Introduction — An Overview of Women’s Fashion in the 70’s
The year 1970 came in with almost no predominant look. You could see women wearing Indian block print bedspread dresses, tie-dye tee shirts, hip-hugger jeans, Afros, boots, dirndl skirts, maxi-coats and micro-mini — a mix and match of every kind of style of the day. The early 1970’s still had a 1960’s feel, with the three major fads being chunky platform shoes, long dresses in the daytime, and hot pants. Hot pants were a kind of short but made with luxurious material like satin and velvet, and were inappropriately worn in the winter rather than the summer. A short-lived fad, they were all the rage in 1971, but they didn’t actually come from haute couture designers. Hot pants came from small European boutiques, and, for the first time, the ladies were pushing the fashion trends with designers picking up on the style in response.
Around 1973, the style of the seventies started to come into its own. Skirt lengths varied from mid calf to mid knee, and there was a slight conservative backlash with the midi. Silk blouses became stylish. Suddenly women wanted better quality clothing again and while silk wasn’t cheap, it was within a workingwoman’s reach. Silk blouses were sexy, and sexy was
classy. That was what the women of the mid to late seventies wanted — class.
Silk blouses were sexy, and sexy was classy.
That was what the women of the mid to late
seventies wanted — class.
In the mid-seventies, a greater number of women than ever before were entering the workforce in a professional career capacity, and they needed suits and professional clothing. So the question became, "What kind of clothing does a dress-for-success woman wear?" Of course they needed suits and more conservative dresses, but they didn’t want to wear the same drab colors a man wore —a look that said, “Could a man wear this if it had pants instead of a skirt?” seemed too masculine. Too masculine was overkill, so the classic way to soften the professional woman’s suit was with a bow at the neck.
Women were wearing trousers, not always skirts at the office. They had a lot more colors to
work with than their male counterparts, or they could choose a floral or print dress with a blazer. Mary Tyler Moore’s professional wardrobe, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (one of the first shows I remember seeing as a child), would be the forerunner of this “dress-for-success look.”
Palazzo pants became the sort of anti-mini skirt. While I don't think Mary Tyler Moore's character ever wore these on the show, they certainly were popular around this time. When mentioning them to my mother she exclaimed, "Those were SO comfortable! I LOVED them!" Palazzo pants were very long and wide, using as much as four yards of fabric for each leg. They looked elegant and were comfortable but weren’t always practical for wearing outside your own home. Perhaps you could wear them at a dinner party you threw at your house? Shoes could catch the hemline, and the pants couldn’t really be pulled up like a skirt when sitting down. In fact, in the seventies, pants had more variations in any given year than the entire decade of the 1950’s!
Palazzo pants were very long and wide, using as much as four yards of fabric for each leg. They looked elegant and were comfortable but weren’t always practical for wearing outside your own home.
Perhaps you could wear them at a dinner party you threw at your house?
Fabrics, textures, borrowed men's wear,
in colors and prints that would replace
the rigidity of formal suits of past decades.
As the 1970's progressed, suits became mixed and matched which gave them a more layered and textured feel. Some examples of this are found in both The Eyes of Laura Mars and Sette Note in Nero (aka, The Psychic, American release title). Non-suit suits were even more creative. Diane Keaton created her look for the film Annie Hall in 1977. It became one of the biggest influences of the decade of fashion in film. It's a layered look of fabrics, textures, borrowed men's wear,in colors and prints that would replace the rigidity of formal suits of past decades. Once again women were driving their own personal style and historically, this was a pretty big deal.
were driving their
own personal style —
historically, this was a pretty big deal.
Both men and women also started to become more health conscious in the 70’s, and working out came into vogue. Some of the workout styles started to extend into daily wear. For example, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, jazz or ballet class clothing might be seen mixed with casual wear like a wrap skirt over a leotard and worn outside the dance class.
Blouse buttons went lower
& skirt slits went higher
Sexiness in clothing for women was slinky with expensive fabrics. Blouse buttons went lower and skirt slits went higher — although the latter wearer would be sent packing from a real office environment. Lingerie was doing big business. Silk and expensive fabrics were preferred, but, if you didn’t have the money, you could buy lingerie that looked expensive. 1 _________________________________________ 1 Ellen Melinkoff, What We Wore–An Offbeat History of Women’s Clothing, 1950-1984 pg165- 194 (Quill, New York, New York, 1984)