 1950s to more liberating girlish, shapeless simplicity. Women’s tops, blouses, and shirts repeated many of the changes found in 60s dresses while also taking more masculine designs and adapting them to the young woman’s body.
Instead of dresses, separates were making up the majority of women’s wardrobes. This is why there was an explosion of shapes, prints, and styles for every teen girl, young woman, and mature woman in the sixties.
The following 1960s tops, shirts and blouse styles are what the average American woman wore. While sub-genres like the hippies get a lot of hype, real women dressed in classic blouse-shirts, comfort knit pullovers, tunics, tank tops, and soft blouses paired with their skirts and pants.
*Women from around the world wore the same or similar 1960s tops. The following images are taken from American clothing catalogs and magazines.
Classic Blouse Shirts
At the start of the 60s, women were wearing most of the same styles of button-down blouses seen in the late 1950s. They were called “classic” shirts for their timeless look.
Long, mid arm, short with rolled cuffs, and sleeveless shirts with collars came in soft pastels and traditional patterns such as gingham, plaid, florals, and vertical stripes. Following fashion trends, blouses increasingly demonstrated the latest new patterns and prints. Bold earth tone stripes, paisley, rustic florals, and country patterns shared space with psychedelic, mod, and trippy prints in vibrant yellow, pink, lime, and orange swirls.
Initially blouse-shirts were worn tucked in waistbands, but it wasn’t long before they became “overblouses” cut straight along the hem, fitting square around the torso with fitted arms and a small collar. They looked more and more like men’s shirts with every passing year.
Shirt-jackets or jacket-shirts were one style of overblouse women loved. They usually came in exotic prints, satin materials, or brocade-trimmed heavyweight fabrics.
Button down blouses and most slip-over tops had collars. These collars came in a few different styles:
- Italian collar – A fold out unbuttoned collar that perched above the shoulders. It was a carryover from the 1950s and only lasted a few more years.
- Classic point collar – This one had very small points for most of the 60s. Soft lines and round edges made them more feminine than men’s shirt collars.
- Peter Pan collar – Round collars usually left unbuttoned in an “open” collar shape, but that could also be buttoned up.
- Bermuda collar – A very small round Peter Pan collar, buttoned up to lay flat around the high neck.
- Mandarin collar – Also called a band neck or grandad collar, these could be made in a contrasting white fabric (very mod!).
- Oversized collars – These became the new look in the late ’60s. Exaggerated point collars and round Peter Pan collars led the fashion revolution in the 1970s.
Collarless blouses were also trendy and very simple in the early to mid 60s.
In the early ’60s, the long tunic blouse-shirt had a matching bow tie or belt cinched in the waist. It was a softer way of wearing a shapeless shirt that covered the hips (very popular with mature women).
In the late 60s, the tunic slipover top came back with an upper-thigh length and a side knot tie. They paired very well with wide leg palazzo pants and the new flare leg knit pant. Prints and patterns were ethnically inspired designs or bold geometrics.
In the second half of the 1960s, the Victorian revival created a demand for all things frilly, ruffled, and white. White and ivory blouses were embellished with lace, pintucks, big ruffles, small ruffles, covered buttons, and little bows. The more porcelain doll-like, the better.
Both button down and slip-over blouses with buttons at the back of the neck were worn with black or neutral skirts (occasionally plaid and check patterns). Some blouses came in solid colors, but white was the purest and most innocent for the “baby doll” look.
Shop more Victorian style blouses.
Moving into casual summer clothes, the sleeveless bateau neck tunic was shortened up into a “shell top.” Not quite a crop top, the shell top ended a hair below the pant or skirt waistline, with a shapeless tube fit and no collar. Very simple yet modest with the minimal high neckline, it could be worn by any woman of any age so long as she was comfortable showing off her arms (or if she wore a light cardigan sweater over it). Short cap sleeves were added to some shell tops for more coverage, too.
When made of a knit fabric, the shell top became the tank top or a more generic “pullover top.” Sleeveless with a mock neck, turtleneck, boat neck, bateau, crew neck, or square neck (tank top), the fit narrowed slightly at the waist and extended down a bit longer in the late 1960s. Bright solid colors went with everything, patterns in trippy/psychedelic prints were fun for teens, and horizontal stripes were popular on tank tops.
Mock / Turtleneck Shirts
The mock neck and turtleneck (roll collar) knit shirts in sleeveless or long sleeves have become icons of the 1960s. They were perfect for a decade still trying to be modest, yet sleek enough for the mod generation. The Beatniks wore them in black, the young mods in white, teens loved stripes, and everyone else picked colors to contrast with their bottoms.
Collarless pullover knit shirts with bateau necklines were equally as common. Mock necks, also called stovepipe necklines, were an alternative. Pullovers fit slim in the arms and straight around the body. Bold geometric prints paired with solid colored stretch pants is a classic 60s outfit.
Sporty Knit Shirts
For the most casual days and as some sportswear (gym clothes), women popped on simple knit tops. Some of those styles were:
- Henley shirts – Short sleeves with white contrast piping and 3-4 buttons down the neck, no collar.
- T-shirts – Not quite as as we know them today, these retro t-shirts were high crew-neck with a tight fit, “ringer” necks and sleeves, in solids or stripes. Hippies took plain T-shirts and tie-dyed them. Some casual knit shirts were heavy woven ribbed knits, much like they had been for the past 40 years.
- Polo shirts – Knit collar shirts with a long button down plaquette, these tops were made for sports like tennis.
- Knit tank tops – Mentioned above, these fit in this sporty casual category, too.
- 1960s Women’s Pants Styles
- 1960s Outfit Ideas for Women
- 1960s Hippie Fashion Overview
- 1960s Makeup and Beauty Products
- 1950s Tops and Blouse Styles
Now that you know what the most popular 60s shirts, tops and blouses looked like you can incorporate them into your retro vintage wardrobes. Many of the styles have returned in recent years while other remain elusive. A classic button down blouse, turtleneck shirt, Victorian blouse, and retro T-shirt will be the easiest to find in plain colors. Here are some we found online to get you started: