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A brief history of fashion: The 1970s

Put on your platform boots and strap in for a wild ride: we’re off to the 1970s.

This was a decade of change, and fashion was no exception. Things became more flamboyant and adventurous as fashion designers and icons embraced individuality and self-expression, and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable. No wonder it's one of the most iconic periods in fashion history.


A number of trends defined the 70s, not least the hippie movement that dominated the early part of the decade: think peasant blouses, tie dye, bell sleeves, crochet dresses, long flowing skirts and bell-bottom pants.

As the decade progressed and fashion evolved, other trends emerged. Things like pant suits, wrap dresses, tube tops and glam rock fashion (for women and men). Maxi dresses, characterised by their long flowing skirt and billowy sleeves, were made popular by fashion icons like Stevie Nicks and Jane Birkin.

Stevie Nicks rocking a classic 70s maxi dress (and flipping us the bird).

Denim was also super-popular. Men and women alike wore bell-bottom jeans, while the denim jacket was also a staple of the era, worn by everyone from hippies to punk rockers (more on them below).

This was also the time that people embraced sporty style. It became much more popular in the 80s, but what we today know as athleisure wear really kicked off in the 70s. Exercise was definitely not the goal. It was all about looking super-casual but still put together in things like jogging suits and tracksuits in matching polyester or velour, leggings, headbands, tight-fitting shirts and short shorts.

Short shorts were worn by women AND men in the 1970s. Photo:

In the late 1970s the punk rock movement emerged. It rejected the mainstream in favour of a new wave of rebelliousness... and a whole lot of safety pins, tartan, studded leather jackets and ripped clothes. Vivienne Westwood was the queen of punk, and when she changed the name of her London boutique from Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die to SEX (tagline: "rubberwear for the office"), it seemed to embody the spirit of punk perfectly (and shock all the oldies).

Queen of punk, Vivienne Westwood [far right] circa 1970s. Photo:

Another OTT fashion trend of the decade was undoubtedly the disco era of the late 1970s.

It was all about being bold, confident and unapologetically flashy. Ground Zero was Studio 54 in New York City, where the fashion-forward cool girls (including Bianca Jagger, Cher and Diana Ross) brought disco trends like jumpsuits, draped lamé dresses, Lurex halter tops and palazzo pants to the mainstream. And no outfit was complete without that iconic symbol of the 70s: the platform shoe.

Debbie Harry from Blondie showcasing a whole bunch of 70s disco trends (except platform shoes lol) in one super-shiny hit.,

A lot of fashion in this decade was influenced by music, movies and tv shows. David Bowie made androgyny cool, John Travolta made white disco suits cool in Saturday Night Fever

and Farrah Fawcett made the "Farrah flick," flared trouser suits and so much more cool in Charlie's Angels.

This 70s poster of OG Charlie's Angel, Farrah Fawcett, is considered to be the best-selling poster of all time, with more than 12 million copies sold.

The 1970s. It was a time when anything was possible, and fashion was a reflection of the bold, daring spirit of the era. It's no wonder the fashion industry continues to mine this decade for inspiration; we look forward to future iterations.

Until then...

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