An Overview of Fashion in the 1970’s

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Fashions in the 1970s were far more relaxed than those in the 1960s before, many emerging design showed signs of nostalgia with designers taking influence from previous decades. Laura Ashley was noted as being heavily influenced by Edwardian style dresses and prints. Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba label produced a 20s/30s influenced look with long cotton skirts, long sleeved shirts or smock and a floppy brimmed hat. The use of 30s inspired colourings, the two tone black and cream or brown and cream, could be seen in shoes and ‘office work wear’ styles.

By looking back the fashion designers were still continuing the new fashion trends for the new ideas, ideologies and social freedoms that were sought for both men and women.

Distinct fashion styles for certain youth groups became apparent again through this decade in the attempt of identification of the differing subcultures. Several mainstream trends came and went such as the glam fashion (David Bowie inspired) and disco fashion. (John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever 1977) The hippie/ethnic fashion trends of flared jeans, tie die shirts, peasant blouses, hair-bands and sandals continued from the sixties. More influence from other cultures became incorporated as social awareness of social and environmental issues increased.

In the early seventies the short skirts and ‘hot pants’ launched by Mary Quant in the 60s were still very popular, dresses however were available for all in three established lengths, the mini (as the mini skirt), the midi (calf length) and the maxi (ankles). Long flowing ‘boho’ skirts and the inspired hippie styles were very popular.

Footwear started to become more exotic with the platform shoes that appeared in the early seventies, their huge soles of several inches thickness for mainly women and some men! Health warnings accompanied this fashion about potential damage to your back, however you do not hear many people saying they injured their back in the 70s wearing platform shoes although my mother blames a pair of winkle pickers for her bunions.

Men’s clothing continued on the brighter flamboyant note from the previous decade. Flared denim jeans, once a symbol of manual work and now a fashion statement, along with a cheesecloth shirt is perhaps the most common image associated with men from the 70s. However the glitter, heels, bright colours and disco-wear was available for all genders as the trends passed through.

Lapels on all shirts and jackets grew in size and the kipper tie appeared to be necessary for the smarter male outfit. Longer hair and beards were considered very fashionable for men, the hippie and psychedelic influences were still in the fashion statements although the pop music had started to move on.

By the end of the seventies it was socially acceptable for most people to wear jeans and mostly flared jeans at that. Printed T-shirts became very popular in this decade along with trainers and canvas shoes. The inspiration and ideals behind the hippie styles from the late 60s were not as apparent in society but the fashions stayed.

Then Punk Fashion emerged onto the scene with the original Punk band, The Sex Pistols. The legendary Vivien Westwood was the partner of The Sex Pistols’ promoter, Malcolm McLaren, and is credited with creating the original Punk look.

This look was based around black leather, ripped denim and slogans on T-shirts intended to provoke and insult people who thought along what was considered mainstream ideals. The punk message was ‘destroy’. This destruction was of anything considered as mainstream good taste. Spiked hair dyed bright colours and second hand clothes ripped to shreds to demonstrate a rejection of the accepted fashions and ideals. The punk trend continued well into the 1980s.

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