About the 1970s


This decade was defined in the early years by a return to a romantic look and moved on from the futuristic look of the sixties. Hippie fashion and ethnic prints and patterns continued. Hair was worn long, for young men as well as girls and a faded denim look pervaded the fashion scene. Patched and embroidered jeans were customised by youngsters and cheesecloth tops became the rage. 'Tie dye' was fashionable, and appliqué logos and symbols appeared on jackets and jeans. Bell bottom trousers continued and curly perms adorned young heads. Skirts became longer, reaching the floor; the 'maxi' dress had arrived. Platform shoes and boots were the required footwear for the young and patent leather and the 'wet look' was evident in shoes and handbags as well as jackets.

Street fashion was a new movement begun by Yves Saint Laurent in Paris; suddenly the gulf between the fashion houses and what was available in the shops was becoming very narrow. Trends for the young were accelerated by fashion magazines aimed at teenagers, and boutiques selling the latest fashions.

Laura Ashley had opened her first shop in Fulham, and was immediately a success with her return to a natural romantic look with tiny floral prints and long dresses with flounces and tucks. She produced a wedding dress range in white cotton, totally revolutionizing what brides wore. Laura and her husband Terence had begun their business by silk screen printing cotton fabric on their kitchen table and used floral images and tiny prints in subdued colours.

The socio economic downturn of 1973 persuaded designers to look to a more naturalistic design source and softer florals and pretty prints emerged, Liberty of London were producing small fabric designs in cotton lawn to make blouses and dresses, and even floral shirts for men.

In 1976, Malcolm McLaren launched the pop group 'The Sex Pistols', they mocked the class divided society and wore safety pins as jewellery and 'bondage' style clothing. Leather and studs decorated the items and a new name Vivienne Westwood appeared to take this style to the catwalk as well as the high street.

Leather clothing became affordable and short jackets and trousers became street fashion.

Maxi and midi dresses were casual wear, and if brave enough and allowed, trouser suits were worn to work. Fabrics were now drip dry and easy to launder. Women liked the new fibres that meant easy to launder, but were not fond of the rather warm and perspiration making garments made in the new synthetics.

The later part of the decade saw a dramatic revolution in clothing styles; the film 'Saturday Night Fever', created a fashion phenomenon; men wore white suits with wide flares bottoms collars with over large lapels and platform shoes to discos, girls wore floaty feminine dresses and platform shoes and learnt to dance in a 'disco' style with male partners instead of the female group dances of the sixties.

'Glam' rock stars such as David Bowie, T -Rex, and Roxy Music created fantastic images from a mix of 1930's glamour, science fiction, mythology, and theatrical references. Make up was extreme, eyes were painted and exaggerated; platform shoes were ridiculously high and clothing was tight and body hugging; along with the 'Punk' fashion this was probably the most extreme style seen on young people. Fabrics were shiny, satin, sequinned, and 'stretch' fabric arrived on the market. Jumpsuits for both sexes were popular; the advent of Spandex and Lurex and the leotard made an appearance on the music scene with Rod Stewart and Cher.

The end of the decade bought political issues in-line with fashion once again with custom printed t- shirts displaying logos and designs reflecting popular culture.