1970s – Women’s Fashion

1970s fashion women suit1970s fashion women burning braNothing stays the same, especially in the fashion industry. The 1970s in particular was the modern turning point in women’s fashion.

The hippie generation was growing up. The impact of the entertainment world grew and the entire landscape for women was changing and changing quickly.

Roles were changing. Expectations were changing. All of a sudden there became a world where women expected to be treated on an equal footing with men.  Yes, it was only the first step but it had a huge impact on how women lived, what their goals and aspirations were, and the path their lives would take. It’s impact was also felt in the world of fashion.

The early 70s were a bit of a leftover from the hippie days of the 1960s but remember that it was only the young that dressed in such a manner. It was not main stream. The older generation held fast to their values of modesty and their per-conceived ideas of what was right and wrong in the fashion world. They would have nothing to do with tie dyed shirts, jeans or the mini-skirt. It was not until the 70s that fashion dragged everyone along with it, both young and old.

1970s fashion women maxi dresses1970s fashion women bell bottom jeansThe most amazing thing about women’s fashion in the 70s was the fact that it is the first decade where women were wearing slacks in all walks of life. Even women in their 40s and 50s found out how much more freedom there was wearing slacks instead of dresses and skirts and for many, they became everyday wear.

It was the 70s when it became acceptable for girls to wear jeans to school in most school districts. It was the 70s when fashion truly began to blur the lines between male and female clothing.

It was also the beginning of women of all ages taking less time to leave the house. Women would venture to the grocery store in much more casual clothing. Gone were the nylons and matching accessories. What took their place was slacks and a shirt.

Interesting enough a political movement of the late 60s that literally changed the world and had a huge impact on women’s fashion was the Liberation Movement. It was the movement that everyone seems to remember as the ‘Burn Your Bra’ movement featuring women protesting and burning their bras.  On scale with the female population of the United States, this was a small thing for most women did not burn their bras, but what it did do is open up fashion trends with more freeing attire across all age groups.

Items that had been staples of the woman’s wardrobe for years were fast disappearing, i.e. girdles, slips, nylons, and bras. In what was a heartbeat in history, the mainstream population of women went from confinement to freedom.

1970s fashion women Diane Keaton 19771970s fashion women bohoThere were a lot of choices when it came to clothing in the 70s. There were mini skirts, midi skirts and maxi skirts. There was traditional male clothing such as ties and vests that became a staple of women’s wardrobe. Shoulder pads were in and the hippie look was out. Cowl necks became a stock item for winter; halter tops and hot pants for summer.

The feminist movement was so against a woman’s body being treated like a sex object and yet, the fashion of the 1970s became more daring, exposing more and leaving much less to the imagination. It was the kind of era that either bared it all or covered it all. An era of fashion extremes.

Catsuits were insanely popular along with hot pants (for those with the figure to carry it off) and bell bottoms were the cat’s meow. The halter top was the rage and midriffs were often bared.

1970s fashion women Knots LandingStyles became long and lean; elegant in their own way, combining different fashions from times gone by to develop its own special look. Gone was the Jackie Kennedy look with pillbox hats and gloves. Women felt they were in a new era and their fashion showed just how different this generation was.

Fashion in the workplace changed as well. Along came the women’s professional suit. Although skirts and blouses and certainly dresses were still in use, more and more women chose to wear the female version of the 3-piece suit with either slacks or skirt. Hemlines in the office were conservative, at the knee or mid calf. Mini skirts were frowned upon in the workplace.

On the flip side though, at the same time, there were two other styles that impacted huge sections of the population.

The Boho style was the result of the 60s, kind of a leftover that became a bit more cultured; a bit more sophisticated. It included natural materials and a more free flowing and relaxed look. Vests were in as were peasant tops.

1970s fashion women disco1970s fashion women commemorative stamp

As we move through the 70s, this Boho style faded.  Of course there were always those that truly hung and still do, but the population as a whole moved beyond it. What had been earthy and natural grew into glitter, glam and high tech fabrics.

The second was the disco era and the synthetic fabrics such as polyester and ultrasuede that provided ‘pop’ and ‘shimmer’. It was SO big that there was even a commemorative stamp made.

Flared pants and sleeves, tight cat suits and open back dresses became the outfits of choice to go out and dance. A whole genre of fashion grew up quickly to fuel the fire. The clothing and the fashion has as much to do with the experience as the dance itself.

Colors could be gaudy and styles could be daring…after all, disco was in itself a fad, but it caught up a whole generation of young adults across the world and in that briefly glittering moment in time…the world danced.


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