Friday, February 11, 2011

In the Mood for Mod

mod n (Sociology) Brit:
-An unconventionally modern style of fashionable dress originating in England in the 1960s
-A member of a group of teenagers in the mid-1960s, noted for their clothes-consciousness and opposition to the rockers

Mod was Post-Beatnik, Pre-Hippy, and quintessentially British. Mods admired all things Italian and were attracted to whatever seemed most "modern" (hence the name). Op-art inspired textiles in graphic geometrics and a strict Mondrian-like palette of black, white and primaries were the trends. British designer Mary Quant invented both the mini skirt and the hot pant, while Rudy Gernreich and Pierre Cardin provided abstract shapes and silhouettes for the first Space-Age generation.

Like all big fashion trends Mod was inextricably linked to its own music (ska, Brit-beat, American R & B and soul), dance crazes (there was often speed-fueled, all-night clubbing), television (such as "Ready Steady Go!" a British music program that exposed England and the world to acts like Manfred Mann), and transportation preferences (Vespa scooters were choice, with, inexplicably, as many mirrors as was possible to attach to them - sometimes as many as 30).

By the late 60's the Mod's subculture had been co-opted by the mainstream media for profit, and the whole thing lost its cachet. An odd offshoot of the mod/ ska sector evolved into skinheads in Britain, and are sometimes associated with Mod due to a shared fondness for peg-leg pants and short hair (both uncharacteristic at the time for young people)....but they are not really philosophically related.

For me, Mod represents a time of simultaneous exploration and restraint in fashion. How "out there" could one get using only black and white and the two basic shapes of skinny legging and A-line dress? Ok, you can only use circles and squares - now, go design! I also love how this sleek, modernistic look was paired with rebellion and soul music. The 60's were just the craziest time for teenagers to figure out who they were outside of their post-war parents and grand-parents still gun-shy from the depression, while simultaneously trying to grasp new ideas of plastics, rocketships and robots.

 Eyewear and Apparel by Pierre Cardin

Judging by the shoes in this photo, this is probably taken recently (I just can't find the info on the pic), but shoes aside, the feeling's 100% Mod.

Muse Model Peggy Moffit in Rudy Gernreich


Moffit Wanna-bes 

60's icon Twiggy

Diana Rigg, as Emma Peel, influenced the Brits with her fashion-forward wardrobe for five years before "The Avengers" ever even aired in the US (in 1966).

You've probably noted by now that this seems to be the preferred stance for serious Mods.

Still from the film "Quadraphenia", based on The Who's rock operetic homage to 1964 London. (Note the six mirrors on his scooter.)

The Chocolate Watchmen


Goldie Hawn in sock-it-to-me mode. Ok, I know "Laugh-in" was a little late to be mod (and much too commercial to be cool) but something about her here speaks to the underlying idea....and what I really want to show is next.....

Mattel issued a limited edition Sock-it-to-me Goldie Barbie - is this not the coolest, cutest thing you have EVER seen? Amazing! Sometimes the world makes good things.


  1. George Vreeland HillAugust 20, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    I grew up in the 1960's.
    It was a great time to be a kid.
    There was space travel, great music no matter what type you liked, cool TV shows, fun toys, respect for others, packed churches, fun vacations, safe places to go and on and on.
    Oh how I wish I could go back in time.

    George Vreeland Hill

  2. PS. I know it's been a while since you've posted this, but I just wanted to let you know that that b&w fashion editorial you posted with the more recent shoes and those ladies dressed in mod-inspired clothes is from Balenciaga. According to my prelim google image search, and this website ( ... apparently it's Balenciaga's Fall '06 collection.

    Random. But hope that helped in case you wanted to find more images from that editorial.

    Cheers :)

  3. Fantastic post and images. The Mod movement is so inspiring!

    Id love it if you would check out my blog, and make a comment if you feel compelled.