The 70s were one of the best decades of all time when it comes to fashion. The era birthed out fashion ideas and trends that eventually became staple wardrobe items. Designs like the pants suit, halter dress, and wrap dress were made popular by influential designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, and Diane von Furstenberg, who belong to the most renowned icons of the fashion industry. The 70s fashion scene was iconic, thanks to the disco and bohemian culture.
Early 70s fashion comprised peasant blouses, bell-bottom jeans, brightly colored patterns, and maxi skirts, which was typical of the bohemian fashion from the late ‘60s. By the mid-70s, colors were toned down. The trend towards earth tones began, and clothes were loosening up. But by the end of the 70s, clothes were becoming more fitted again, with tailored suits making a comeback. Heels got higher, shoulders got wider, and skirts hit at about the knee, foreshadowing the ‘80s.
If you want to know who were the most influential designers in the 70s, get to know them here:
Diane von Furstenberg
Belgian fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg became an icon in 1974 with the creation of the knitted jersey wrap dress, which became an iconic piece in women’s fashion. It quickly became a versatile and relaxed fit for every woman’s body that has become a wardrobe essential. Feminine yet functional, the wrap dress became a symbol of female power, responding to the liberated mood of American society in the 70s.
Though the kimono-inspired wrap dress is her trademark, von Furstenberg influenced fashion by establishing a standard for comfort in women’s clothing. Her robe-like design was a major 70s trend that has been copied by many mainstream fashion labels. The dress became so popular that in 1997, the designer relaunched it, and it continued to stay popular in recent years. Newsweek called her “the most marketable designer since Coco Chanel” in 1976 because of the success of her iconic creation.
Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent was undoubtedly one of the most celebrated and influential designers of the 20th century. His high fashion brand is known worldwide for its class and quality. The French fashion designer was a genius in style transformation, making women freer and more empowered in the process. His aesthetic helped women find confidence by looking comfortable yet still giving off an appearance of elegance.
Saint Laurent was most known for making pants acceptable for women to wear, not only in casual settings but also for work. Before the 70s, women wore pants only casually, but when he introduced the city trouser in 1966, he changed the way women dressed. In 1968, his collection included women’s trouser suits such as the safari suit, which began to take hold during the 70s and still remained popular even in the 21st century. He’s also credited for making the “Le Smoking” tuxedo suit for women and his diverse models.
American fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick , simply known as Halston, is a definitive designer of the era, having created almost every popular dress seen on the 70s disco dance floors. He was famous for his free-flowing and draped jersey dresses, lean trouser suits, and the use of ultra-suede fabric – which are all perfect for dancing, thanks to the construction without zippers or buttons. He is also credited for popularizing the halter dress.
Halston was known for making dresses with sexy, flattering silhouettes that took the form of the wearer’s body. He also created caftans, knitwear, sweaters, wide-legged jersey trousers, boxy square jackets, and one-shoulder dresses. Halston is also one of the first major designers to license his name. Though he was also a popular social icon in the 70s, his designs were not only worn by many celebrities who frequented Studio 54 in New York City – he made it accessible to the masses.
The godmother of bohemian chic, Thea Porter, was a half-French, half-English designer who brought opulent Middle East fashions to London. She translated her passion for multi-cultural experiences to her designs, which inspired the bohemian look of the 70s, which included caftans and maxi dresses made of antique materials like velvet, chiffon, voile, and brocade.
Though her name did not become as famous as Laura Ashley or Mary Quant , her influence on the 70s hippie look lasted longer. Her loose draped shapes and fabrics helped solidify the styles of stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Faye Dunaway in the 70s. In the 2010s, the boho-chic aesthetic was still going strong, especially at the Coachella music festival in California.
Known as the perpetrator of traditional knits and hippie styles, Bill Gibb greatly influenced 70s fashion. This Scottish fashion designer mixed prints, colors, textures, and patterns with ethnic, medieval, romantic, and Renaissance influences. His unusual yet flattering designs caused a trend for eclecticism in British fashion design. Gibb demonstrated how traditional handicrafts, like hand-knits, are acceptable for mainstream fashion.
Gibb’s fantastical creations were often based on nature, featuring unexpected combinations of feathers, printed leather, fur, and brightly-colored clinging fabrics. But his most important work was knitwear.
Stephen Burrows is an African-American fashion designer who popularized color blocking in the ‘70s. His designs were known for their bright colors and lettuce hem curly edges. The lettuce hem, which Burrows invented, was famous in the disco era for how it added movement to a garment. His designs became an integral part of the disco-dancing scene in New York City in the 70s.
As a fashion designer, Burrows had his fair share of accomplishments. He’s known for being one of the first African-American designers to develop a mainstream, high-fashion clientele and sell internationally. He’s one of the five American designers chosen to showcase their work at the historical Battle of Versailles Fashion Show. He’s also the youngest of the American designers to show a collection at the show.
Dubbed as the mother of punk, Vivienne Westwood is a British designer who played a big role in punk rock’s influence on fashion in both America and Great Britain during the 70s and beyond. She was the designer who made modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream.
Westwood came to the public’s attention when she was romantically involved with Malcolm McLaren, manager of the punk rock band Sex Pistols, and his boutique in London called Sex. Together, the two created a relationship between music and fashion, which set the tone for pop culture for decades to come. She was known for her designs like bondage pants, eccentric platform shoes, Mohair jumpers, and other sartorial designs that shocked and provoked a reaction but also inspired change.
Italian designer Emilio Pucci and his eponymous company are synonymous with geometric prints in a kaleidoscope of colors. He was famous in the 70s for making vivid prints for blouses and silk jersey dresses, as well as tight, shantung “Pucci” pants.
A renowned fashion designer ever since the 1940s, Pucci was the first person to design a one-piece ski suit that caused a sensation. But he transitioned into haute couture and became a world-renowned fashion designer known as the “Prince of Prints.” Through the decades, his designs were worn by every glamorous celebrity, from Marilyn Monroe (who was buried in a Pucci dress) to the 70s “It” girls like Sophia Loren and Jackie Kennedy, to later pop icons like Madonna in the early 90s.
Ottavio Missoni was best known for his knitwear with bold, colored zigzag weave patterns. The Missoni zigzag pattern knit is easily recognizable in today’s fashion, and the 70s-influenced pattern was used on everything – from caps, scarves, dresses, sweaters, and outerwear – making Missoni a worldwide fashion brand.
Missoni was part of the group of designers who launched Italian ready-to-wear in the 50s, ensuring the global success of Italian fashion. Before he had a successful career in fashion, he was an Olympic hurdler who competed for Italy in the 1948 Summer Olympics.