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Fashion in the 1970s - Overview

Fashion in the 1970s was daring, carefree, and diverse. For women, skirts ranged from extremely long to drastically short and fabrics were bright and boldly patterned. Men wore their shirts tight, their trouser-legs wide and their moustaches long. 'Hippie' styles of dress entered the mainstream and new ethnic-inspired fashion imitated styles from all corners of the world.

1970s fashion was varied and changed frequently, but always liked to shock - whether it was towering platform shoes, huge bell-bottom flares, or tight, shiny, disco-inspired hot pants.

'Hippie' fashion in the 1970s

The hippie movement of the late 1960s continued into the early 1970s. Many young people had become dissatisfied with the prevailing mainstream social values, considering them to be shallow and materialistic. Some strongly opposed Australian involvement in the Vietnam War and others were calling for a greater concern for nature. Whatever their motivation, many young people in the early 1970s adhered to the values of peace, love and freedom and sought an alternative, 'hippie' way of life.

Many people embraced communal living and a nomadic lifestyle, explored Eastern religions, experimented with drugs and adopted a rebellious style of dress.

Clothing styles and fabrics were inspired by non-Western cultures, such as Indian and African. Natural fabrics and tie-dyed and paisley prints were also popular. Many people handcrafted their own clothes and accessories and personal items were often decorated with beads and fringes. Bare feet or leather sandals were typical fashion and flowers and peace signs became symbols of the movement.

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Women's fashion in the 1970s

As the women's liberation movement took hold in the 1970s, women's fashion broke free from convention. Bras and corsets were denounced as symbols of oppression and conformity, and were discarded by many women. Women also flouted their new-found freedom by wearing traditional male clothing like baggy trousers, men's jackets, vests, over-sized shirts, ties and hats.

Fashion trends like miniskirts, bell bottoms and long hair carried over from the 1960s, although some women in the 1970s preferred to wear 'midi' (knee length) or free-flowing 'maxi' (floor length) skirts.

Men's fashion in the 1970s

Men's fashion became more bold and daring throughout the 1970s. The hippie influence of the late 1960s crossed over into the fashion of both sexes. For men, this meant wide, colourful ties and bright, fitted shirts with big collars. Many men grew short beards, sideburns or moustaches and let their hair grow long.

Flared trousers were popular with both men and women throughout the decade - ranging from a subtle flare to huge, flapping bell-bottoms. By the end of the 1970s, however, trouser legs had gradually straightened again.

Popular culture and fashion in the 1970s

Television, film and music in the 1970s exerted a powerful force over fashion. The television program Charlie's Angels spurred the demand for flared trousers and the rough, flicked-back hairstyle worn by the show's star, Farrah Fawcett.

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The Wonder Woman series popularised knee-high boots, sometimes paired with daringly short hotpants. Later in the decade, movies like Saturday Night Fever popularisied the showy 'disco' style of dress.

Music stars like David Bowie and the band T-Rex influenced the spangly, glittery style of glam rock.

Disco fashion in the 1970s

The popular disco music genre spawned its own fashion craze in the mid-1970s. Young people gathered in nightclubs dressed in new disco clothing that was designed to show off the body and shine under dance-floor lights. Disco clothing was usually only worn at night. It was often made from stretchy fabrics like lycra and spandex, or synthetic polyester and velour and decorated with sequins. Popular items of disco clothing for women included short 'hotpants', bodysuits and towering platform shoes. Men's disco wear included open-necked satin shirts and flared trousers.

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