1970s style clothing: a study in contrasts
Platform shoes, bell-bottom jeans and pants, Angel Flight suits, tube tops, disco, and glam rock made 1970s clothing styles very memorable. Trends influenced by the androgynous hippie look and miniskirts of the 1960s were a constant presence throughout the decade. The hippie look, with its frayed jeans, tie-dye clothes, and peasant blouses, was particularly popular in the early 70s. Clothing styles influenced by glam rock were in vogue in the first half of the decade, whereas disco defined late 70s fashion for both sexes.
The length of skirts and dresses has changed from mini to midi and maxi. Ankle-length maxi skirts were often paired with platform shoes. Although platform shoes were not an intrinsically new concept, they were popular like never before during 70s. Women and girls wore dressy and casual shoes, sandals, boots, and espadrilles with two to four inch platforms. When the disco style clothing became mainstream in mid- to late 70s, men wore platform shoes with Angel Flight suits and other disco style clothes. Famous glam rock musicians of the day, David Bowie, T. Rex, Gary Glitter, and Marc Bolan further popularized platform shoes. Vivienne Westwood re-introduced platform shoes to high fashion in the 1990s. The designer used five-inch platform shoes as statement accessories in her collections.
Shiny fabrics and lots of glitter, defining many of the early to mid- 1970s clothing styles, can be attributed to the influence of glam rock. Rhine-stone decorated satin pants and denim were paired with sequined, lurex, or metallic colored tight-fitting tops. Lame suits for men and dresses for women, silver or satin jackets, and fitted blazers dominated the mainstream clothing.
In addition to platform shoes, the early 70s clothing styles included hot pants, very short and tight shorts. Although their popularity was brief, hot pants are still available online nowadays, featured among corky vintage clothes.
The first half of the decade is also notable for Diane von Furstenberg’s jersey knit wrap dress. The front-closure dress was an instant hit and had a tremendous influence on the dress styles of the 70s and 90s. Apart from the wrap dress, the 1970s style clothing styles offered Empire dresses, maxi dresses, and loose-fitting, high-necked dresses referred to as ‘granny dresses’. Stylish maxi dresses and caftans designed by Thea Porter had a distinct bohemian vibe.
Dresses and blouses often featured wide sleeves without gathered cuffs, or ‘angel sleeves’. Angel sleeves were originally introduced in the 1960s and are still used in the mainstream clothing nowadays. Disco music inspired design of halter and one-shoulder dresses devoid of zippers, buttons, and movement-constraining elements. Pioneered by Halston, such draped dresses were perfect for disco.
Glamorous party dresses, embellished with ornate beading and fashion-forward cut outs were a trend of their own in the elite circles. Loris Azzaro introduced and developed this style of colorful daring clothes. Their popularity has not declined since the 70s. Original Azzaro’s pieces are coveted vintage items.
Male fashion experienced a brief popularity of three-piece suits. The suits included a vest, fitted jacket, and flared pants. The extreme disco version of the suit was called Angel Flight suit. In order to realize its potential, Angel Flight suit had to be paired with a shiny, preferably satin, shirt with a big collar.
Emanuel Ungaro introduced a more structured, tailored, and timeless take on suits in his 1973 line for men, Ungaro Uomo. The line, high fashion in quality and novelty, was very wearable.
Apart from the disco trend, clothing styles of the second half of the 70s were influenced by the peasant motives presented by Yves Saint Laurent in his 1976 collection. Embroidery, floral patterns, tiered skirts, and peasant blouses were in vogue.
Frayed, flared, hipster, or straight jeans were worn with custom t-shirts or tucked-in shirts and platform shoes. Lee, Levi’s, Wrangler, Jordache, Gloria Vanderbilt were very popular brands.
Thus, 1970s clothing styles experimented with numerous novel and edgy elements. While not all of them experienced the longevity of a wrap dress, they certainly succeeded in making 70s a unique and memorable decade.
Azzaro, Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, Diane von Furstenberg, Lee, Levi’s, Wrangler, Jordache brands are available through their websites.