Firstly, Op-art is not to be confused with Pop-art. Whilst artists such as Andy Warhol saw their images scattered over female bodies in the streets, another style had emerged. It conveyed images and patterns such as optical illusions, rather than the colour brights associated with the 60’s.
The term Op-Art was conceived by Time Magazine in 1964 and described the monochrome geometric patterns and shapes that were beginning to be seen in the world of designers. Artists like Bridget Riley and Victor Vaserely had a major impact on the way this revolutionary fashion began to develop. It was their prints and patterns that inspired designers to create pieces around the art. Whilst skirts soared from full length to mini, artistic novelties replaced old patterns and shapes became streamline and basic. Thus, the shift dress was created.
Yves St Laurent was clearly inspired by modernist artist Mondrian (1920) in the iconic shift dress featured on the cover of French Vogue in 1965. The dress featured as a key item in the ‘Mondrian collection’ and was an instant success as mass duplicates hit the streets.
The way people dressed had changed dramatically and suddenly in a matter of only a few years. Skin was on show and sexuality embraced. Women developed identities and personal style in extreme ways which embraced the optical seductions. The radical change from 1950’s swing skirts and cinched waists to shapelessly flattering shift dresses and mini skirts was a key turning point for the fashion industry. Signifying the beginnings of independence and equality, fashion was used as a statement, and these bold pieces certainly made one.