Monday, 7 August 2017


I love old magazines, so when I saw a 1963 copy of Flair magazine in an Oxfam bookshop, I bought it.  Flair was a monthly fashion magazine launched in 1960, and I remember reading it occasionally as a teenager.  (Sadly it died in 1970, merged into Woman's Journal).

Flair magazine, June 1963
It's fascinating, especially the ads.  We think of 1960s fashion as revolutionary - the era of miniskirts, Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon hair cuts, shift dresses, skinny rib jumpers,...  But really that was the later 60s, and it had barely started in 1963.

Many of the clothes shown look very formal, like the suit worn with long gloves, an organdie scarf  and a big hat (modelled by Grace Coddington?)

Admittedly that's from an article How to Stand Out in a Crowd and deals with  "important social events" such as weddings, race meeting, regattas and committee meetings.  (Committee meetings?? No committee I've ever been on had meetings that were important social events.)  But elsewhere in the magazine, too, the clothes look rather stiff by today's standards, and although the possibility of wearing 'slacks' is mentioned occasionally, none are actually shown.

A feature "Underneath it all" suggests one reason why the clothes look more stiff and formal than we are used to - you were supposed to wear a corset.  And perhaps they were more comfortable than earlier corsets, because "in these days of miraculous man-made fibres, a featherweight corselette or pantie girdle will exert real control for all figure types".    Even under slacks - the feature shows a "pantie girdle that gives a really smooth line under slacks",  reaching to just above the knee.  And they were made for slim women as well as "the most ample figure" (size 40 in. bust, that is).

There are several ads for different brands of corset in the magazine, including the famous Silhouette ads, showing corsets worn over a  kind of black body stocking.

As the suspenders attached to the Silhouette corsets show, women still wore stockings, not tights.

The magazine has a surprising number of ads for perfumes and perfumed products like talcum powder. (What happened to talcum powder?) Some of the French perfume brands still exist, and there's an ad for Chanel No. 5, already 40 years old in 1963.  But other names like Morny have gone, I think.

I was too young to be affected by most of this, though I did wear stockings for a short while . (Hated them.)  Women's clothes are so much freer and more comfortable now than in 1963 - a huge improvement.

 And... knitting.  There is a knitting pattern in the magazine, although perhaps you shouldn't really expect much woolly knitwear in a June issue.  It's a collarless cardigan knitted in two colours.

It's really not too bad - it wouldn't look too extraordinary if someone wore it now. The yarn is Lee Target Gaelic Floss, so I imagine something like a Shetland wool.  It's knitted mainly on 4.5mm needles, so possibly a DK weight.  For me, it's the most forward-looking thing in the magazine.  (But then, I'm a knitter.)


  1. I don't remember Flair but, likewise, I think I was more in to teen things then and my mother used to get very cross if I bought magazines (she never did because she felt they were a waste of money), so I used to stand in WH Smith, next to the displays and look through any I fancied. I do remember wearing a suit, even in my teenage years, though.

    I have quite a number of knitting patterns from old magazines that I can't quite part with. I have rediscovered them as part of a personal belonging edit prior to moving house. I love old journals and magazines. I have quite a few but mine are mainly 'Ideal Home' as the domestic interior is my major interest. However, now I have to decide whether to keep them - and the pattern sheets - or not, which is proving very thought-provoking....Where to store them....?

    1. I didn't wear a suit as a teenager, but I remember that straight skirts (with stockings of course) were very sophisticated and grown-up.

  2. Yes, there's a saying in vintage clothing circles that 'the 60s didn't really begin till 1963'. So much of what we think of as 50s carried on. I could probably do with one of those girdles, though couldn't bear to faff with stockings...

    1. Judging by this magazine, even 1963 is a bit early.


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