The 1970s were a decade of fashion extremes and this is what cemented it as one of the most stylish eras of all time. No single look encompassed the 70s, which was an eclectic mix of style influences that evolved quickly in the span of a decade such as hippie, disco and punk. Hot pants, tight shorts in eye catching colours and fabrics epitomised the limited impact of the women’s liberation movement on fashion. Flares on trousers grew wider and the floor length maxi and calf length midi arrived as alternatives to the mini skirt. While there were a variety of different looks for the decade most of them incorporated eye-catching colours and patterns, and interesting textures such as satin, suede, and corduroy. Denim was the fabric of the decade, brushed, patched, coloured and decorated.
Essential 70s pieces included bell-bottom and wide-leg trousers, platform shoes, knitted vests, long collared shirts, tight tees, turtleneck sweaters, and leisure suits amongst many others. Both men and women attended unisex hair salons to get shag haircuts, wore high waisted trousers and platform shoes. In fact this was the first time in history that women began to wear trousers more than dresses or skirts, especially in the workplace as many women wore trouser suits with silk bow blouses to the office. The general silhouette of the 70s was long and lean with lots of hair, a look for both sexes that gave the era an androgynous appeal.
70s fashion in general was greatly influenced by the music that was popular at the time. One of the most popular styles of music was Disco and it spawned it’s very own fashion craze. Young people gathered in nightclubs dressed in clothing that was designed to show off the body and shine under dancefloor lights. The genre also gave us some of the most memorable fashion moments of the 70s, such as Bianca Jagger trotting into Studio 54 upon a white horse. Disco started as an underground movement but the film ‘Saturday Night Fever’ helped turn the simmering subculture into a mainstream fad. John Travolta’s iconic look gave rise to the ‘medallion man’ with droopy moustaches, afros, satin shirts open to the waist and tight waisted flared trousers. Oxford bags with high waists and large side pockets also made a comeback as they were great for pulling off elaborate dance moves.
Disco encouraged the fashion for satin hot pants and stretchy tops but the most famous disco look for women was the jersey wrap dress, a knee-length dress with a cinched waist and a ballerina wrap top. Originally designed by Diane Von Furstenberg, it became an extremely popular item as it was a flattering style on most figures and could take you from desk to disco. Another important designer of the time was Halston who created a new evening look that was sexy, free and easy going. Halston's designs was usually quite minimalist yet sophisticated, glamorous and comfortable at the same time. He liked to use soft, luxurious fabrics like silk and chiffon. He favoured the bias cut, a technique which caused fabrics to fall naturally over the body, creating sensuous curves and soft drapes. Other brands followed Halston’s designs incorporating halter necks, glittering fabrics, and floating chiffons into eveningwear gowns. Women’s 70s clothing could be very glamorous at discos with sequins, metallics, caftans and revealing dresses but many opted for items that would be practical for dancing such as jumpsuits, bell bottoms or palazzo pants which were trousers that flowed like a skirt. Pair them with high heels or platform shoes to get an authentic seventies look.
When we think of the 1970s, hippie fashion immediately comes to mind. The look began developing in the late 60s and peaked in the early 70s, making items such as bell-bottoms, tie-dye tops, headbands, embroidered folk designs and flowing scarves a part of mainstream fashion. The hippie movement was in full swing at the beginning of the decade and it showed in the flowing, floral patterns that decorated many dresses from that era. Hippie culture introduced a new interest in rural living and handicrafts. As such they wore simple garments based on European peasant costume, American pioneer clothing and ethnic styles. Hippie outfits often featured unique, colourful designs. While cuts were kept simple and styles remained casual, the trend was bold and expressive. Denim, suede, bright prints and flares all played a significant role in hippie fashion. Shirts and dresses were loose, soft, and easy to sew. Many loose fitting items of the hippy movement were cheaply made in the Far East but maxi length Edwardian style prairie dresses in natural fabrics made Laura Ashley the most popular British designer. Some hippies chose to make denim skirts out of blue jeans by opening up the inside leg seams and stitching them back together. They often finished it off with a lace or embroidered trim. Recycle and upcycle was the name of the game. Birkenstock sandals emerged in 1967 and were quickly picked up by hippies. The contoured footbed and earth tone colours fit right in at festivals, concerts and rallies. Clogs and boots were also popular choices for hippie footwear.
Charity Shop Chic
As people looked to clothing for self-expression, they needed new places to shop for clothes. However the oil crisis of 1973 threw the Western world into recession. A poor economy and mass youth unemployment meant that people looked for affordable clothing that expressed their individuality. Wearing retro clothing made it easy to look different. During the 70s vintage clothing could be found for next to nothing. As a result second hand clothing became so popular it developed its own ‘charity shop chic’ aesthetic. Charity shops allowed people to purchase otherwise unaffordable items of clothing. Dresses, jackets, coats and accessories from the early part of the century were mixed with jeans and other more modern garments to create unique outfits.
While punk looks featured in the late 70s, the middle of the decade saw men adopt a glam rock style. This androgynous trend was particularly popular in the UK, where young men idolised flamboyant musicians such as Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Even the most masculine men started wearing makeup and grew their hair long. A major part of glam rock fashion was theatricality. Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust was supposed to be an alien rock superstar and he certainly looked like one in his spandex outfits and platform boots, made even more eye-catching with bright colours, glitter, metallics and animal print. Accessories in glam rock outfits were numerous and bold. Feather boas, bandannas, sunglasses and scarves were often worn without any regard for matching between items. The glam rock look included several key styles such as jumpsuits, satin shirts, velvet sports jackets, silk scarves, leather jackets, oversized collars, flared trousers and platform shoes.
Anarchy In The UK
The anarchic street style of punks was also hugely influential in the 1970s. Punk was more than just a music genre, it was a political movement. Punk culture was anti-establishment, a response to the declining economy and rising unemployment. They rebelled against both the hippie movement and high society. A great deal of punk fashion was inspired by the designs of Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and her partner Malcolm McLaren as well as the clothes worn by members of the Bromley Contingent such as Siouxsie Sioux. The clothing represented their hostile view of the world and their dissatisfaction with the ideals of conformity. Punks cut up old clothes from charity shops, destroyed the fabric and refashioned garments in a way designed to shock and attract attention. Until this point in time, people had been encouraged to keep their clothes looking clean and pristine. This punk approach to modifying clothing had never been seen before. Safety pins and chains held bits of fabric together. Necklaces were made from padlocks and chains and even razor blades were used as accessories. This form of customisation used things such as rips, zips, studs, badges and patches as a political statement on the street. They wanted their clothes to deliver a message with slogans instead of logos.
Items of clothing that were frequently seen in punk outfits include customised t-shirts, leather jackets, blazers, ripped jeans and tartan bondage trousers. Punks often spiked their hair or shaved the sides to create a mohawk. Female punks rebelled against the stereotypical image of a woman by combining clothes that were delicate or pretty with masculine pieces such as Doc Martens and spiked leather jackets. They donned leather skirts with ripped fishnets and many scrawled slogans and band logos on t-shirts with marker pens. Dramatic makeup, body piercings and dyed hair were also an important part of the punk aesthetic.
It’s clear that the 70s were extremely diverse and influential in terms of fashion as many of these trends are still seen today. All of these styles can be recreated using modern pieces but for a true seventies look you can always shop for vintage clothing. We have many vintage 70s dresses and mens vintage jackets available in our shop.
We have a late 70’s disco themed wedding this summer and I’m after something great and extreme to wear. I’d in mind a jumpsuit, bright colours, flares, those sleeves that flare at the elbow, that type of thing, I’m size 10/12. I’m open to other ideas, but its got to be wild and quite frankly late 70’s cloths other than the glam rock thing we’re naff, I remember!
My partner has great memories of his Oxford bag trousers with super wide 6 button waist band and ultra baggy legs but just can’t find any for sale anywhere.
Can you help?