The 1970s have been called "the decade that style forgot", but that still has not prevented fashion designers today from "paying homage" - or ripping off - aspects of the 1970s style of clothing.
Well, I grew up during the 1970s I wore the clothes the first time round, and I've no intention of doing so the second time round!
So here is my review of 1970s clothing, for those of you too young to remember... and those of you who wish you were too young to remember...
Jeans and trousers.
Jeans started the decade as flares and ended it as drainpipes. Sometimes they were decorated with embroidery or metal studs. In the mid-70s, Bay City Rollers fans added strips of tartan to their jeans, which they wore rolled up the better to display brightly-coloured stripey socks.
A popular fad was to add a patch with some sort of message on to the back pocket. The patch of choice for the more religious amongst us was "Smile, Jesus Loves You!". Yuck.
The Brutus brand of jeans was very popular in the UK during the 70's. This company promoted brushed denim. I had a pair myself, pale blue, held up by a another popular style item from the period, a plastic belt which advertised a product. In fact I had two, one which advertised "Lipsmackingthirstquenching... Pepsi" and one which had Union Jacks along it. Brutus used a song by David Dundas called "Jeans On" to advertise on the TV, and regrettably, I can still sing it now.
Trousers were most often flared, or, from the middle of the decade, a 1930's style called Oxford Bags, with a high waist and very wide legs. Crimpelene or polyester was the fabric of choice for these. They flapped about in a breeze, mind you, so did flares!
Shirts and tops
Top shirt of the decade was cheesecloth. Incredibly rough, actually. Your cheesecloth shirt had to have a "pick your nose" collar which spread the entire width of your shoulders. Denim and corduroy shirts were also a big seller. Nylon and polycotton shirts, in garish patterns,often shades of brown and beige, were popular for men. Aged 13, I had a bright yellow blouse which rather resembled bubble wrap, which I wore with bright yellow corduroy flares, and—critically—a black tank top(see below) with a red strawberry on the front. Cool, or what?
In the early 1970s, smocks were a staple addition to every girl's wardrobe, and I notice that these are now back in the shops. Absolutely dreadful, in my view. Unless you are flat-chested, they hang off your tits and make you look a good seven months pregnant. Should be worn only by the tall and thin (oh, and the pregnant), if at all.
T-shirts abounded, but you were no-one unless you had one with a big garish picture or slogan on the front. Mine was orange, and bore the legend "University of California, Los Angeles". Bit ironic really, as I had never been further west than Liverpool at this stage (and was not old enough to go to University).
Started the decade as the "mini", then quickly went through many changes of length including the "maxi" (i.e. ankle length) and the "midi" (i.e.calf length). Came in a wide variety of colours and materials. For me the defining 70s skirt was the calf length circular skirt, worn first by afficionados of the Wigan Casino club—home of Northern Soul—and then spread nationwide. Great for dancing in, obviously, and quite flattering. Harked back to the 1950's especially when worn, as mine was, with a thick, waist-nipping plastic belt. "Gypsy"-style tiered skirts, in bright floral patterns were also a hit in the late 70s (revived only two years ago, I note!), often worn with lace petticoats that peeped out under your skirt, or, for the cash-strapped, just edged with a bit of lace.
I read in the newspapers yesterday that very short skirts and dresses are making a comeback this summer. Ye Gods. One of my lovers, growing up in the 60's, said that back then girls and women were of more manageable proportions than now, but now he feared legs would resemble two tree trunks under the dining table. A point for us all to note, I think. I could possibly get away with a short skirt, legs wise, but not face wise. I'm just too old for that sort of thing now - and I look in the mirror before I go out, unlike some!
Hot pants and dungarees.
Hot pants were shorts, often with a bib and brace, so that they were in fact truncated dungarees. My mother and her friend cut down an old 1950s suit of hers to make a pair of hot pants, with bib and brace, for me and my friend. These were in puce conduroy, came to at least mid-thigh, and in my case, were worn with a mint green blouse. I shudder to think what I must have looked like. Older women who wore them tended to wear them very short... but as we did not have such an obesity epidemic in those days, most people got away with them. I now think that no-one's arse looks good in shorts, my own included.
Ah, but dungarees were different! I loved them. They are often linked with feminists who call themselves "wimmin". I had several pairs, denim, green, and bright red. I didn't stick patches saying things like "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" on them though.
Jumpers and Tank Tops
The Tank Top was a sleeveless jumper, normally with a V-neck, and quite often striped. Could be knitted by your mum or granny. Again, synthetic materials were to the forefront in manufacturing these garments. In the mid to late 70s, men took to wearing a long-line, belted cardigan; often eyeball-searingly patterned in brown or beige. I believe the TV programme Starsky and Hutch was behind this style icon.
Since the advent of the mini skirt, in the mid 60s, tights were the order of the day. And for many years, the top colour was American Tan from Marks and Spencers. These gave your legs an interesting orange glow. In the early 70s, it was de rigeur to wear white knee socks over your tights. I know, I know... Stockings and suspenders made a bit of a comeback in 1978, but I wore tights up until 5 years ago, when I ditched them forever in favour of stockings and hold-ups. Much sexier.
Nylon kickers were also very popular, as was a garment much beloved by mothers the nation over, the panty girdle! This helped hold your tights up, and kept your curves—and men—at bay. I'm surprised that, with all that nylon round our nether regions, we didn't get galloping thrush. Knickers were mostly waist high, with thebikini style only being worn by the very daring. Thongs had not been invented back then.
As for bras, well, the Wonderbra had made an appearance, but we young girls did not wear them. Breasts were generally smaller back then, and the biggest cup size you could get was a DD - and that in a very limited range of styles and colours. The bigger busted were doomed to bras that looked like two donkey panniers strapped together with guy ropes. Things did improve as the decade progressed, however.
Shoes, bags and hats
Everyone remembers platform shoes as being THE 70s footwear for both sexes, and it was! Short men liked it because it made them look taller. Platforms were not much good if you had to run for a bus though. The wedge heel which has resurfaced in the past couple of years was a more feminine choice.
Hats were normally woolly pull-ons. We all hoped we looked like Ali McGraw in Love Story. Needless to say, we didn't.
As for bags, I cannot remember anything specific about them whatsoever, except I had a red, mock-crocodile, fringed bag in 1972.
That's it for now! I'm aware that I have only skimmed the surface of this subject, and that I have not even touched on hair styles and make up, so important back then. But if I say: blue eye shadow, glitter nail varnish and feather cuts, you will have a fair impression.
My overwhelming impression, looking back, is just how popular and widespread synthetic fabrics were, and how many of them we wore. The colours too were far more garish than today—and I mean garish, not bright. How we loved our plastic, polyester and PVC, our nylon and our polycotton!
The one colour that sums up the decade is this: Passion Purple. In 1973, my mother treated me to a pair of Passion Purple nylon sheets, and I thought I was It—a real trend setter, as I sat in my bedroom surrounded by posters of David Cassidy and Donny Osmond!
And that for me is real 70s style!