1970s Fashion History


For more information on this decade in fashion history, check out our list of books and reviews at Recommended Reading. Also please visit our Links page.

For bibliography referencing, the author of this page is April Ainsworth.


Women's Vintage Fashions of the 1970s    

Silhouette     The outline of figures by this decade was widely varied, especially in hair and hem lengths.  In general, a long, almost gaunt look was desired in the arms and torso, and the flared line of bellbottoms was common.  Some free-form silhouettes were worn in a kaftan style, while other outlines tended toward a romantic re-development of Victorian and Edwardian styles, blending such details as empire waists and leg-o'-mutton sleeves.

Common Designs in Vintage Clothing    

  • Straight, skinny synthetic shirts or the ubiquitous T-shirt paired with synthetic or denim bellbottoms
  • Polyester knit suits in dress-and-jacket, jacket-and-skirt or pant sets
  • Princess-line polyester print dresses with any sleeve length
  • Ethnic and primitive leisure wear in rougher, ethnic fabrics or slippery new synthetics
  • One-piece dresses or pantsuits with a solid-color bodice and wild-print bottoms

Fabrics Available     Every fabric we know today except two little known fibers (PBI and sulfar).  Polyester was overwhelmingly the fabric of choice from leisure to evening wear, but natural fibers had a resurgence with the organic flower child look.  Nylon, acrylic, acetate, rayon blends and other synthetics were commonly used.

Popular Colors and Prints     Loud and clashing colors were now in everyday fashion prints, from conservative to wild.  Swirling psychedelic prints, dotted with flowers, medallions, geometric shapes, and what-have-you were popular.  Drug-related motifs, such as mushrooms and poppies, were subtly added to prints.

Trims and Detailing     Trims were often minimized and usually easy to apply by machine.  Borders of crocheted lace and beads were worn; appliques and novelty stitches were popular.  Most detail was seen in the involved prints, though beading, sequins, and other traditional formal applications were used in some evening wear.

Hemlines Day and Night     Maxi-length skirts and coats were a fashionable length, but hemlines ranged from above the knee to the ankle for any type of wear.  Hot pants were still popular especially for club-going and performers.

The Latest Fads

  • Wide and pointy "butterfly" lapels
  • Bellbottoms, flares, elephant bells and wide leg pants
  • Natural or ethnic styles of flower children and hippies
  • Polyester as the new staple fiber
  • Pantsuits
  • Career wear for the working woman in two and three-piece polyester suits
  • Platform shoes, some with outrageous designs like clear plastic platforms with live goldfish placed inside
  • Long, free-flowing hairstyles, girlish pony and pigtails, and afros

Popular Designers

Innovations     Widespread use of designer names and labels as an incentive to shoppers, marking everything from clothing to luggage with designers such as Geoffrey Beene and Christian Dior.