1970s Fashion Trends for Women
The 1970s was a time when fashion was evolving in many ways. For example, women had more freedom to express themselves. The 1970s style notably preserved the "hippie" look of the '60s, yet gave it a more refined, modern look. Additionally, as convenient travel became the norm, fashion gained influences from around the world. New fashion styles were being introduced to the U.S., inspiring a look that defined a decade.
Here is some background information on a few of the original fashion fabrics and garments used in the '70s.
Top Fashion Trends of the '70s
- Micro Mini or Maxi Skirts
- Loose, Flowing Robes Like Caftans
- Trouser Suits
- Platform-Soled Shoes
- Mix-and-Match Knitwear
- Disco Clothing
Micro Mini or Maxi: Skirt Lengths of the 1970s
The '70s was a time when women chose who they wanted to be. If a woman felt like flaunting a miniskirt one day, a maxi dress the next, and a midi skirt or some hot pants the day after—it was considered acceptable. Most women began dressing more freely in this era.
One familiar look was the granny dress with a high neck. At times, the neck was pie-crust styled or lace-trimmed. Often, dresses were created with warm, brushed fabric or viscose rayon crepe in floral-print designs. These materials draped well and were perfect for empire-line styles.
For nightwear, women usually wore full-length maxi dresses, night trousers, or glamorous halterneck catsuits. Some dresses emphasized the Motown style.
For evening attire at the beginning of the early 1970s, women wore either straight or flared empire-line dresses with beautiful, shiny sequined-fabric bodices and extravagant sleeves. Bold and sparkly was the style for a fun night out.
Another largely successful evening style of the '70s was the halterneck dress; it could be either maxi or above the knee.
Short or Long?
At a disco dance party, girls might wear hot pants. It was often the norm for women to wear mini dresses. Sometimes, women were more inclined to confuse men by covering their legs entirely. It was a somewhat liberating act for women to start wearing pants much like men.
Convenient Travel Made the Fashion Mind Grow
Convenient travel meant those who traveled to other countries were able to bring ideas and accessories from unique places around the world back with them to the U.S. The growth and influence of self-styled hippie clothes of the '60s and fashion senses from various cultures began to fuse together to create '70s fashion. Celebrities and musicians who had the opportunity to travel were seen as significant fashion icons. In addition, the majority of people looked for designers to provide styles that matched the feeling of the era. Fashion had come back to nature and was Anti-Vietnam-War in perspective.
Caftan or Kaftan
The hippies of the '60s brought with them clothes from other cultural backgrounds that had never been seen before in the West. Nehru jackets and loose, flowing robes that came from humid, hot countries made their way into fashion, developed by designers such as Yves St. Laurent.
From the mid-to-late '70s, Caftans, Kaftans, Kimonos, mummus, djellaba (a Moroccan pointed hood) or jalabiya (loose eastern robe), and several other styles from every part of India and Africa were in turn transformed into home-style robes for casual wear. These types of clothing were made in every fabric you can think of but were especially glamorous dressing when sewn with exotic fabrics and edged in silver, gold, and other metallic trimmings.
Flared Trousers, Bell-Bottoms, and Trouser Suits
Trousers and trouser suits were all the rage back in the '70s. Pants started off gently flared and grew into wide bell-bottom proportions by 1975. Pants gradually became straighter and wider at the ankle until the end of the '70s when they were back to narrow at the ankles once again. Some famously used fabrics included heavy crepes, wool jersey-knits, Courtelle jersey, and woven polyester suiting like Trevira. Some favorite colors incorporated in the trouser and suit fashion of the 1970s were:
- Emerald green
- Apple green
- Bottle green
Celebrities at that time, such as well-known actress Farrah Fawcett (from the series Charlie's Angels), helped popularize flared trousers and luscious hairstyles that required constant use of tongs, or heated rollers, to make the hair feathered. It is easy to see how many women modeled Farrah's style during that era.
Heavy crepes that were used to make wide-legged trousers would often look exactly like the Chanel trousers of the 1930s. They were either worn with small, knitted, short vests or scoop-neck tank tops. Waistcoats were also immensely popular in any length, from hip length to maxi.
By the early 1970s, platform shoes had a slim sole about 1/4 inch in height. When platform shoes increased in popularity (especially during the disco era), soles could be seen up to 4 inches in height. A typical platform shoe with a 1-inch sole was enough to provide an individual with more height. Platform shoes were not hollow and were often as heavy as stone.
For women who loved to show their legs, it became trendy in the early '70s to see women wearing creamy-white tights with black patent shoes.
1970s Tank Tops and Mix-and-Match Knitwear
The tank top of the 1970s was a garment that defined its era, such as the scoop-neck camisole of the '80s, the shell of the '90s, and the rest of the millennium. It may seem silly now, but back then, tank tops were a standard piece of clothing worn along with a blouse. Sometimes, tank tops were even worn blouse free with a matching v-neck-style cardigan such as a modern matching set.
At the same time, matching top and bottom clothes became less apparent at stores and boutiques. Suddenly it became possible to buy a skirt or trousers and different styled top! Just imagine how easy it was to go into a clothing store and look for tops and knits without having to suffer long, painful hours of searching for two matching pairs. Mix-and-match collections of separates were the norm in department stores by the 1980s.
Some Fabrics Used in the 1970s
- Courtelle: Courtelle jerseys were used in all types of pieces from trouser suits, tank tops, to small dresses.
- High Bulk Polyester to Low Bulk Polyester: Crimplene, a thick polyester fabric, was predominately used to create the correct A-line mini dress of the '60s and was often used for every piece of clothing you can think of. High bulk crimplene began to disappear by the early to mid-'70s, however, and finer fabrics like Lirelle started to appear.
- Trevira: This fabric was used to create the "Bay City Rollers Trousers" with wide, square pockets along the pant legs. This material and look was the top inspiration for the combat trousers seen today.
- Viscose Rayon: In the late 1970s, fabrics of the '80s started to appear. This fabric, used in crinkled textures, was often used alongside very fine Crepe De Chine polyester fabrics. The small dollybird or granny print fabric looked great in viscose rayon.
- Satinised Polyester: Satinised polyester jacquard blouses had been fashionable since the beginning of the '70s, but had always been too expensive to buy. New technology allowed the satinised polyester to match with the Crepe De Chine to make fabrics of real extravagance close to real silk, similar to the glamorous dresses of the 1980s.
- Cotton: Of course, cotton is always the top ideal source of fabric for every type of fashion apparel.
1970s Disco Fashion
Disco fashion appeared in the 1970s and is most often remembered for its hot pants and spandex tops. Shiny, clinging Lycra stretch disco pants in solid and bright, shiny colors with stretch-sequin bandeau tops were mostly seen in professional dance-wear. This style began making a huge influence in discos as disco dancing became a serious form of dance.
Disco paved the way to dress codes and a door screening policy. Disco clothes were not typically seen being worn during the daytime. During the nighttime, however, it was the standard to wear disco-style clothing to match the environment of strobe lights, mirrored balls, and frequent spotlights on the individuals dancing on the dancefloor.
Saturday Night Fever, made in 1977, perfectly depicts the '70s disco fashion. This movie stars John Travolta, who famously illustrates the style of disco, as well as the importance of how much it means to release all your worries of the working week by having fun and dancing.