Carnaby: One swinging street, 100 years of fashion

It wasn’t just hip in the 1960s. Carnaby has been synonymous with cool for a century, says Rebecca Gonsalves

Carnaby Street may be best known as the setting for the counterculture of the Swinging Sixties, but a new project launched yesterday explores a neat century of music heritage in the warren-like locale squeezed between Soho and Covent Garden.

The street and its surrounds have changed much over the century that spans from the opening of jazz club Murray’s on Beak Street in 1913, via the hippies and mods of the 1960s and the punks of the 1970s to the present day in which a pedestrianised shopping area is home to brands with indelible links to the music scene such as Pretty Green and Fred Perry.

1910s Only those truly on the cutting edge would have ditched the feminine ruffles and flounces that lingered into the 20th century by 1913, but the First World War soon put paid to such fripperies as working women soon demanded more practical garments. Hats and headpieces were still de rigueur, although a knee-length dress would be rather recherché.

1920s Flapper chic – all dropped waists, beads and fringes – is one of the definitive styles of the Roaring Twenties, a time synonymous with the smoky jazz clubs dotted around London. The nightclubs of Carnaby Street would have been filled with young women competing for the affections of the survivors of the war by slinking and shimmying around in fox-fur stoles.

1930s The glamour and escapism of Hollywood inspired the early 1930s, after the fun times of the previous decade were brought to a sudden halt by the Wall Street Crash. When the Depression hit, hemlines fell back to the floor, while a softer, draped silhouette harked back to a more traditional ideal of romance and femininity inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

1940s With the return of war came the return of utility-inspired dressing for women, while clothing rations led to furnishing fabrics being used for dressmaking. Tea dresses in floral fabrics were created with wide shoulders, narrow waists and pleated skirts just above the knee.

1950s As the “teenager” emerged in the post-war era, identified by marketers and social scientists, the influence from American culture was great once again. Rockabilly styles, popular the first time around in the 1950s, have seen a resurgence in recent years, inspired by pin-ups such as Bettie Page.

1960s The Swinging Sixties were a time of huge importance as revolution and counterculture were on the rise among young “women’s libbers” and fashion was dominated by Mary Quant and the miniskirt, Vidal Sassoon and his five-point cut, and model Twiggy. Bright, bold colours and psychedelic patterns were typical of the simplified shapes, reflecting LSD hallucinations.

1970s Once hems could go no higher, they began to fall again, reflecting the tumble the optimism of the 1960s took. Flower power prevailed, however, as designers went back to nature for inspiration for their louche, floor-skimming dresses. The bohemian vibe continued with Spice Trail touches including turbans and rich colours and prints.

1980s Everything went big: hair, aspirations and mobile phones, as women began to be taken seriously in the traditionally male-dominated world of work for the first time. Heavily padded shoulders were a sign of strength, while jewel colours reinforced ideas of luxury and wealth.

1990s While catwalk fashion may have taken a more minimal and conceptual direction in the 1990s, street style was heavily influenced by the music scene. Rave culture was all about smiley-adorned pieces teamed with sportswear, while Britpop fans returned to the mod styles of the 1960s with fishtail parkas and feathered haircuts.

2000s With the rise of fast fashion, the shelf life of trends became shorter and shorter, and so in the past decade we cycled through boho, rock chic and bodycon, the latter favoured by a certain faction of the pop charts, Wags and reality TV stars who insisted on keeping bandage dresses and stacked platform heels on life support.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Life and Style
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
REX/Eye Candy
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Are you a Secondary School teacher looking for work in Suffolk?

    £105 - £140 per day + Competitive pay: Randstad Education Cambridge: Teaching ...

    Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

    £85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...


    £130 - £131 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ks1 teacher required for m...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?