Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fashion 70's Style!

Today, I have as my guest Ralph Hummel from Shybiker
We were paired together via Ashley and her Guest Post Group

Ralph has been doing some articles about past fashions and I asked if he would do the 70's for this post.  Since we are seeing so many fashion trends that have that 70's flare, I thought it would be fun.

The 1970's were an exciting time filled with creativity and fun. We're going to look at the fashion and culture of that time. I happen to know a lot about it because I lived through that period and, due to the impressionable age I was then, I was deeply influenced by it. In fact, the '70's defined my personal style in every way.

First off, the periods we call the "Sixties" and "Seventies" didn't align exactly to decade-dates. The Sixties really started in 1964 when The Beatles emerged and they ended in 1973 when President Nixon resigned. The Seventies started in 1973 and ended when Reagan was elected in 1980.

The two greatest cultural forces of the Seventies were television and music. Both had greater prominence than today because there was no Internet or other alternative for mass-communication. More people paid attention to TV and music back then because they were the main sources for information about society. For example, when sociologists say there will never be another Johnny Carson, it isn't because Johnny was a better TV host (he was), it's because no late-night show will ever command as large an audience as The Tonight Show did. Back then, two-thirds of the entire country watched the show; there simply weren't any alternatives.

Music was also a huge cultural force, more so than today. Everyone paid attention to top performers whose songs transcended art and defined cultural identity. If you told someone which musicians you liked, they instantly knew what kind of person you were.

There was a dividing line back then between rock music and disco. Rock music was continuing its popularity from the Sixties while disco emerged fresh and attracted many fans. Disco had the advantage of being eminently danceable and was played in clubs and bars where there was often a dress-code. Disco was particularly popular among women and the gay community. Many straight men hated disco for that reason and the phrase "Disco Sucks!" became an anthem for insecure males.

Both TV and disco music affected fashion and created new looks. Most of what you consider representative of the Seventies came from TV or disco. Tube-tops, for instance, first arose in the disco-scene, as did flower-print tops. Here are some examples of what people wore then:

The most popular clothing item of the Seventies, worn by both rock and disco fans, were "bell-bottoms" -- pants (usually jeans) that flared outward at the bottom, resembling the shape of a bell. Everyone, male and female, wore them. All of my male pants at that time were bell-bottomed. Bell-bottoms were often decorated; I sewed colored fringes onto mine. Many people customized clothes themselves back then.

Some of Seventies fashion is on the brink of a comeback. Bell-bottoms in particular are re-emerging, only now they're called "wide leg pants" or "flared jeans." Same look; different era.

Two fashion innovations occurred back then which seem obvious now, but had real effect on the future of clothing. First, coordinated color-schemed clothes began to enter stores. It was now possible to buy a skirt and a top in one place without having to spend hours searching other stores to coordinate items. Mix and match collections of separates became the norm in department stores for the first time during the 1970's.

Second, tank-tops like the one shown below became very popular. While they may seem laughable now, these tops paved the way for later styles. The tank top of the Seventies was a forerunner to the scoop-necked camisole top of the 1980's, the shell of the 1990's and the vest of the Millennium. A tank-top was a useful item to wear with a matching blouse.

Hair was a big deal in the Seventies. There were two styles that became hugely popular. The first was started by Farrah Fawcett, an actress/sex-symbol famous for her TV role in "Charlie's Angels." Her 1976 poster sold twelve million copies and was ubiquitous in bedrooms everywhere. Farrah's hair was long, blond and curvy -- the Seventies-version of a female bombshell. A downside to the style was heavy-maintenance; e.g., tongs (heated rollers) were often used.
A second style, equally popular, was started by figure-skater Dorothy Hamill who was seen on TV when she won the 1976 Olympic gold-medal. Innumerable girls copied her style, like the woman shown below. (Thank you, Lynette). The Dorothy Hamill look was cute and easy to maintain.
Platform shoes ("disco boots") were popular in the Seventies, even with men. I wore a pair of three-inch (rubber) platforms whose outer-edge was textured and
platforms whose outer-edge was textured and colored to look like tree-bark.
Hey, it was a wild time!

Thanks Ralph!
I confess, I had numerable "elephant" leg pants, wedge heels and a Dorothy Hamill haircut!

What do you remember wearing in the 70's?


Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Loved reading this! I had Farrah Fawcett hair! So many memories...

Tinfoils Tiaras said...

Great post- Ralph should be a full-time fashion historian! I wasn't conceived until the late 80s so I live vicariously through memories like these. I do love the bellbottoms though!

Rebecca said...

I'm an 80s baby, but I am happy to see that flared jeans are coming back into style.

Sheila said...

I'm so glad you noted this: "First off, the periods we call the "Sixties" and "Seventies" didn't align exactly to decade-dates."

It drives me crazy that people line the dates up exactly!

I sort of had Farrah hair (I didn't have nearly the same bounce until I eventually got a perm in the 80s). I loved bellbottoms - most of my 70s clothes were hand-me-downs from our babysitter. I do remember those sweater vest pullovers! I had one with birds on it - and it had a matching blouse!

Veronica said...

Cute blog!
follow me? I'll be very happy if you do it!Thank you so much!

The Closet Shopper said...

I had the Dorothy Hamill too! I was a gymnast and we all rocked that look. It was super easy to manage but looking a the pics of me age 10, braces and the Dorothy Hamill haircut. Not so cute! haha.

Loved this post. I think Ralph is the bees knees!


Kristin said...

I came into the world at the tail end of the 80s...but I do so love that decade for its style. Viva la widelegs and flares!

Ashley said...


"First off, the periods we call the 'Sixties' and 'Seventies' didn't align exactly to decade-dates."

This is so true, and it's something you don't tend to think about unless you were actually there (like myself, you know). I thought it was interesting that you said the sixties ended when Nixon resigned and the seventies ended when Reagan was elected. This seems spot-on and it makes me wonder...do our "decades" today start and end with marked political events? It doesn't seem like it. Also--do you, as someone who has lived through more decades than me--think that the sixties, seventies, and eighties were more culturally "defined" than the times we live in today? I mean, it is very easy to define the sixties and seventies. If we do it in terms of fashion, you know, we can say bell bottoms and all the other things mentioned in your post define seventies fashion. But what defines today's fashion? It seems more difficult to pinpoint it, doesn't it? And I'm not totally sure why.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling now. I fully enjoyed this!

fashionoverfifty said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane--so many clothes! Many of them, I made so I remember them seam by seam...even though I am a child of the sixties...

Stacey said...

Hmm, I think I remember a crocheted best that my grandmother made. Yes I totally had the Farrah hair. Still would if I could get away with it. :)

Come by for a Shabby Apple dress give away. :)

Anonymous said...

Ha, truly enjoyed this blast from the past. I can remember a few of the disco's I frequented...and loved the Donna Summer song "Last Dance."

a woman's right to shoes said...

Loved reading this! I was born in 88 so I don't really know that much about the 70s but this was so much fun to read =)
Found your blog on Shybiker =)


Deborah said...

I had the Farah hair. Not her other loveliness, but the hair. :)

I've been sporting a couple of blouses with neck bows for a while. I'm loving seeing the 70s come back.

Well, some of it anyway. Ha!

She is Sara said...

When I was in junior high I was obsessed with the 70's! I wore my mom's old bell-bottoms, and thick belts all the time :) I had vests like that too, a ton of them.

lol I think my Dad had that poster up in his first place too. I remember my mom teasing him about it.