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Great Dress Styles from the 70's

Updated on May 28, 2018
GoodLady profile image

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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    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thanks for all the fashion trend descriptions! Great comments which I hope everyone reads. So pleased you mentioned tie dye - really important.

    • RunAbstract profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Living as a teenager in the '70s I know from experience almost anything went. The bigger the bell bottom, the better. The lower the hip hugger, the more we liked it. Peasant dresses and tops were a must. We were into embroidered styles, as well as patchwork items. And leather fringe was what every fashion conscience teen looked for. Crochet vests and bikinis were everywhere! And please don't forget tie dye. Also red, white, and blue became a real fashion color combination staple for awhile, as the war in Vietnam was protested.

      I think the freedom we had in the '70s to express ourselves with what we wore was almost a turning point for clothes. The rejection of the rigid fashions of our mothers and Donna Reed, got us out of high heels and into platforms, as well as Native American styled footwear. Bold prints, and soft lines, along with the sexy knee high boots and mini a-line dresses left us with a limitless ability to explore what we wanted to show the world about our style.

      Thanks for a walk down Memory Lane!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Fashion re-trends just never work do they? Things are fashionable because that's what people 'come to' wear, because of what they feel about their times and their immediate past and circumstance. You can't repeat all that!!!! I don't like copy cat anything. Too much of a 'real thing' snob.

      The wing bag was quite small; a few, pale colored leathers which formed a little wing shape round the back of my shoulder, curving on the back of my shoulder. Wish i hadn't lost everything!

      No I never ironed anything. The skirt was tight, so my bones kept it unwrinkled. I wish i had bones now!

      Lovely to remember thanks.

    • LongTimeMother profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      Patchwork skirts, yes!

      My patchwork skirt was a wrap-around Indian skirt I wore with funny leather toe-sandal things. Sounds like you had one of those skirts that were a nightmare to iron after washing. I remember them. Did you have to iron every little square flat to make the skirt sit tight and lovely?

      I have a mental image of a B&C type dress - very nice. Turquoise sandals, yep. But a bag that was a wing?? I'm struggling to imagine that. Any more clues?

      Big floppy shoulder bags were my favourite. Either old denim jeans sewn up, or woven ones with tassels as I recall.

      Now this is not a politically correct question, I know. But did you recoil in horror when the 70s fashions came back in vogue 10 or 20 years ago (can't be 20 years, surely!) and young women wore their hipsters with muffin rolls in full view? It didn't seem to take any effort to be thin in the 70s. I guess our food and lifestyle was just healthier.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I drifted around in either a long tight patchwork skirt with pink heels, or a Bonnie and Clyde kind of dress with high platform turquoise sandals and a bag that was a wing. I was living in Los Angeles at the time! What a time!

    • LongTimeMother profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      We may well have crossed paths at some time, GoodLady. The world is very small. I went backpacking overseas in the 70s and met a lot of great people. I haven't really stopped travelling ever since, and you've obviously travelled a few miles. lol.

      There's every chance we were in the same smoke-filled wine bar somewhere. How lovely to meet someone else who obviously enjoyed their youth. We were the lucky ones. I doubt a girl could possibly have had as much fun in the 50s or the 90s. The 70s will always be my favourite decade. :)

      PS The boots were that frighteningly shiny red patent leather, and the platforms solid wood. Much heavier than the lighter platform shoes with ties that criss-crossed up your legs, but I must have walked a million miles in those boots, up and down stairways, across grass. Looking back, I'm surprised I didn't break my neck!

      What was your favourite outfit at that time, GoodLady? You were obviously into fashion. That must have been great fun.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Oh yes! How well you describe what you looked like and I could feel the times again. Even see you in my minds eye. We might have even met somewhere. We wouldn't know though would we? I loved those years so much too, such a lot of incredible fun. Oh it was wonderful!

      Appreciate your comment, thanks.

    • LongTimeMother profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      Minis, midis and maxis. Bell bottom jeans long enough to swallow my platform shoes. Tight blue Levi's stuffed into pillar box red platform boots with a plain blue tight longsleeved top drove the fellas mad! Cheesecloth, kaftans, string bikinis. long flowing jackets.

      I loved the 70s. I'm glad I was young then. What a drag it would have been if I was the age I am now. To have missed all that fun would be tragic.

      Great hub. Voted up, thank you.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Those were amazing years! Glad your pants are still so vivid in your mind. I had a pair of plaid pants too - they were red, orange and beige check and they had turn ups. Guess we didn't lose it too much!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wow this sure brought back memories. I had a pair of bell bottom seersucker type material pants that were a red, white, and blue plaid. Can never seem to forgot those pants. I loved them :)

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Nice comments Judi! Thanks so much. It was a lot of fun working on that magazine. And those Biba days were incredible.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      8 years ago from UK

      I remember wearing hot pants with bib and braces when I was very little. I loved the Biba look, we had a Biba shop in Bristol and it was beautiful. I started to get into fashion in the late '70s, by which time punk was around, so I've got fond memories of tight, ripped trousers and tall hair!

      Very envious of you working for a fashion mag!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Glad you enjoyed the pictures and I agree that fashion today has a lot in common with in the 70s! Thanks for your great comment.

    • Funom Makama 3 profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 

      8 years ago from Europe

      Wooow! Just do not know what to say. At a point I stopped reading to admire the photos before I continue... So true on everything you said and if you check the contemporary fashion of this new generation, it is already happening [especially on the guys side]...

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Natashalh. Oh fashion! It's fun though isn't it? And when we are young we take each detail so seriously. Thanks for your share here. appreciated.

      Om P. I loved the break with traditional clothes everyone was wearing before the 70 s. It felt truly liberating to dress in any of so many styles. Fantastic 70's. Glad you liked the hub and many thanks for your comment.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      8 years ago

      What a fun hub! What I like most about the 70s fashion are probably the mini dresses, platform shoes and quirky-looking sunglasses. I also remember finding a couple pairs of old high-waist pants in my mom's closet and thought they looked kind of cool.

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      I have always thought the 70s looked so cool! Ah, well, I was born a few years later and got the 80s in all of its shiny, day-glo, big hair glory. I am frequently shocked to see college kids wearing styles and colors that look almost exactly like what I had in kindergarten! It didn't look good then and it hasn't improved with age.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I still have bell bottoms and I LOVE them. Just a hippy at heart after all. So great to look back on how we were and thanks for sharing. White lipstick sounds pretty interesting for today, no? Go- go boots, maybe those too? ha ha. Thanks for your comment Austinstar.

    • Austinstar profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

      OMG - BellBottoms! I am embarrassed to say I actually had a few pairs of those and I loved them. I had go-go boots too and long hair like Cher. I even had a tube of white lipstick. Wow. This brings back some odd memories.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Janine. Greatly appreciate you reading, enjoying, and sharing this hub, thank you.

      pongogirl2. 70's were fantastic years weren't they? hanks fr dropping in to coment.

      Farmer Rachel. Thanks! And thanks or your votes and more :)

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski Nielsen 

      8 years ago from PA, now homesteading in MN

      Great hub! I never got to wear that stuff and I'm a little jealous, LOL. Voted up and more :)

    • pongogirl2 profile image

      Jasmine Pena 

      8 years ago from California, USA

      love learning about 70s fashion and looking at these pictures also.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      8 years ago from New York, New York

      Wow, awesome article and loved looking at all the different fashions from the 1970s. So very informative and the pictures also were amazing. Have of course and shared all over too!!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      The DirtFarmer. The shoes were painful, but who cared? The clothhes were great. So many thanks for votes and enthusiasm.

      lindalou1963 Oh they were the good ole days weren't they? Love sharing about it, thanks.

    • lindalou1963 profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      The platform shoes and bell bottoms... I remember those well from Jr High and High School. Thanks for taking me back to the good ole days!!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      I ADORE these clothes! (Although the shoes look painful.) What a delight your hub is to read and browse. Up & awesome!


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