Retaining the free spirited liberal aesthetic of the 60’s fused with androgynous rock glamour the 70s remains the most iconic fashion era to date spawning mainstream trends as boho-chic vibes, folk, gypsy, hippie, ethnic, retro, classic, disco, safari, military, sporty chic and unisex fashion. From jumpsuits to bohemian maxi skirts the 70’s created and made popular trend after trend and it was reflective of its peace loving approach to curating fashion. The eclectic mix of trends borrowed from the late 60’s and pre-emptied the beginning of 80’s disco culture with its flared wide cut trousers and gradual inclusion of sequin brights. For the most part the 70’s was a powerful period of aesthetic experimentation caught between the tight, tailored silhouettes of the 60s mod culture with the relaxed,slouchy tailoring of the 70’s to create an iconic image of 70’s culture. But it was not just tailoring that changed in the 70’s, key materials included suede & pleather which derived from the popularity of punk rock culture fused with the 1930’s staple of dyed suede.
The popularity of suede was largely due to its versatility as a material, easily moulded into pleats and used as primary material for dresses, skirts, tops and outerwear designs. To keep suede innovative 70’s designers used dyed patchwork squares or geometric prints that resembled a muted ancestor of 60’s psychedellic prints with the laid back 70’s aesthetic. Often designed in earthy tones, the rejection of psychedellic brights and a return to a muted but rich palate was reflective of the changing attitudes towards fashion. In the 1960’s skirts were designed with anarchy in mind with short hem-lines whereas in the 1970’s suede replaced leather as material of choice. Suede was more ‘practical’ than leather-if harder to maintain- and exuded ‘sophistication’ rather than anarchy like its rebellious younger sister the 1960’s.
Practical and functional wear was the new style of choice and catwalk designers like Biba & Diane Von Furstenberg translated that into easy to wear seperates spawning inventions like co-ordinates, wrap dresses, bell bottom jeans and suede trenches that fused the effortless dynamic of suede with the classy elegance of iconic outerwear at the time. The fusing of genres across the catwalk industries would become the source of inspiration for future catwalk shows and demonstrated an unequivocal, never before seen attitude to match. A large part of 70’s culture was social experimentation so designers would fearlessly combine a tight fitting upper half with a baggy lower half to create a disproportionate silhouette that was ‘sexy’ yet practical at the same, a common aesthetic of 70’s fashion culture.
Knee high boots seemed odd in the bell bottom equation but somehow 70’s designers pulled it off making it the most popular and versatile boot around. Adorned in suede, by the late 1970’s common boot colours were black, grey and burgundy to fit into the earth mid-tone palate that was coveted throughout the 70’s. Worn with mini skirts and even under maxis, bell bottoms and hot pants knee high boots had carried over from the 60’s but it was the 70’s that revolutionized the knee high boot trend, cementing it as fashion’s it buy. The 70’s ability to borrow other trends and mark them as their own also translated into its use of new materials like suede that were a replacement for materials like nylon and vinyl. For the first time since the 1960s designers were faced with a shortage of raw materials and fabrics and suede became a suitable replacement… little did they know how popular suede would become.
Despite its winning fashion moments that would revolutionize modern fashion culture, the 70’s also made some questionable fashion choices that would be met with public disapproval.During 1978 the sexy but practical woman was replaced with free-flowing bohemian silhouettes which women complained were ‘overbearingly loose’ and either ‘drowned them’ or made them look ‘bigger than they were’. The public disatisfaction led to an upheaval of fashion dynamics and styles became ‘curvier’ with tighter skirts, shoulder pads and narrower waistlines creating an inverted triangle effect. The inverted triangle created a hourglass figure that was met with applause and critics praised its illusion of a fuller figure, even for women who were naturally more petite. Petite or curvy womens bodies were celebrated in each shape and no style was deemed off limits unlike the ethos of the 50’s where curvy women ‘stuck to tight clothing to accentuate bosoms and deirrieres’ and petite women wore a-line shapes to appear lean and tall.
Are you a fan of 70’s fashion and if so why?
Photography- Jumanna Khanom
Location- Great Eastern Street
Suede Coat & Co-Ord- Missguided
Boots- Pretty Little Thing