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Great Dress Styles from the 70's

Updated on May 28, 2018
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Penelope was a PR in London in the 70’s, then a Hollywood researcher. She was a freelance magazine journalist and teacher. Now she writes!

Photo from a 70's Fashion Magazine

Page photo taken from a 70's magazine
Page photo taken from a 70's magazine | Source

70s Women Fashion

The great dress styles of the 70's came right on the heel of the 1960's Kings Road fashion trends. The 'Age of Acquarious' music, the war in 'Nam, Beatles and Neil Young still reverberated in the minds and souls of the "Make Love not War", mind-altered generation of youths whose sense of dress was as floating and free as the fashions they launched.

This article traces the changes from this freedom fest in fashion styles, (which has iconic Mary Quant as the fashion designer queen, Biba as the fashion store and the mini skirt as the star) through to David Bowie punk and Issye Miyake in a fashion decade which saw:

  • California jeans and floating blouses never changing
  • Flower - power printed dresses
  • Elton John sunglasses
  • 40's revival
  • black and white and Yves St Laurent
  • mini skirts (and mid-calf and long skirts too!)
  • big jackets
  • platform shoes
  • false furs
  • glitzy tight evening wear, for the day time too (Biba)
  • Accessories
  • Silk scarves
  • Eastern (Samurai) high fashion of layers and fabrics of Issey Miake


All the photographs in this article come from 'fab' fashion magazines I used to write for, which featured photos of great dress styles from the '70's. (I photographed the best fashion pages from my old collection).

'Fab' was the 'cool' word back then!

Flowery print dresses and a call back to the 40's was for the really stylish.
Flowery print dresses and a call back to the 40's was for the really stylish. | Source

Mini Skirts and Platform Shoes

The trending fashions in California were either jeans and tea shirts that were faithful to it's rock 'n roll roots (open neck tea shirts without writings on them, with studs or trimmed with another color), or pretty, natural hessian blouses with lace for women over bell bottom jeans. Famous celebrities and stars wore snakeskin boots and Indian turquoise jewelry, (and bought their sexy gear from Fredericks on Hollywood Boulevard), whilst hippies were still in flowing, flowery skirts and wore headbands.

London had starred the changing fashion trends and they were still blasting. But floating flowery items were still around, long hair was still 'it', though Vidal Sassoon's short haircuts cuts were making the headlines and Ossie Clark dresses billowed from nearly bare breasts.

"Natty" (neat) shoes had become seriously platform in London and several inches high. Silky scarves worn in different ways and a Bakelite bracelet made the your look add-up. Biba was the shop to go to for everything from Quant stockings to accessories for your hats - as well as fashions that might dip into the 20's or they might just stay with the miniskirt-and-platform-shoes look. Skirts were really mini-skirt short, yet even though the decade is famous for miniskirts, as it progressed, so did the length of skirt. There were skirts than demurely came to below the knee in the mid 70's and there were long and slinky skirts, or skirts that were tight and then flared like bell bottoms. There were high wasted golfing pants - and false fur jackets.

I remember wearing all lengths - from a mini flower printed dress that was made of pure silk which wrapped around and closed with a scarf at the waist, to a 40's type tailored, mid-calf black skirt, as well as snug fitting, long skirts (vyella patchwork in pastel flowery prints) and boots. 'Anything goes', the fashion world said, as long as it was from Biba and from all the flourishing boutiques along the Kings Road, London.

Flower Power Shirts and Blouses

A fashion page from a 70's magazine
A fashion page from a 70's magazine | Source

Fashion From the 70 s

The movie, The Godfather (Part One) was being shot on location during the first part of the 70 s, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone (photographed on set) made the fashion headlines; his 40's post WW2 look set a trend.

Oxford Bags with big colored (sometimes check) jackets with swirly backs were the new fashion, worn shorter than usual to reveal lace up two tone shoes.

Black-and-white, like the movies of the 40s made another comeback (which Yves St Laurent launched). Beautifully cut crêpe de chine, cream blouses that flattered bosoms, with turned back cuffs were demurely sexy worn with finely shaped classic jerseys. Dominique Sandà was hot and very sexy, replacing Marianne Faithful and Mia Farrow. Krizia was designing soft cashmere dresses in taupe colors which clung to the figure, with slits at the front. Berets were 'in', shiny rouged faces were 'in', as were long black eyelashes and fabric tights. Tights were new. Till then women had usually worn stockings with suspender belts. Tight knee length boots were in during the winter, any color.

Fashion Style From California

California fashion look with pale natural fiber lacy look - a little Mexican - and jeans
California fashion look with pale natural fiber lacy look - a little Mexican - and jeans | Source
Off to Katmandu with George Harrison of the Beatles.  A Photo from a magazine of his followers
Off to Katmandu with George Harrison of the Beatles. A Photo from a magazine of his followers | Source

Biba Clothing

Biba, which opened first on the Kings Road (in 1974), then moved to the seventh floor of a massive department store, moved fashion from smaller boutiques into a corporate world of fashion and glamor

During the 70's decade though, Biba sold exotic clothes and accessorires from her high street boutique at prices the swinging London girl could afford, creating the look every London girl wore (and took with her to New York).

The photos below trace how her style of clinging silks and subtle tones turned towards into the birthing age of David Bowie Punk - with lurid Lurex, sexy satin and slinky leopard - the wildest look (and a different drug).

Photo from a 70's fashion magazine
Photo from a 70's fashion magazine | Source

Fashion Photos - From My Magazine Collection

Demure- look, fitted dress with colored platform shoes.  Photo taken of a page in my 70s magazine collection.
Demure- look, fitted dress with colored platform shoes. Photo taken of a page in my 70s magazine collection. | Source
Photo from my magazine collection of fashion trends 1970
Photo from my magazine collection of fashion trends 1970 | Source

Fake Fur Trends Replacing Real Fur Coats

False furs in bright colors take the place of real fur coats.
False furs in bright colors take the place of real fur coats. | Source
Fashion photo from a 70's magazine
Fashion photo from a 70's magazine | Source

Issey Miyake

Along came Japanese Issey Miyake stylist with his technological, ethnic (very expensive) Japanese creations, extremely rich in fabrics and layers and materials. Here is a bleached out video of one of his late 70's defining fashion shows which, to the music of The Pink Floyd flaunts his immense originality and shows how he broke with all things fashionable and trendy to date.

Below is a photograph of wooly hats and patches he inspired. Punk and Bowie were the big scene, but the new classic fashion was richly ethnic and Issey.

Issye Miyake Inspired

Issye Miyake inspired this Ethnic Tibetan look - photo from my collection of 1970s magazine.
Issye Miyake inspired this Ethnic Tibetan look - photo from my collection of 1970s magazine. | Source
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