1970s Festival Style and Peasant Maxi Dresses
We have seen a revival of the ankle sweeping maxi dress over the last couple of years and it can still be seen in Spring-Summer collections for this year. They all take their inspiration from the seventies from the slinky backless halter necks to prairie style ditsy floral styles perfect for music festivals.
Back in the 1970s many of the fabrics were easy care, such as crimplene. They could be packed in a suitcase, pulled out and be ready to wear. Many were made in plain colours, such as red or emerald green. Prints were often cheery florals, stripes and checks but paisley, psychedelic and abstract prints proved just as popular. The cotton maxi dresses tend to have floral prints with Broderie Anglais trims.
Laura Ashley was famous for her milkmaid styles. Others have ethnic or border prints which increase in density as they get closer to the hemline. Others have deep frills at the hem. Zips were mostly still metal, usually at the back with a hook and eye at the top.
Designer Vintage Maxi Dresses
Designers such as John Bates under the name Jean Varon produced a collection of very flamboyant sixties and early seventies maxi dresses, with features such as huge chiffon sleeves or floaty attached capes. Others have hand-painted designs or strong medieval features. They were the perfect dinner party hostess dress, especially because the hostess trolley meant they could get everything ready and then go and get changed into something totally impractical for the kitchen! Among the best and more popular maxi dress labels are Jean Varon, Dereta, Katy, Biba and Julie. I have also had some great designs from stores like St Michael, Richard Shops, C&A and Chelsea Girl.
Customising A 1970s Maxi Dress
At Revival, we used to shorten a lot of our 70s maxi dresses but we have started to leave them at their original length, especially with the growing popularity of longer length ladylike skirts. With my own maxi dresses, I will wear them long and then once I am bored with that look I will shorten them and add layers to give the dress an entirely different vintage vibe.
Seventies Evening Maxi Dresses
Halternecks were another popular dress style in the 70s. A lot have deep waistbands, cross over bodices and scooped backs.
In many ways, the plunging back that resulted from the halter neck style evoked the sleek lines of the French designer Madeleine Vionnet’s bias-cut creations of the 1930s. One of the advantages of this neckline was that it exposed a fair bit of flesh which suited sun worshipers as they could show off their tans.
We have had some superb examples of full-length evening dresses often black with black or silver lurex. Glitzy silver was the ultimate disco colour. 1976 Vogue magazine declared 'dressing was clearly about all-out glamour to outshine everything'.
1970s Dresses Maxi Or Midi Length
Seventies fashion also included midi dresses which were a mid-calf length. The silhouette is often the same as the maxis but of course, the hemline is shorter. Many had shirt style tops and a half belt to the back. There was creative use of stripes to create chevrons and patterns. Here are some genuine 70s midi dresses available now on the website at the time of writing.