Sixties style will always be cool. Sure, it’s been infinitely reproduced, lampooned and documented, but the quintessential mod-girl style of the ’60s has become so iconic that it’s almost transcended the generation of its origin.
So, when did it all begin? Easy answer: the ’60s. But, the culture of the big haired, crazy-print-clad, doe-eyed vixen owes a huge debt to Jacqueline Susann and her seminal novel, Valley of the Dolls (Grove Atlantic, July 4, 2016), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Valley of the Dolls is a classic coming-of-age tale that follows the lives of three friends, Anne, Neely and Jennifer, as they search for fame -– and find self-destruction instead. The novel follows the women through the decades as they achieve Hollywood success while also struggling through objectification, jealousy and, most famously, addiction to pills (the eponymous “dolls” of ’60s slang). The novel was adapted into a 1967 film that’s probably as famous for its Andre Previn soundtrack as it is for being one of the few screen appearances of Sharon Tate, who was murdered by the Manson family two years after the film’s release.
The 50th anniversary of this novel is worth celebrating. At the time of its original 1966 publication, Valley of the Dolls was seen as rather pulpy, sensational and somewhat shallow; however, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, social media addiction and viral fame, the story of three young women who are ultimately destroyed by their desire for celebrity resonates strongly. Over-valuing the glamour of ’60s style is one of the reasons the three heroines of the novel self-destruct so chaotically and so completely.
While it’s fun to wear styles from the ’60s and try to recreate the big hair look, it’s worth revisiting Valley of the Dolls for the less stylish aspects of its story. The desire to be a superstar, the pain of betrayal, the lure of our most profound addictions; these are emotional themes that remain relevant today, even if they still feel somewhat soap-y.