Diane von Furstenberg once said, 'I design for the woman who loves being a woman.' This statement captures what 70s fashion was all about: freedom of expression and fierce individuality. Although characterised by a wide range of different trends, this era was also marked by its sense of flair – not to be confused with flares, although those were also a cornerstone of 1970s fashion.
If nothing else, the 70s was a decade about liberating beliefs and, with them, the silhouettes and styles of the garments to match. Trousers were freed from stricter structures and given a bell bottom, while Halston's iconic draped gowns served to soften women's dresses. The fabric focus shifted in favour of tactility and prints were allowed to roam wild and free.
The result of all this was that 70s fashion style emerged as both revolutionary and, at the same time, intuitive, given that it was primarily about promoting maximum ease and comfort. This is perhaps why designers have continued to revisit the era in fashion ever since. Take Ellery for example, where designer Kym Ellery has carved out a signature silhouette that finds its inspiration in the 70s: her collections are replete with flared trousers and bell-sleeve blouses.
As increasing numbers of designers now return to the 1970s for style inspiration, the time is ripe to revisit just what it was that most defined the style codes of the era, such as that inherent sense of freedom, the importance of bold silhouettes and a love affair with texture. In doing so, there is much to glean about the relevancy of those same fashion movements in contemporary culture today.
Freedom in motion
Socio-political rebellion in the 70s was a movement characterised by freedom above all else. Freedom of choice, freedom of speech and, yes, even fashion. Perhaps it is for this reason that the iconic Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress became such a hallmark of that decade. Crafted from relaxed silk jersey, it epitomised the era’s sense of diplomacy with its ability to flatter all variations of the female form. Despite being one of the more subtle symbols of 70s fashion for women, the humble wrap dress still prevails in its influence today.
The ability to move about freely and comfortably was essential to von Furstenberg in creating the wrap dress, but the prevalence of prints throughout 70s fashion represented a different kind of freedom altogether. For SS17, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele revisited that freedom of expression through vibrantly printed suits for men and a refusal to hold back in the colour department. This signalled the fact that not only does the decade’s fashion influence live on, but that perhaps we are all looking for a little more freedom today as well.
The importance of silhouette
The importance of silhouette in 70s fashion speaks to this desire for freedom, but it also means that the clothing is amongst some of the most versatile. The Elie Saab Pre-Fall 17 collection, for example, demonstrated how 70s silhouettes can be layered for all seasons by teaming a light, full-sleeve coat over the top of an elegant mini dress. Meanwhile, flared trousers were offset with a pussy bow blouse, proving the importance of choosing one statement area to focus on. At Dior Homme AW17 Menswear, that area was in the trouser department.
Here, designer Kris Van Assche returned to 70s-style tailoring by focusing on a more fluid trouser cut to capture the inherent sense of both structure and movement so integral to the 70s fashion trend. Not only can this lend a sense of drama to your wardrobe, but it also makes for a lot of fun in terms of styling. Balancing the voluminous silhouettes with more slim-fitting pieces elsewhere is generally a good rule of thumb here – though you needn’t go quite as extreme as Kelso on That '70s Show.
It wouldn’t be 1970s fashion without a certain richness of texture. Be it lace, suede or shearling, the fabrics favoured by both men and women during this decade tended towards the tactile end of the spectrum. It seems that this desire for sumptuous materials is as relevant now as it was then, with brands like Proenza Schouler breathing new life into these textiles at New York Fashion Week AW17 with white patent leather coats given a ruffled, shearling edge.
Meanwhile, men's coats were also cut in shearling over at J.W.Anderson AW17, where the designer experimented with block shapes and earthy tones so synonymous with the 1970s. Creating a new kind of armour for the contemporary customer, this trend towards reclaiming texture shows just how relevant the free spirit of this iconic decade remains. With the help of these pioneering designers, you can tap into that historic spirit of liberty.