Maxi Dresses of the '70s

Written by mark stansberry
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Maxi Dresses of the '70s
A maxi-dress was ankle-length. (Felipe Dupouy/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Maxi dresses were born in the late 1960s and blossomed in the early 1970s. The popularity of the romantic movie "Dr. Zhivago" was influential in triggering a craze for long dresses. The resurgence of long dresses was also influenced by the neo-feminist movement and hippie styles that favoured folkloric influences and lots of "psychedelic" pattern and colour.

Designers and History

Osca de La Renta is credited as one of the first to create what is known as the maxi dress. He designed one in 1968 for the Elizabeth Arden Salon. Other designers that later focused on the maxi dress concept were Dior, Cardin, Biba and Halston.


The maxi dress of the 1970s was often lacy and just a bit shorter than ankle length. The fabrics were influenced by hippie fabric patterns, which often used paisley or abstract designs.The maxi dress also drew from European peasant and American pioneer themes.

Goddess Theme

Maxi dresses were also influenced by the '70s popularity of goddesses and mythical women. The feminist movement of the 1960s and '70s emphasised rediscovering the "sacred feminine" to counteract the prevalence of masculine attitudes and behaviour norms. Such dresses often had ornate and mystical patterns. These themes can be seen in Oscar De La Renta's paisley designs.

Folkloric Trends

Folkloric peasant styling was used on many maxi dresses -- think gypsies and Heidi -- with traditional Swiss-style embroidered braid finishing off the edges of garments. Eyelet-laced belts cinched the waists of some of these dresses.

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