Two years after the Paris 1968 student riots, Parisian couturier Jacques Esterel launched a timely couture collection for men and women that responded to the shifting gender ideals of the time. Resplendent with matching his and hers outfits and unisexwear, Esterel’s looks seemed to reflect a breakdown of the fashion system and the gender issues that were a result of the zeitgeist; an exemplar that periods of crisis are not only foreshadowed by, but also directly result in, changes in systems of dress.
The term ‘unisex’, rather fittingly, was coined in the Sixties. Prefixing ‘sex’ with ‘uni–‘ (meaning ‘one’) in the context of fashion refers to a single garment or aesthetic that is shared by both sexes. It suggests that a garment or hairstyle is not engendered and can be worn by either sex without connotations of masculine or feminine.
Jeans are one of the most powerful clothing icons of the twentieth-century. Famously named after the French town of Nîmes where the characteristic twill that forms the denim fabric originated, the etymological origin of the word is surprisingly literal: the simplification of the phrasing ‘de Nîmes’ into a single noun.
Austrian-American designer Rudi Gernreich is best known for his topless bathing suit, or the ‘monokini’ as it was dubbed, embodied by Peggy Moffitt. However the designer’s influence was more profound: from his involvement in the early strands of America’s gay rights movement, to his bold and often controversial statements he made as a designer that questioned the role of fashion in culture.