In the shadow of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, hippie culture persisted with a fashion scene that wasn’t too far removed from that of 1969, but with more flamboyance. 1970s fashion truly was a revolution reflective of that era’s culture.
The early 70s started out as an era of bright, fun colors and a lot of polyester. Tight pants and platform shoes were de rigueur. Throughout the early 70s, women sported high cut boots and pants with low rise waists. Combining some of the best elements of 1960s fashion with 1970s flair, the better designs of the time produced looks that were a perfect blend of mod and hippie.
In 1972, Joni Mitchell was a fashion icon, the epitome of early 70s style with her tie dyed blouses and sweeping caftans. The guitar-toting singer, with her bare feet and long, flowing hair wore bohemian styles that every hippie aspirant longed for.
Wide pant hems known as bell bottoms were the iconic look of the beginning of the decade, but that trend had waned later on, replaced by the pants suit, leisure suit, and the track suit, with one common trend that ran through the entire decade—the pants had to fit tight! For the first time, women from every walk of life were seen wearing pants at every occasion.
If a woman didn’t own a cowl neck sweater she was missing out, and tunics were all the rage. Culottes and robes also filled many closets, and casual fashion had reached such a peak that it was difficult to tell the difference between the dresses meant for everyday wear at home and dresses for a night out.
Diane Von Furstenberg initiated one of the most iconic styles of the decade—the wrap dress. In 1974 she set out to design a casual silk jersey dress that flattered every female figure. Her design was so loved by women of the 1970s that Newsweek labeled her the “most marketable designer” of the fashion world since Coco Chanel.
The wrap dress was so popular that by 1976 Von Furstenberg had sold over five million of the comfy stylish dresses, launching the designer as a household name.
There were plenty of “fashion don’ts” during that memorable decade, including vinyl jumpsuits, enormous shirt collars that made one appear ready to take flight, fur coats, knee-high socks paired with mini skirts, and strange cut out swimsuits that left unusual tan lines on those who baked in the summer sun. Fortunately most of those fashions haven’t yet made it around to a second showing.
Bold patterns and prints with a bohemian bent were popular choices. Crazy paisleys, giant polka dots, and endless florals took center stage over those years. But by the end of the decade, the color had leached out of most fashion. Earth tones and neutrals had taken over, and brown was the color of the day.
1970s fashion may be best remembered for disco, bell bottoms, and a lot of fashion faux pas, but it was undoubtedly the design decade that challenged existing fashion conventions prior to that revolutionary era.