Please yourself,” was the catchword of the “me” decade. At first, Seventies fashion was a continuation of the Sixties hippie look, and though mini skirts, bell bottoms and long hair survived, by the mid-Seventies that look was definitively over.
The early Seventies was the beginning of the disco era: shimmery polyester fabrics such as gold lamé, off-the-shoulder jumpsuits, hot pants and platforms. Spandex and Lycra made sexy, tight-fitting but comfortable jumpsuits and dresses.
Trousers began gently flared and reached the wide bell-bottom proportions by the mid-Seventies. They then narrowed slightly down to straight and wide, and by the end of the Seventies they were narrow again. Trousers would be worn with small knitted short vests and waistcoats in any length.
T-shirts had gone from being underwear to becoming widely sported, hand-dyed or bearing slogans. The mini skirt was joined by midi and maxi.
The jumpsuit, initially from the World War II years – and used in the late Sixties as comfortable hostess wear – would in the Seventies glam up, and was often made from chiffon. It was colourful, with flared legs and was sleeveless or had long bell sleeves.
Vintage-inspired Edwardian style became hugely popular. There was the Granny dress, with its high neck pie-crust frilled, often made from floral print design. Then there were the angel-sleeved, higher-fitting, empire-waisted, long flowing dresses, with occasional prairie elements like ruffled tiers or corset ties. Vintage clothing could be found in London at Portobello and Camden markets. One Seventies designer, Ossie Clark, would use this look for inspiration, and Mick Jagger was said to wear authentic Edwardian clothes for photo shoots and on stage.
In the Seventies every type of ethnic image set a trend: gypsy tops made in cheesecloth or light cotton, Tibetan and Chinese quilted jackets, and Indian imported cotton voile dresses in bright pinks, sea greens and cornflower blues.
Not many accessories were worn. Most women would carry a small leather shoulder bag and wore shoes like Mary Janes, knee-high boots with rounded toes, platform shoes, sandals, Birkenstocks and loafers.
Making your own clothes remained popular: hand-knitted jumpers, macramé bags and crouched clothes (including swimming costumes and bikinis.)
Diane Von Furstenberg invented the jersey knit wrap dress in 1972. It became a symbol of female empowerment – easy to wear, practical and functional for women of all body types and backgrounds.
Punk style was born in London as part of a rebellious, aggressive and anarchic movement. Punks bought clothes from charity and thrift shops, cut them up and wore them with padlocks and chains and razor blades used as pendants.
Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes are both punk-influenced designers of the Seventies. Punk style was another form of androgynous wear and women combined masculine and feminine elements in their look. A feminine dress would often be worn with vintage lace-up combat boots.
The Seventies have been called a fashion disaster, and the fashion decade best forgotten. True, there are elements best left behind, such as headbands. However I have many fond memories of my teens sporting most of the above trends – and now they’re back.
Were the 1970s really a fashion disaster? Inger Moss investigates