20th Century Fashion History: 1970-1980

Keeping the swinging vibe from the 1960s and transforming it to the disco life of the 70s is pretty much was this decade was about. From Manhattan and Studio 54 to jumpsuits and the wrap dress of Diane Von Furstenberg. Here’s the fashion history: 1970-1980:

20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folks

The Society during 1970-1980

As the world kept developing and progressing, the 1970s would become another decade where society would change. The 1970s would be defined by the movements. For women’s rights, equality for people of color as well as justice and acceptance of the LGBT community. Different movements would raise questions of global warming and stress the matter of sustainable development. Other movements in specific brought up questions of gender identity, discussed alternative ways of life and would very much indeed define the style of the decade.

The cultural life bloomed with more and more people of color being included in popular culture. TV-shows such as Charlie’s Angels, All In Family and Hawaii Five – O (only to mention some) would set the tone for Hollywood. Some iconic people from the decade in the cultural context includes icons such as Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones, Liza Minnelli, Davie Bowie and more. Studio 54 would be the center of the elite, with a mix of actors, models, designers and artists.

Style of the 1970-1980

As with all decades, different styles would define and separate the fashion. Though to be noted is that the styles shared the same foundation. The overall silhouette was an upside down Y with narrow tops and wide pants, maxi skirts and 70s jeans (yup, you know it). This 20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folkssilhouette worked for the hippie life as well as the disco of life akaStudio 54. The length of the skirts and dresses also went as short as possible with hotpants, mini skirts and short dresses being popular clothing styles to go with the platform boots.

The liberal style of the hippies would translate into loose clothing pieces such as tunics, maxi dresses, frills and sheer fabrics. The new interest for sustainable development, and caring for earth, was visible in the earthly shades. The hippie life would also promote a rather unisex fashion  with women and men dressing alike in terms of shirts, denim, print, accessories and colors. When we talk about bohemian fashion today, it’s a rather simplified version of the 1970s style with more prints, details, layers and exaggerating styles being the matter of the past.

The opposite of the down to earth hippie life would be the disco life. The disco life was the glam version for the 1970s with sequins, glitter, metallic, white and glamorous jumpsuits being in focus. Alike the hippie style, the silhouette 20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folkswas an upside down Y, with wide legged pants. Ruffles, flowy shapes and statement boots would be key features. More and more skin was shown, earlier it had been in the context of legs, but crop tops and dresses/jumpsuits with cut out details emerged.

The everyday style of the 1970s also went for the same flowy life as the other styles. The 1970s was the decade where denim would be accepted as an everyday item for both genders. Shirts and a sweater to go with it was common. Printed tops and pants for both men and women were popular. A lot of animal prints but also motifs of nature, paisley and post-modern art patterns.

As mentioned, womenswear and menswear were pretty similar as they more or less shared prints, colors, clothes and silhouettes. This was, of course, a product of the unisex thoughts in society and the fight for equality. Unlike previous decades where women tried to reach the level of men, the 1970s feels like the first time where men met “typical” womenswear and went more feminine with popping colors, prints and flowy garments.

The clothes between 1970-1980

The jumpsuit, the maxi dress and the wrap dress are only some of the iconic pieces of this decade.  All the mentioned clothes underlined a more liberal fashion that was both comfy and a matter of personal preferences rather thansocietal expectations of clothes. The jumpsuit would become a statement of equality with both men and women working the fabric. It worked well for the daily life in fun 20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folksprints and popping colors but also for the glam disco life with sequins and stylish cuts. The pants of the jumpsuit were wide and needed the platform heels and boots to make them justice.

The maxi dresses (as well as skirts), flowy blouses and vests were all items of the hippie movement. They often came in earthly shades as brown, mustard yellow and faded green, orange and pink. The print was commonly floral (flower power, hello) and also paisley went for the popular market. The accessories were headbands, long necklaces, the peace sign, oversized sunnies and long and thin scarves.

Denim in the version of jeans and in the style of the 1970s was popular if not an it-item. 20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion FolksMen and women wore them with shirts in prints and a belt by the hips. The 70s style was heavily flared and it’s no wonder that 70s jeans is the name for it. The shirts were unbuttoned and formed a v-shape. That same v-shape was a popular style for tops ofjumpsuits too, leaving no place for a bra. Speaking of bras, the 1970s were a decade where fashion went braless. A bra didn’t work well with the low neckline of the tops, nor the deep back. Neither was it in line with the movement of the hippies and the ideas of living freely and not under the ruling of clothes.

Beauty between 1970-1980

The beauty of the 70s should be renamed to the lashes of the 70s because this decade was all about the eyes. Longer lasher than ever (for both upper and lower lines) which gave a doll effect. The makeup was in that way similar to the 60s as the eyes were kept in focus. Bright shadows as blue, white, green, purple  and champagne were also trendy to do for an eye look. Unlike today’s eye makeup, the 1970s eyeshadows were mainly about one color and not shadowing the eyes. Just a 20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folksstroke of purple over the eyelids and up towards the brows + the statement lashes and you were good to go. The eyeliner was for most part kept subtle and sometimes more statement. The lips were bright and peachy, similar to the 60s.

As for the hair, the 1970s would be the decade of more or less natural hair. Women should have their hair in midpart and let it grow long and freely. Often done in loosewaves or with curls á la Farrah Fawcett. Natural curls as in afro hair was also popular to embrace (like hello Diana Ross). Showing one’s natural hair was a reflection of the earthly and free vibes that defined society and fashion.

Spotlight of 1970-1980: Diane Von Furstenberg

Diane Von Furstenberg might not have been the first with a wrap dress but she was surely the one that would take it to new heights. She made the wrap dress a matter of comfort, function and style. The wrap dress fitted the liberal fashion perfectly as it shaped itself after the body and didn’t defy body limits as in previous decades. It was flattering 20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folkswith the slight enhancement of the waist and it was easy to wear as it only required a knot/bow. The dresses often came in vibrant colors and prints. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, a wrap dress being produced in the 1970s and forward is often hard to date as the dress has more or less remained intact since. It’s a true wardrobe staple!

Transition to the 1980s

The 1970s had already played with oversized dimension (as in wide legged pants) so the transition to the 1980s would come natural. As the decade went on, the silhouette slightly turned from an upside down Y to an accurate Y. The shoulders would grow in size, the pants would go more narrow. Even though the hippie style wouldn’t continue in the same way to the 1980s, the disco life would do so. Or at least parts of it as the 1980s remains the nr one decade of animal prints, something that began in the 70s.

The pantsuit and powersuit would elevate in the later decade and steady its position as a clothing piece of and for equality. And who would define the position if not Chanel and the legend himself, Karl Lagerfeld, leading the brand? The powerful statement would be nothing though without the unisex fashion the 1970s promoted. The unisex fashion that developed alongside the fight for equality and justice for women, people of color and the LGBT community. If the people of the 70s only knew that we are still marching globally to protest against the injustice. This time around not in similar outfits but in pink hats, because pink is power you know.


Folks! This was the fashion history: 1970-1980. From Studio 54 and pop culture this week to animal prints, powersuits, rock and the oversized life of the 1980s next week. As the 1980s is the trend of the year, I’m sure that post will be a blast to do! Xx

20th century fashion history 1970-1980 | The Fashion Folks

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30 thoughts on “20th Century Fashion History: 1970-1980

  1. Love reading these fashion histories. I never would have thought about 70s style being influenced by a desire to be equal. It makes sense with everything that was going on at the time but I didn’t make the connection previously. I like some of the 70s looks but the 80s have always interested me more in terms of style.


    Violet Roots || Instagram

  2. I truly enjoy these fashion history posts of yours, babe, you are the best at them! You should totally write a book one day where you combine all of these into one, that would be an amazing read! 🙂 I look at the 80’s fashion and I kinda wish I could transport myself back into those days (even though I wasn’t even born then!), I love the fashion and the general beauty trends from those times, modern ones do not appeal to me as much. Thank you for sharing yet another awesome post, lovely! xoxo <3


  3. 60’s fashion is my favourite! I wasn’t such a fan of the 70’s as it was a bit too hippy for me, and the 80’s was crazy, but there’s some trends from each era that I do like!

    Raindrops of Sapphire

  4. Haha, girl, you know how many stories I’ve had to sit through of my mother talking about her glory days at Studio 54?! Lol! Don’t even get me started if we happen to flip past a station on the radio that’s playing 70s and 80s tracks, FORGET IT, she will make me stop and I’ll have to listen for an hour about all the stories that come along with each song, haha. I actually don’t mind it 😉 My mom was raised and lived in the Bronx, NY for many years, as did I, so her life was paralleled to West Side Story and A Bronx Tale (such classics)! Anyway, the fashion of the 60s and 70s are my absolute favorite and have always inspired me and that’s much of the reason why Olivia Palermo has been my muse for so long, taking her inspo from the decades as well. I love the simplicity yet boldness of the fashion era, nothing quite like it, filled with so much spirit. Thanks for sharing, gorgeous girlie, this was probably the decade(s) I’ve been most excited about, though I’d love to read an article on the 90s and early ’00s, which I know you’ll get to 🙂 I hope you’re having the best week so far!



  5. What a cute summary – I am in love with the wide legs and jumpsuits ! And not to forget – the hairstyle of the 70s was amazing, those long and loose waves were to die for ♥ I wish my hair would look like that every morning haha 🙂



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