Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in the village of Tintwistle, Derbyshire on 8 April 1941; the daughter of Gordon Swire and Dora Swire (née Ball), whom had married two years previously, in 1939, just two weeks after the outbreak of World War II. At the time of Vivienne's birth, her father was employed as a storekeeper in an aircraft factory, however he had previously worked as a greengrocer.
Aged 17, Vivienne and her family moved, to Harrow, London. She studied at the Harrow School of Art, taking fashion and silversmithing, but left because after one term, saying "I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could possibly make a living in the art world". After taking up a job in a factory and studying at a teacher-training college, Vivienne became a primary school teacher. During this period she also created her own jewellery, which she would sell at a stall on Portobello Road.
Vivienne met Derek Westwood, a Hoover factory aprentice, in 1961 in Harrow. On 21 July 1962 Vivienne Swire married Derek Westwood and Vivienne made her own wedding dress for the ceremony. In 1963 Westwood gave birth to a son, named Benjamin Westwood.