The 1970s

"Do as you will," was the fashion motto of the early 1970s. The ideal of the hippies, "we are all equal," set the tone for unisex and folklore looks. Hand-made was in, from batik shirts, knitted shawls, and crocheted caps, to pullover sweaters of hand-spun sheep's wool. Understatement was cool and second-hand duds were no longer for the needy alone. The brassiere itself fell victim to the general liberation from all restraints. Feminists spoke of the "liberated bosom." Directions from high fashion were lacking; even the Parisian designers found themselves in a crisis. Fashion had to be multifarious, uncomplicated, original, and individual, and the hem length varied between mini, midi, and maxi according to whim and mood. Modern romanticism—the nostalgia wave—lent minidresses (still fashionable up to 1973), wraparound tops, wing and flounce sleeves, and bell skirts. Hair was long and softly waved or rolled into corkscrew curls. False eyelashes or painted-on lines magically conjured star-eyes.

Hardly any other fashion created as big a sensation as hot pants in 1971-1972. They were not only worn as super short summer shorts, but also intended for winter with thick wool socks. Hot pants were offset by the beloved maxi coats and high platform shoes. Pants of all kinds provided a relief from the length disputes. There were tight knee-length caddy pants, broad gauchos, knickers, culottes, harem pants, ankle-length drain-pipe trousers, wide Marlene Dietrich trousers, and—still up to 1974—wide bell bottoms. Jeans became the universal clothing, crossing all class and age boundaries. Jackets, pullovers, vests, and T-shirts clung tightly to the body. Pullover sweaters featured witty motifs like trees, houses, or cars. Maxi length party clothes (evening clothes were out) had bold patterns such as Vasarely graphics, pop-art, or Hundertwasser images.

After 1974, a series of looks followed without constituting a single unified style. In 1975 there were caftans and the Chinese look with short quilted jackets. In 1976 the Middle Eastern look dominated, with tunics over harem pants, and, later, the layered look. A master of the folklore mixture was the Japanese designer Kenzo (Takada), whose Parisian boutique "Jungle Jap," had a decided influence. Mainstream fashion, on the other hand, was rather conservative, featuring the umbrella-pleated (or gored) skirt, which came to just below the knee.

In 1976 the fashion press euphorically reported on Yves Saint Laurent's collection "Ballets Russes-Opéra." It was an elegant peasant look with long, wide skirts of shimmering silk and bolero jackets in unexpected color combinations like red, lilac, orange, and pink, delicate sheer blouses with wide sleeves, and golden turbans.

Beginning in 1977, punk clothing exerted a strong influence on fashion for the next few years. The antibourgeois, "no-future" generation shocked with their brutal look: safety pins through cheeks and ear lobes, dog collars and razor blades as necklaces, diabolically made-up eyes, black lips, ripped jeans and T-shirts, torn fishnet stockings, and tough Doc Marten's boots. Their hair, in contrast to their gray and black get-ups, differentiated itself from the mainstream "normals" by its green and red highlights and its spiked (mohawk) styling. Insiders met at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's shop on King's Road, called "Sex" in 1974 and then, later, "Seditionaries" in 1978.

In 1978, the Parisian prêt-à-porter designers, above all Claude Montana, brought the military and punk look onto the runway. Broad "power" shoulders and oversized garments initiated a new fashion silhouette which would become the characteristic style of the 1980s.

The 1975 American book, Dress for Success by John T. Molloy, gave the exile from hippie culture tips on how to market himself with the right clothes, on the power of the white shirt, on how to interpret the codes of tie patterns, and how make it in "big business." Two years later, in 1977, Molloy's sequel followed, The Woman's Dress for Success Book.

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