Although some styles (like the bell-bottom pants and tie-dyed shirts) were a carry-over from the late 1960s, mostly everything else in that decade was uniquely 70s. Tennis suits, afros, short shorts, platform shoes, loud prints, sequins — you could probably say that 70s fashion was one of the most unique movements ever.
In order to better understand the styles of that era, it’s only logical to read up on the people who made it so unique yet long-lasting. Here are some of the trendsetters of the 1970s fashion scene:
Joni Mitchell, 1972
Apart from being a folk icon, Joni Mitchell was also a famous fashion icon during the 70s. She was looked upon as the ultimate model of hippie fashion. Her tie-dye tops were paired with her long, straight, and untreated hair. She also wore billowing soft robes, preferred to go barefoot, and usually carried an acoustic guitar in her hand.
Kate Bush was the queen of the unconventional, from her art and music to her tastes in fashion. Despite that eccentricity, her expressive dresses were relatively accessible to regular girls who followed her fashion with complete confidence.
Margaret Thatcher 1975
From the unconventional style of Kate Bush, we inevitably turn to the conventional style of Margaret Thatcher. Conventional but never boring, the Iron Lady certainly knew how to create a fashion statement. She would be clad in colorful suits and bow blouses to stand out from her sharp-dressed male colleagues in every political event she attended.
Aside from riding high on the charts, the Osmonds were also looked upon as fashion icons. These talented siblings defined what the 70s fashion was really like — glittering suits, fringing, and platform shoes.
These world-famous Swedish pop darlings were really dressed to kill in their music videos and when performing on stage. They had it all; glittering hot pants, big flared pants, sequined jumpsuits, high boots, platform heels…the list could go on and on.
All these creations made up ABBA’s trademark fashion. However, the band admitted that they needed to wear these ridiculous outfits for a more pragmatic reason — to avoid paying taxes in their country. Swedish law dictated that the group could deduct the cost of their costume from their taxes, but the outfits had to be so outrageous that the performers couldn’t use them as everyday wear.
Thankfully, their music stood the test of time, even if their costumes didn’t. Even today, some people might choose to dress up in outlandish outfits for an ABBA-themed event or a party with a seventies theme.
Bo Derek, 1979
The 70s sex symbol and wife of director John Derek set the new trend of beach fashion when appearing in her breakthrough movie ‘10’. Her nude-colored swimsuit and braided hair became one of the most iconic swimsuit looks of the 1970s (apart from Farrah Fawcett and her famous red swimsuit).
Charlie’s Angels, 1976
Speaking of Farrah Fawcett, this actress appeared on the famous TV series Charlie’s Angels along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. These ladies defined the outfits of the 70s independent woman, from checkered blouses to high-waisted flare pants.
Cher released a total of 10 albums during this decade, which means she was practically ubiquitous. She made her mark on every fashionable trend with aplomb, from loud prints to perms. Since she also appeared in a few movies, her fan following was large enough to make her style an iconic phases during the 70s and beyond.
Debbie Harry, 1976
The frontwoman of the punk rock/new wave band Blondie might have been a newbie in fashion, but she quickly captured the rising denim market. Her style became just as popular as punk rock, resulting in a new wave beginning to achieve wider recognition.
Like Cher, Diana Ross was musically prolific during the 1970s, releasing a total of nine albums. Had you lived in the 70s, we are pretty sure you’ll remember her lilac eye shadow, impossible-to-ignore eyelashes, loose wrap dresses, and memorably big earrings.
Diane Von Furstenberg
Speaking of wrap dresses which were prevalent in 70s fashion, we need to give credit for those to the designer Diane von Furstenberg. She was the one responsible for creating the iconic outfit in 1974. Her very original creations made her one of the most sought-after fashion designers and helped her to build a fashion empire of her own.
What would the 70s be without disco? It didn’t only set the musical trend, but also gave rise to “disco fashion,” thanks to the popularity of the 1977 landmark movie ‘Saturday Night Fever’. Since then, people not only became crazy about the music, but a lot of them also tried to copy John Travolta’s white suit and Karen Lynn Gorney’s ruffled dress before hitting the dance floor.
Successful singer/songwriter/pianist Elton John’s colorful personality was reflected in his costumes, particularly his eyewear. His tinted glasses especially became the must-have accessory in 70s fashion.
Of course, these glasses aren’t the only fashion trend that has been around longer than we realize. We’ve covered several such timeless trends in the article here:
Germaine Greer, 1971
During the time when women’s lib movement was getting a second wave, Germaine Greer became a household name and a feminist icon when her book ‘The Female Eunuch’ was released in 1970. Her paisley coat was featured in top fashion magazines such as Vogue and Life. She herself was a model for certain outfits and portrayed second-wave feminism to perfection—legs comfortably open, large boots, and trousers.
Finding Out More About Fashion in the 70s
If the discussion above has piques your interest, some books on the subject might give you that coveted detail. One interesting title in this genre is called ‘Fashion in the ’70s: The Definitive Sourcebook’. Authored by Emmanuelle Dirix and Charlotte Fiell, this highly-rated work gives you 600 original and relevant pictures from the 70s decade. Check it out here:
The 1970s weren’t a particularly glamorous decade for fashion, but we probably wouldn’t be at this point without it. A little research should that this decade still has a whole lot to offer, as well as several timeless trends such as platform shoes, peasant dresses, etc. Many designers still get inspired by looking back at the fashions of that time, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go retro as well!