The 1960s was a decade of transition from classic, tailored, feminine silhouettes to liberating girlish and shapeless simplicity. Women’s tops, blouses and shirts repeated many of the changes found in 60s dresses wile also taking more masculine designs and adapting them to the young women’s body.
Separates, instead of dresses, were making up the majority of women’s wardrobes which 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 is classic blouse-shirts, comfort knit pullovers, tunics, tank tops, and soft blouses 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 stipes, paisley, rustic florals and country patterns shared space with psychedelic, mod or 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” that fit square around the torso, cut straight along the hem, with fitted arms and a small collar. They looked more and more like men’s shirts every year.
Shirt-jackets or jacket-shirts were one style of overblouse women loved. They usually came in exotic prints, satin materials or brocade trimmed heavy weight fabrics.
Button down blouses and most slipover tops had collars. The came in a few different collar styles:
- Italian collar was a fold out unbuttoned collar that perched above the shoulders. It was a carry over from the 1950s and only lasted a few more years.
- Classic point collar 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 could also be buttoned up.
- Bermuda collar- A very small round peterpan collar, buttoned up, and lay flat around the high neck.
- Collarless blouses were also trendy and very simple in the early to mid 60s.
- Mandarin collar, also called a band neck or grandad collar, could be made in a contrasting white fabric (very mod!)
- Oversized collars became the new look in the late 60s. Exaggerated point collars and round peterpan collars lead the fashion revolution in the 1970s.
In the early 60s the long tunic blouse-shirt with 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 ethnics 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 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 or any age as long as she was comfortable showing off her arms (or wore a light cardigan sweater over it.) Short cap sleeves were added to some shell tops for more coverage too.
The shell top, when made of a knit fabric, became the tank top or 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 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 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 stretch pants is a typical 60s outfit.
Sporty Knit Shirts
For the most casual days and some sportswear (gym clothes) women popped on simple knit tops. Some of those styles were:
- Henley shirts- short sleeves with white contrast pipping and 3-4 button down, no collar.
- T-shirts – not T-shirt as we know them today, these retro t-shirts were high crew-neck, with a tight fit, “ringer” necks and sleeves, plain 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 shirt with a long button down plaquette, these tops were made for sportswear, like tennis
- Knit tank tops, mentioned above, fit in this sporty casual category too.
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: